The Film (3.5/5)
In a barbaric world, a devil woman cleaves through the monstrosities of the evils of the present and the past. Red Sonja, the last of her slaughtered tribe, isolates herself from friend and foe alike, seeking only the comfort of the bottle and to survive against those who show her ill will until King Dimath requests her service. Unable to decline the monarch's call stemming from a life saving debt, Red Sonja embarks unto a doomed kingdom, a land stricken with plague and under siege by an army of fish humanoids led by Red Sonja's sister in conflict Annisia. Torn by the death of her savior King Dimath at the hands of her delusional friend Annisia, the mighty Red Sonja goes into exile with symptoms of plague. On the brink of death's fatal grip, Sonja's last hope lies with naive and loyal twins who nurse the she-devil back to health, strengthen her cause for justice, and aid in the investigation of a dark plot that has betrayed not only Sonja, but also the late King Dimath and the crazed Annisia.
"Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues" is a rotoscoping comic book adaptation of Gail Simone's intricate revamping of origins with endless strife storyline of the red-haired heroine. Walter Geovani's illustrations come to life on screen through the countless hours by an army of talented animators from Arcana, keeping true to the "Vampirella" illustrator's larger than life concepts with in-depth and raw emotions splayed on characters' faces and body language. Teaming up with Geovani is a whole separate entity, a major hitter for feminist work, and a powerhouse in the comic book world is Gail Simone. Her version of "Batgirl" and her storyline contributions to the "Wonder Woman" and "Deadpool" universe gave way to the birth of a strong, sexy, and unique Red Sonja for Dynamite Entertainment. Simone's She-Devil with a Sword is not Brigitte Neilsen, but an entirely new warrior written colorfully and suggestively and applied with Geovani's bold artistic style.
"Queen of Plagues" is the first of three motion comics that'll be released by Shout! Factory and the distribution juggernaut wins again with this tale of barbarianism, female empowerment, and lustrous sexuality. The voice talent behind the characters unload a multitude of ranges to accommodate a heavy character workload and do justice behind the illustrated faces of the epic mythology that embodies Red Sonja. A legend within the realm of video games and animated television series, Misty Lee symbolically fills the leathery boots of Red Sonja, giving the warrior a voice; Lee's heroine-like vocal chords fit perfectly, giving Sonja a dominating and sincere persona. Sadly enough, the voice talent brings down "Queen of Plagues" a notch or two with mostly minor characters, and some major ones, feeling disingenuous to keep up with an altered comic. On some other level of choppiness, divisions amongst the storytelling lose focus here and there. The non-linear story isn't the issue, but rather the frame-by-frame play that also muddles the action in comic books. Intertwine that murkiness with quick flashes of animation and your brain will tell you you need a faster processor.
Motion comics have stalled over the years, dwindling down from the mainstream to internet shorts and spoofs. With killer illustrations and animations fit for an ablaze warrior with striking red hair, an eye-popping curvy figure, and a dark humorous attitude toward her downtrodden life, "Red Sonja" perfectly represents the possibility of rekindling the fans. However, the violence of the feature might not be enough to draw in fans of brutality and blood, but "Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues" should sustain a moderate bloodthirsty quenching through the various beheadings and other dismemberments that spill the blood that's as vivid as Red Sonja's fiery hair.
Shout! Factory's 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is a delightfully presented release with the Blu-ray in a 1080p High-Definition widescreen transfer in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the DVD is an upscaled widescreen 1.78:1 as well. The artwork carries over without flaws nor loss of color brilliancy within well framed shots throughout. Didn't notice any compression issues, leaving the original illustrations look as sleek and as glossy as the comic book pages.
The English DTS-HD 2.0 mix is the only option for audio which seems to have been left in the dust with the presentation. A very slight echoing can be detected during less intense scenes, but the levels are audibly balanced. Dialogue is rightfully upfront, the ambience aligns with many of the still scenes, and the epic soundtrack doesn't overshadow or underwhelm when necessary.
The only special feature available on either disc is a featurette including Shout! Factory interviews with writer Gail Simone, Misty Lee, and producing members of the film. The interviews help breakdown the timeline for the project as well as the reasoning behind some of the creative choices that eventually unfolded into the finished result.
"Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues" can be considered just another retelling Sonja, but now in an animation motion comic that's unique and lively. Red Sonja has always been overshadowed by Conan the Barbarian, but perhaps, finally, the warrior heroine will get the praise and viewership needed to reprise her position amongst good hearted femme fatales and amongst the heroes in general. Shout! Factory took a risk at Comic Con unveiling a motion comic Red Sonja saga and undoubtedly succeeded in reviving her from her lifeless comic self to now a new and more mobile entertainment medium.