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A Writer’s Commentary: ERIK MONA talks PATHFINDER WORLDSCAPE #5, on sale NOW!

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  • A Writer’s Commentary: ERIK MONA talks PATHFINDER WORLDSCAPE #5, on sale NOW!

    A Writer’s Commentary: Erik Mona talks Pathfinder Worldscape #5, on sale now from Dynamite.

    Pathfinder Worldscape #5 is on comic stands now, bringing Red Sonja, John Carter, and Tars Tarkas together to take the battle to the immortal empress Camilla and the legendary sorcerer Kulan Gath. The Pathfinders Valeros, Kyra, Seoni, and Merisiel unite at last, compare notes, and lead their alliance of the greatest warriors of three worlds to an epic climax in the arena of death! To commemorate the penultimate issue of Dynamite’s sword and sorcery superstar crossover event, I thought it would be fun to go “behind the scenes” with a page-by-page writer’s commentary to the issue. Calibrate your polyhedral dice and obsessive knowledge of a century of fantasy and comics minutia—there’s nerdery ahead!

    PAGE 1

    The story begins where issue #3 left off, in the arena below the city of Shareen. Kyra and Valeros are reunited at last, the first of the four Pathfinders to find each other in the Worldscape prison dimension. The scene also brings together two of the series’s true superstars, Red Sonja and John Carter. As usual, artist Jonathan Lau delivers with spot-on renditions of the popular Pathfinder characters while bringing his own unique flair to Dynamite’s classic fantasy stars. Jonathan does a great job of making these characters his own while at the same time capturing their iconic designs. I like to think Red Sonja had her normal outfit and regular straight hair the day she arrived in the Worldscape, but has been repairing and augmenting her outfit and not washing her hair for several weeks.

    PAGE 2

    Throughout the series I’ve tried to give John Carter a bit of an antiquated manner of speech, accounting for the fact that he’s supposed to be from the Civil War era of America’s history, nearly 150 years ago. Burroughs’s novels portray him as a sort of idealized “gentleman of Virginia,” and he’s probably the purest hero archetype in the whole series, so he’s not above florid talk about how it “does his heart proud” to see reunited allies. Every sixth chapter in a John Carter book features previously separated allies reuniting after a series of improbable events, so I figure this sort of scene makes Carter feel good on an almost instinctive level.

    Valeros is more concerned with John Carter’s ally Red Sonja. After all, last time he saw her (in the final panel of issue #1), she virtually killed him.

    But that was on the arena floor. Now that she’s won, she’s no longer interested in fighting Valeros, or anyone else. She’s got more important concerns—namely making sure she doesn’t spend what might be her last night alive sober.

    PAGE 3

    I took a lot of inspiration from Gail Simone’s celebrated Dynamite Red Sonja run in the way I presented Sonja in Pathfinder Worldscape. I’ve seen some criticism online that Simone focused too much on Sonja’s drinking, but in preparation for the series I also read Sonja’s entire 1970s run, and she’s just as big of a lush in those issues as she is in the modern comics. Although Simone did take some significant steps to revise Sonja’s origin to give the character more agency, in my view the singing, boozing, adventuring sellsword aspect of Simone’s characterization of Red Sonja is one aspect that’s completely true to the character’s roots.

    So I had to have a scene referencing Sonja’s legendary drinking. Given that Pathfinder’s Valeros is cut from exactly the same archetypal cloth (he carries a tankard on his belt for a reason), I knew I had to concoct a scene featuring the two of them boozing together. Folks who have been with Pathfinder since Jim Zub’s first issue a few years back probably remember that Kyra first met Valeros as he was vomiting out the previous night’s intake. Let’s call it a motif.

    But, as Val says at the bottom of the page, all of that will have to wait. Valeros has seen Merisiel!

    PAGE 4

    With the news that her girlfriend is on site, Kyra throws herself fully behind Red Sonja and John Carter’s secret army of wounded gladiators, but she begs the heroes to help her rescue Merisiel immediately.

    John Carter’s reference to “my sword is at your feet” refers to a Barsoomian custom showing loyalty and respect.

    PAGE 5

    We switch scenes to Empress Camilla’s private chambers in the arena, where she’s being attended to by a pair of red Martian servants. With her are the arena master Xanesha, her Sky Admiral Phondari, and her Court Wizard Kulan Gath. Also present is Merisiel, who has been missing from their company since the events of the time-twisting issue 4. In that issue, we learn that Valeros, Kyra, and Seoni’s first trip to the Worldscape is actually Merisiel’s second. Only the first time she came here—before she met the other Pathfinders—she found herself aligned with the bad guys.

