In Review: Red Sonja #5

The mixed visuals lessen the joy of this issue, but the story remains incredibly fun.

The covers: This is probably the smallest Red Sonja I’ve ever seen on a cover. In the bottom right, standing on a building, whipping her sword into a defensive position, Sonja holds her weapon ready to battle the beast that’s dwarfing the building across from her. She looks great, the movement on the sword very cool, and the creature is massive. It seems that there’s no way that she could possibly survive this encounter, but this being Sonja, a reader should know that she’ll find a way out. Excellent A cover by Mike McKone, but sadly this scene is not in this issue, though it looks to be in next month’s installment. The B cover is a beautiful piece by Ben Caldwell. This features Sonja in the snow, with her wearing a hat, and her hands and upper arms wrapped, but otherwise she’s exposed. She looks fantastic and the use of white on the page to create the snowstorm is outstanding. As with the A cover, this scene is nowhere to be found within. Still, this is poster, print, and/or tee shirt worthy. The style of art takes a major turn on the C cover by Charles Wilson III. This has a cute Li’l Red Sonja fishing at a lake, which has a gigantic creature within it. Sonja can only see the beastie’s humps protruding from the water, but wrapping around the tree and smiling down upon her from behind is the head of the monster. The serpent is cute, but Sonja’s got only one dot of an eye on her face, she’s got a huge tummy, and her feet are too stylized. I like everything about this but Sonja. The Cosplay Photo Variant cover is the D for this issue and it’s a spectacular photo featuring a cosplayer who can be found on Instagram as @jinglebooboo (I don’t know her real name), who is crouched with a dagger held ready. She looks sensational and she has the iconic Vasquez Rocks behind her. This looks great. Mel Rubi does the pencil work and Mohan the colors on the E cover. Sonja is in the water, her sword held ready to defend herself against the onslaught of attackers whose shadows can be seen in the upper left. There’s a weird computer effect on the water, which could be a photographic overlay, and the lighting effect done on her skin makes it seem as though she’s about to explode from energy emanating from within her. This would have been a better cover without all the computer effects. The F is a Virgin Cosplay Photo Variant, which is the same as the D cover, just without any text. This is nice, but there’s too much empty sky on this; had it been cropped with Sonja more in the center it would have been better. The G is a Black and White Variant of the A. This is good, but it was better with the colors. The H is the final cover and is a Black and White Variant of the E. This is much better looking than the E, though I would have liked to have seen it with colors and without the CG. Overall grades: A A, B A+, C D+, D A, E D+, F B, G B, and H B

The story: A news helicopter is flying over Central Park reporting on the fire that has broken out. Part of the Met Museum has been destroyed and the Guggenheim is next. They zoom in closer to see that it’s a gigantic beast going Godzilla on the Big Apple. In the bar that’s become a focal point several times, an older patron notices on the television that Officer Max Mendoza and “a mysterious woman with a sword” have been sighted on the scene. Meanwhile at the Galt Headquarters, Mr. Galt, who is actually Kulan Gath, looks upon a miniature city with glee, realizing that the destruction of the city, aka “Phase I,” should be complete by night, allowing for Phase II, “the masterplan for New Gath City,” to begin. Unbeknownst to him and his minions, Sonja and Max have teleported via a magical bubble to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. Amy Chu is making this an incredibly fun story. The protagonists are wonderfully heroic, the villains ooze evil, and the creatures tremendous. Page 6 has a fun first line from Sonja who’s shown in the past her predilection for the items in this establishment. It’s at this location that something more is revealed about Officer Mendoza, which was hinted at last issue. With this ability revealed, it becomes necessary to find a large structure that’s big enough to contain the beast and his master. This has Chu taking the characters to an iconic structure on the east coast; I’ve never been there, but even I’ve heard of it. Putting the real world into a comic book story is always a plus, and this location increases the joy of this issue. Pages 15 and 16 have a fantastic way to lure the villain to the heroes that made me cheer and laugh. The book ends on a great cliffhanger, with the heroes’ plan and persons in peril. Ms. Chu, I’m already sad that this saga is close to ending. Overall grade: A+

The art: This is the one downfall of the issue: the visuals. There are two artists on this issue, Marcio Fiorito and Carlos Gomez. Gomez has been the artist on the previous issues, but the first ten pages of this issue are by Fiorito. Their styles look very different. I’m not a fan of multiple artists on a book, because the styles often distract from the story, and that’s the situation with this book. The first two pages feature the destruction of the city and Fiorito does a good job on this. When the creature is revealed it looks like Hell on Earth. However, the scenes in the conference location are very simplistic — there are not many details. Even the bottles that comprise the selections are very simplistic; Page 6 shows this clearly. The characters look fine, but they look like typical comic book art. The close-up of the characters’ hands on 8 are really well done. The full paged splash on 10 looks really good for the familiar structure, but the path to it is very empty of detail — it stands out for being so plain. Starting on 11 Gomez takes over and the details in the setting are insane. So much so, it doesn’t even resemble the same location, were it not for the attraction. The stances the characters take on 14 reveal much of their personality to the reader. The image that tops Page 16 is sensational, a first of its kind in a Sonja book and it’s cool and hilarious. The arrival on the final page is spectacular, and the four inset panels nicely show the reactions of all the players to this appearance. Gomez’s work really outshines Gioritio’s. The first ten pages look fine, but when side by side with the final ten, it seems lesser. Overall grade: B- 

The colors: The first five pages of this book are very light in colors. This is due to the artwork not giving a lot of details for Mohan to color. This is not to say that Mohan is slouching on the job. That’s not true. The second page has the reader focusing on the creature with its fiery colors. The bottom panel on 3 is glorious in red to give the speaker a sinister tone. The location of where the characters meet gets some darker colors, but it comes off as almost medieval in its simplicity. Compare the colors between 10 and 11 — it’s like night and day. Art with more details allows the colorist to put more into the work and these pages look better. The shading on the characters’ skin is terrific, and I’m not just talking about Sonja; look at her allies — they’re great! When someone looks at the screen on an electronic device, Mohan gives the images a very light hue, crystallizing for the reader that the picture is from a device. The final page has glorious coloring on the character that appears. The coloring is great when the art allows it. Overall grade: B- 

The letters: Tom Napolitano is responsible for the issue’s news broadcast, dialogue, sounds, time differences, a whistle, computer text, and yells. There’s a lot of dialogue in this issue, since it’s setting things up for the final confrontation, but Napolitano never has it overwhelm a panel. That’s really impressive, considering that there’s so much work done on the visuals. I also like that there are different levels of yells, with some being much more intense than others, and the font shows this to the reader. Another strong job from Napolitano. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The mixed visuals lessen the joy of this issue, but the story remains incredibly fun. I’m hoping next issue that there’s only one artist on this issue, but I’m still looking forward to it because Chu’s story is so enjoyable. Overall grade: B+

To purchase a print copy go to https://www.dynamite.com/htmlfiles/viewProduct.html?PRO=C72513025379805011

To purchase a digital copy go to https://www.dynamite.com/digital/viewProduct.html?PRO=C72513025379805011=1

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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