Review: Marada the She-Wolf / Author: Chris Claremont / Artist: John Bolton / Publisher: Titan / Release Date: Out Now
Originally published in the early to mid '80s in Epic Illustrated, Marvel’s fantasy and sci-fi anthology imprint, Marada the She-Wolf is now back, with all the available tales of the swordswoman’s adventures collected in a single hardback volume.
While Marada recuperates in a mystical clan stronghold, the chieftain’s daughter Arianrhod is kidnapped by the wizard who previously held Marada captive, forcing her to travel to a demonic plane to rescue the girl. Unreliable magic results in a long return journey, forcing the pair into a never-ending series of adventures as they travel home.
Occurring at a deliberately vague point “in the tumultuous century bracketing the birth of Christ” Marada’s journeys take place in an historical setting augmented with fantasy plots and the influence of Celtic mythology.
Chris Claremont is best known for a seventeen year run on X-Men that included Days of Future Past and Dark Phoenix, creating some of the series’ most popular and iconic characters on the way such as Rogue, Psylocke, Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Jubilee and Mystique. Marada, a dark and damaged heroine you never stop rooting for, is no exception to his talent for giving voice to rounded female characters.
As anyone familiar with it would expect, John Bolton’s artwork is exquisite. The characters are more akin to painted portraits than comic book representations, and Marada possesses an unaffected sensuality that is all the more arresting for its lack of ostentation. Granted, her clothing is at times a little on the skimpy side, but it never feels gratuitous or done for the sake of cheap titillation. While no less beautiful, Arianrhod (more commonly shortened to Ari) is not as sexual a character, mainly due to her younger age (while not specifically stated, she’s meant to be about fifteen). The seeds of her growth from girl to young woman were laid out in the series’ brief running time and likely would have developed had it continued.
Unlike, say, Conan’s physical might or Red Sonja’s divinely bestowed sword fighting prowess, Marada’s abilities are all too human. Although unquestionably a formidable fighter, she is far from invincible and is occasionally overpowered due to large numbers of assailants or her own exhaustion from battling enemies when wounded. However, it’s precisely this fallibility that makes her relatable as a human being. When force of arms cannot always be guaranteed as an effective course of action, any confrontation is instilled with an added sense of peril that might otherwise not have been present. Granting Marada further realism is her moral ambivalence. While certainly far more heroic than villainous, her primary drive is survival, and she is perfectly willing to team up with rebels, mercenaries or pirates if it benefits her situation.
Aside from some simplistic storylines and slightly clumsy exposition, the only real issue with the collection is the brief length of it. Epic was discontinued in 1986, while Marada and Ari were still making their way home, thus leaving the saga abruptly terminated without resolution, and readers consequently only able to imagine what other adventures the She-Wolf would have embarked upon.