This week Titan Comics releases Marada the She-Wolf: a deluxe volume chronicling the adventures of a silver-haired swordswoman whose wits and weapon skills are the match of any man or supernatural horror.
First appearing in 1982 in Epic Comics #10, Marada the She-Wolf was a swordswoman not unlike Red Sonja, he not-quite canon female counterpart and occasional companion of Robert E. Howard’s Conan. There’s a reason for that: the Marada series was initially conceptualized as a Red Sonja storyline, but that had to be jettisoned due to issues related to the (dreadful) Red Sonja movie that was in the works.
That ended up working in Marada creators Chris Claremont (The X-Men, Wolverine, Fantastic Four) and John Bolton’s (Shame: Conception, Man-Bat, Books of Magic) favor. They ended up jettisoning Howard’s Hyperborean Age trappings in favor of a historical setting: the first years of the Roman Empire. Marada, in turn, was recast as the daughter of a slave and a daughter of a Roman emperor, a forsaken child with the wits and fighting skill required to survive in a brutal world. The historical setting didn’t mean the fantasy was out, though: Demons and sorcerers stalk the dark places of the Earth, and Marada – along with her companion Arianhrod – often run afoul of them.
Titan’s new hardcover collection is a marvel to behold: A 112 page oversized tome collects the three Marada the She-Wolf storylines from Epic: “The Shattered Sword”, “The Royal Hunt”, and “The Wizard’s Masque”. The huge pages give John Bolton’s painterly illustrations the space they need to be truly appreciated. A methodical artist whose work process involved drawing intricate pencil sketches from clay models to capture the play of light upon the body and then painting these in with a gorgeous palate of color, Bolton’s work shines as a prime example of fantasy art.
Claremont’s writing was as sharp then as it is now, and Marada’s adventures across a fantasy Earth are told with all the blood and thunder that a sword & sorcery fan could ask for. The sprawling Roman Empire makes an awesome milieu for the kind of restless wandering that seems endemic to the heroic fiction genre. Marada’s adventures take her across continents to deserts, jungles and primal forests on the edges of civilization. It’s such a great setting that you kind of have to wonder why people haven’t used it before.
Readers should be warned that as awesome as Marada is, the comic is very much reflective of the time it was created. Our heroine wears skimpy armor and in one particularly cringe-inducing scene, is savaged by a demon. That being said, if you can look past that this is a great collection and a really good opportunity to catch a swords & sorcery story you might have missed the first time around, or to revisit an old favorite if you read it decades ago.