To preface, I’ve never been too interested in the character of Red Sonja. From what I’d heard of her she was a Conan minor character who was featured in a pretty crappy movie (starring Brigitte Nielsen no less), and whose run of comics featured a buxom, foxy, angry lady in a metal bikini swinging a big sword. I basically imaged Frank Cho sitting around and drawing only her in his spare time.
However, I was immediately intrigued when I heard that Dynamite was giving her a new solo series written by uber-talented scribe (and women-in-comics specialist) Gail Simone. Starting from the debut issue up until this one, Red Sonja has been nothing but incredible.
In the tenth issue we are caught up to the current arc, where Sonja is scouring the known world for six of the world’s greatest artists to attend a dying pharaoh’s final party. In exchange for recruiting the six artists (the world’s best dancer, best stargazer, etc.) the pharaoh has promised to free his thousand-score slaves before he passes away which Sonja, as a former slave herself, cannot refuse. Sonja has previously gathered the world’s greatest chef, beastmaster, and courtesan, and is now on the prowl for the world’s greatest swordsman.
First off, with all the praise heaped on Simone for her take on the character, artist Walter Geovani often gets overlooked for the success of this series. Geovani has an uncanny skill for facial expressions that can convey the full range of emotions without sacrificing any realism. His artwork is always sharp and is extremely well-complimented by colorist Adriano Lucas – they make for a gorgeous book with diverse characters and gorgeous landscapes. In this particular book they portray Sonja at her lowest points, physically and emotionally, after her initial failures in procuring the swordsman, Osric of Khital – who is based off of “Supernatural” actor Osric Chau (mad nerd love on that one).
With Osric, Simone has written a character who is as haughty as he is talented, but one with a code of conduct he strictly adheres to. In the duel scenes his mannerisms and dialogue show just how vain he can be, and also shows just how defeated Sonja is. It’s how Sonja deals with that failure which makes this issue stand out, as well as the humor that Simone is renowned for (the running gag of how Sonja smells and how she can’t seem to get laid are in full force in this issue).
If you’re expecting cheesecake you should definitely go elsewhere, but if you’re craving a swords-and-sorcery adventure with pithy dialogue and beautifully efficient art, this is the book for you.
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