Review: Vampirella Red Sonja #5

Vampirella Red Sonja #5 – Ok, this was an interesting one for me. This issue was the flip side to issue 4 where we got a solo Red Sonja story. Here we get a solo one-and-done Vampirella story. The only difference is the Red Sonja issue tied in with the overall story arc from issues 1-3, whereas I’m not sure I see that connection in #5.

On the surface, this a good single-issue story about Vampirella’s early days on Earth (1969, but obviously not within the same continuity of the original comics) where she learns some lessons about human nature. After befriending a young woman at a punk rock concert, she busts up a drug/sex trafficking ring in gory fashion only to realize that the people she saved see her as a monster rather than a hero.

I have to say though, I’m not a fan of the characterization of Vampirella here. The issue starts off by showing her hooking up with random women at clubs, making out in bathroom stalls and not being a very admirable person in general. I found this to be totally inconsistent with the character from most of the last 50 years of comics. I get that its (I think) not supposed to be in the same world as original comics, but I still felt this was too far off the mark.

And that brings me to a question that probably won’t be very popular – Is Vampirella ever going to have another male love interest? Up until Jeremy Whitley’s run on Vampirella a couple of years ago, she’s always had male love interests; most obviously Tristan and Adam van Helsing. The Paul Cornell/Jeremy Whitley run was an oddball from the start, taking place in the far future, so I figured her sudden interest in women would be unique to that series. I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. Since that series she’s now had three female love interests and no males (two in Vampirella  and one in this issue). So apparently Dynamite is all in on lesbian Vampirella as the new status quo for the character (although I suspect something may develop between her and Benny in Vampirella, but not yet).

I personally think this is absurd when you look at the history of the character over the last 50 years. Yes, I’m one of those troglodytes that thinks its weird when a character’s sexuality is just randomly changed for the heck of it. And I do know a lot of people don’t agree with me about Vampirella’s romantic history here. I mentioned this same thing during the Whitley run and had a lot of people tell me that Vampirella has always been into women. I’ve yet to hear an argument that convinces me of that, but everyone is entitled to their own interpretations and opinions.

Despite all that, I do want to emphasize that this is a good comic. I enjoyed the story and I always like having a few single-issue vignettes like this. It’s something I’d like to see more often in comics, frankly. I’m looking forward to the next issue where we’ll rejoin Vampirella and Red Sonja together, presumably in a different time and place.

11 Comments

  1. Thank you again for your very thorough review. Just a comment on Vampirella’s sexual orientation and the liberties the new Dynamite series seem to be taking with the character: I totally agree with the concerns you have expressed in your review. Those who argue that Vampirella has always been into women are totally ignorant of the character’s past. In the Warren run, although occasionally befriending and allying with female sidekicks such as Pantha, the authors made it always quite clear that Vampirella is NOT homosexual (just check the parade of paramours she encounters in the Flaxman Loew story cycle, as well as her longstanding affection for Adam van Helsing as well as her great love Tristan). In the Harris stories, Vampirella repeatedly fends off advances by female attackers trying to get at her, and in one story she clearly states that she is not lesbian. Therefore, the claim that Vampirella has always been lesbian is nothing more than a myth and cannot be substantiated by evidence whatsoever.

  2. I agree with you about Vampirella’s sexuality. I don’t have a problem with her having the odd dalliance with one of the laydeez, but that should be an occasional thing for her, not the norm. If Dynamite wants to promote a gay female character, fine. If it’s good, I’ll read it. But it’s not Vampi.

  3. Well said. I’ve been reading Vampirella since 1971, and this is a new development. I’m gay myself, and I know how important representation is, but I always find it odd when characters make an abrupt right turn based on a writer’s whim. Yes, sexuality is fluid, but much like the “bad girl” overt artwork of the 90’s, this looks like the latest trend for this venerable character until a new creative team takes over. I much prefer when a character is created to show diversity, like Kevin Keller or Kate Kane. Those were truly groundbreaking, while this seems forced.

    • I think “trend” is the right word and it’s happening all over comics in different ways. Your point is well made – there is clear evidence that new and diverse characters can be created and be successful. It isn’t necessary to ignore decades of established character history in order to inject diversity.

  4. It’s funny, I’m having a conversation with another Red Sonja fan about the same thing and how Sonja’s sexuality is going to be approached. I’m really enjoying the series overall and it’s clear that Jordie Bellaire’s going for her own take on the characters here – she’s given Vampi a new backstory in New York and she’s boosted Sonja’s physical abilities to the point where she looks to rival Vampi in strength and speed.

    Having read this latest issue, I’m no Vampirella expert but I was pretty sure she wasn’t a lesbian, even if she might’ve been bisexual. She’s shown no interest whatsoever in the opposite sex so far in this book though and it appears she might be interested in Sonja – I’ve no idea whether the feeling’s mutual but a lot of people on Twitter seem to be into this series simply because of the same sex relationship possibilities it presents. There’s also been no end of variant covers showing the two heroines embracing and looking every bit the couple.

    I’m hoping Jordie doesn’t go down that route – I think this comic will be much more enjoyable if the two are presented in a ‘Lethal Weapon’-style buddy cop light, as Jordie stated in her first interview about it. Vampi working on that Sonja picture in the last issue was interesting because it brings up the possibility of Sonja being a vampire or at least part-vampire in this continuity, which would explain her powers. If that’s the case, Vampi and Sonja might even be distant relatives!

    Like Vampi, Sonja didn’t show any interest in other women until relatively recently, and Gail Simone seemed to change her sexuality simply because it’s trendy to do so and Gail Simone likes doing that on every book she writes. It’s telling that no Sonja writers in the past 4 years have gone with a bisexual She-Devil.

    • Yeah, I’m not sure if it’s going to go down that path or not. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit, but like you, I could do without it. I feel like it wastes some of the potential that this teamup has because the minute they become romantically involved, that’s what the entire book will revolve around.

  5. Thinking about this, Dynamite have the rights to several characters they acquired from Chaos! comics a while back, including the half-vampire/half-goddess Purgatori. She’s well-known for taking female lovers. Dynamite haven’t exactly done a great deal with her as far as I know (the last time I saw her was 2015 in the Swords of Sorrow crossover). If they want to push a lesbian character, they’ve got one ready and waiting – and who has a pretty dedicated fanbase.

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