    Now that she’s returned (as of the previous issue’s final page), not all of her former allies are excited with her rejoining their team on the eve of their most important operation—reuniting the Scepter and the Crown to give Empress Camilla full control over the Worldscape.

    PAGE 6

    Valeros and Red Sonja break out their cups at last, much to the frustration of their more straight-laced companions. The song is a ribald take on an old Robert E. Howard Conan story.

    Between verses, we get a look back in Camilla’s chamber, where the empress orders her squabbling allies to work together, even if they don’t trust one another. She sends Xanesha and Merisiel away just as John Carter and Kyra, several floors below, decide to take their leave of the ribaldry.

    PAGE 7

    Burroughs comes in for a lot of criticism for the amount of coincidences that seem to drive John Carter’s narrative in the Mars books. I figured all of the various separations and unlikely reunions with Dejah Thoris over the years would give John Carter a unique perspective on what it means to be separated from your love. When I split up all of the main characters in the early part of the series, I was really happy with the way John Carter and Kyra mirror one another, and this scene (along with their conversation about faith in issue 3) is one of my favorite interactions between the two characters.

    PAGE 8

    And, of course, I couldn’t resist an unlikely reunion of my own. Some of John Carter’s charm has rubbed off on Kyra, and she and Merisiel reunite at last. But Merisiel is in too deep with Camilla’s band, and can’t give away that she knows Kyra—she’s worried about how Xanesha might use the knowledge against her, and Merisiel’s playing a long con here, more important even than being honest with her lover.

    PAGE 9

    It’s the next day, and Camilla has taken the stage for the grand finale of her Tournament of Death! She’s surrounded by white Martian Holy Therns, the death-cult of Issus that serves as the principal (false) religion of Shareen. Camilla holds the Scepter, and is loving the adoration of her crowd of killers and mutil-world scumbags.

    But not everyone in the crowd is a villain! Seoni is in the audience, along with John Carter’s best friend, Tars Tarkas! When we last saw them at the end of issue 2 they were headed to Shareen to tell John Carter about Camilla’s secret ape army. They didn’t quite make it in time before the tournament’s finale, but at least they managed to score some sweet seats. At last, all of the main characters of the series (minus the suspiciously absent Tarzan) are gathered in one place.

    PAGE 10

    Red Sonja, the arena champion, takes the field bearing her own ceremonial version of Camilla’s Scepter. If the final battle is to symbolize Camilla’s victory in claiming the Scepter from Shareen’s previous ruler (the 1950s comics jungle queen Pha, last seen in issues 1 and 3), Red Sonja should battle a symbolic King wielding a ceremonial Crown. Since the actual Crown-bearing King—Tarzan of the Apes—is not available, Camilla settles for the next-best thing. The arena portcullis rises to reveal John Carter, under Xanesha’s mental domination after their encounter on page 8.

    Panel 4 contains a secret cameo of a very deadly goblin—truly one of the greatest warriors of his own unmentioned world, the veteran of many epic Quests.

    PAGE 11

    John Carter’s appearance gives me the opportunity to have Red Sonja say her classic phrase, “Mother of Mitra!” That and “Erlik’s Beard!” are probably my favorite of her many exclamations.

    We also see one of John Carter’s legendary leaps in this sequence. I wish I had more room to explore Carter’s super-strength (somehow preserved via the magic of the Worldscape), but that ended up taking a back seat to other stuff. I could have done another four issues of this stuff, easily. Eventually, thanks to a special Humble Bundle last month, we did get a chance to add four additional stories to the Worldscape series, but they’re all prequels and side-adventures—the main story is fully contained in the six regular issues (for good or ill!).

    PAGES 12-13

    A nice swordfight courtesy of Jonathan Lau. Meanwhile, John Carter gets a bit blood-lusty (as he does in the books), but he’s clearly still under Xanesha’s control.

    PAGE 14

    Enter Tars Tarkas, who can’t handle seeing his best friend fighting Red Sonja. Either way, one of them is going to end up dead, and there’s no way the green Martian is going to let that happen to John. Rather than fight his friend, Tars Tarkas throws his swords at Carter’s feet (as mentioned in the previous scene). The display of honor allows Carter to break Xanesha’s mental control.

    PAGE 15

    Xanesha and the Holy Therns take to the field to fix her mess, leaving Camilla alone in the arena observation box with Merisiel. There, the Pathfinder reveals that she and Xanesha captured not just John Carter, but Kyra too. At the bottom of the page, Kyra, freed from Xanesha’s control off-camera by Merisiel, leads the secret army of wounded gladiators onto the pitch.

    PAGES 16-17

    And oh, what an army it is! Jonathan Lau gives us a head-to-head battle featuring 19 characters, including the warrior queen Pha, Valeros, Xanesha, and the Holy Therns! Omi Remalante’s colors really make the spread shine.

    PAGE 18

    The Pathfinders light up the battlefield with some of their best spells. Kyra lights up the Holy Therns with holy smite (her highest-level spell), while Seoni whisks her away with a fly spell. Valeros just keeps getting better at kicking ass. The Pathfinders are about 7th level at this point in their careers.

    PAGE 19

    Red Sonja gets her revenge on Xanesha. The crowd loves her for it.

    PAGE 20

    Seoni and Kyra reach the observation box to discover that Merisiel has just killed Camilla in cold blood. The Scepter lies at her feet. The battle is won!

    But Merisiel pushes her lover away, citing a promise that she made. It isn’t over, she says, taking the Scepter and rushing off-panel. That promise she’s talking about is central to the next issue, to how Merisiel escaped her first visit to the Worldscape, and to the resolution of the entire series. For now, Kyra is left alone, confused and heartbroken.

    PAGE 21

    Merisiel, the Scepter in hand, jumps aboard the Jeddessa’s Revenge airship and reunites with her old girlfriend, Phondari. The black Martian is glad to have her old friend back, and is ready to start enjoying the benefits of her alliance—exactly the sort of wealth and rewards she originally enticed Merisiel with the first time they met. But with Empress Camilla dead, the true leader of the evil alliance is about to step out of the shadows.

    PAGE 22

    Merisiel hands the Scepter to Kulan Gath, the true mastermind behind reuniting the Scepter and the Crown. Is this the promise Merisiel was talking about? Has she truly turned traitor on the Pathfinders? And, after five issues, when are we going to get us some Tarzan?

    It all comes together next issue, a super-packed rumble in the jungle that brings the events of the Worldscape to an epic conclusion. I’ll be back one month from now with another behind the scenes recap. Thanks for reading the series. I hope these writer’s commentaries give a little more insight into the scripts and some of the little secrets doodled in the edges of the panels, and that you’ve enjoyed reading Pathfinder Worldscape at least half as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!

    https://www.dynamite.com/htmlfiles/v...13025274605011

  • #2
    I’ve seen some criticism online that Simone focused too much on Sonja’s drinking, but in preparation for the series I also read Sonja’s entire 1970s run, and she’s just as big of a lush in those issues as she is in the modern comics.
    I read them, too, and she's not. I'm sick of Simone's drunken horny loser with no other motivation than getting sloshed and laid.

    We also see one of John Carter’s legendary leaps in this sequence. I wish I had more room to explore Carter’s super-strength
    John Carter doesn't have super strength, Mars has far less gravity than Earth or this place going by Sonja being her usual physical self. That would leave Tars struggling in much higher gravity not running and tackling Sonja.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Ajax View Post
      John Carter doesn't have super strength, Mars has far less gravity than Earth or this place going by Sonja being her usual physical self. That would leave Tars struggling in much higher gravity not running and tackling Sonja.
      And how little research would it have taken to realize THAT? Unless he totally misunderstood it. But I'm not even sure how you can.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Captain Canuck View Post
        And how little research would it have taken to realize THAT? Unless he totally misunderstood it. But I'm not even sure how you can.
        Fine research there, indeed. Just to be sure about my memories of Marvel's Sonja drinking happened or was brought up 5 times in 23 issues (using Dynamite's Adventures of Red Sonja) compared to 13 times in 18 in Simone's series. So, yeah, Sonja was nowhere near being a lush in the Marvel series compared to Simone's work. Mona's research is just as bad on Red Sonja as it was on John Carter.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Ajax View Post
          Fine research there, indeed. Just to be sure about my memories of Marvel's Sonja drinking happened or was brought up 5 times in 23 issues (using Dynamite's Adventures of Red Sonja) compared to 13 times in 18 issues of Simone's series. So, yeah, Sonja was nowhere near being a lush in the Marvel series compared to Simone's work. Mona's research is just as bad on Red Sonja as it was on John Carter.
          That's why folks talk about Simone's series overdoing the drinking, it was a constant refrain that made it seem Sonja couldn't function without alcohol. She could hold her own in a drinking match back in Marvel days, but she could go whole story arcs without the topic even being mentioned unlike Simone.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks guys, now only do I need to research every outfit Sonja has ever worn, I now have to research her drinking habits......

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