In Review: Red Sonja/Conan #1

The Gods will smile upon you for following this twosome as they seek vengeance on Kal'ang.

The covers: By Crom, there are many covers to collect, sixteen in all! The A is by comics icon Alex Ross. This has Sonja standing before Conan, with his sword arm reaching over her to have his blade cross hers. They are not combatants but partners facing the same evil. He looks like a hulk of a warrior, and she beautiful and deadly in her patented chain mail bikini. Ed Benes provides the art and Dinei Ribeiro the colors for the B, and it’s my favorite. I used this image for the review, but it’s blown up so much the fine lines are lost — you really need to see this for yourself. Sonja points towards an unseen force with her sword, while Conan points slightly to her side at the rest of the horde. Behind them is large body of soldiers who will fight with them. This is a glorious image with perfect coloring. I’d love for this to be a print or poster. The next cover, the C, has Conan spreading his arms wide in victory at his kill of a monstrous dragon. Below him Sonja looks vicious as she’s poised to swing her sword to sever the head of the beast. Cool cover by Roberto Castro and Dinei Ribeiro, with sensational coloring for the background, allowing the figures and title to pop out strongly. The D is a sketch cover, empty save the title and company logos at the top. This would be good to take to a convention to get signatures of this issue’s contributors or get a sketch from your favorite artist. The E is the “artboard” incentive cover that features Ross’ pencils from the A cover. This is a neat way to see what the illustration looked like before inks and colors. The F is “rare ‘virgin art'” cover featuring the art of the A cover, but without any text. If you want to see what this illustration looks like on its own, this is for you. I do like it. Ed Benes’ art appears again, this time on the G cover, which is a “rare ‘B/W’ incentive.” This is the inked illustration, minus the colors. Very nice. A new artist gets the H cover: Michael Rooth. This has Conan and Sonja fighting some supernatural warriors, armored skeletons wielding battleaxes, before a structure that looks like a Stargate. The illustration is okay, but the colors are too pale. The next cover is I, which is an AOD Collectibles cover featuring artwork by Ariel Olivetto. This has a very brooding Conan next to an active axe and sword holding Sonja. Very slick. The J cover will look familiar to those who’ve seen the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan film, as it apes that film’s poster. Conan is holding his sword high, posed as he is on the poster, but taking the place of Sandahl Bergman’s Valeria is Red Sonja, striking the same stance. Outstanding idea for an exclusive cover executed well by Fabiano Neves for Comics to Astonish. The K cover is for Dynamic Forces and is an exclusive “B/W” cover featuring the inked cover, sans color, of the C. Fabiano Neves returns for the L with a great exclusive cover for Excalibur Comics. Conan and Sonja are standing on a pile of bodies, looking ready to do battle with more men. Neves can do no wrong, in my opinion. The M is a sexy cover, but has Sonja doing something she would never do: she’s sitting on Conan’s lap, who gazes up at the attractive warrior. This cover by Dawn McTigue with colors by Nei Ruffino, for Heroes’ Haven Comics, looks great, but I just can’t see her doing this. The Nerd Block exclusive cover is reminiscent of the Hildebrandts‘ Star Wars poster; Brent Peeples has Sonja in the Luke Skywalker pose with sword high above her head, with Conan in the Leia position, holding a sword ready. Behind the pair, on this black and white image, is older man’s face, obviously the villain of the issue. The O cover is by Sean Chen and Ivan Nunes for the Baltimore Comic-Con exclusive. This is a really good point of view illustration with Sonja leaping at the reader, with Conan just behind her. Her sword is coming forward, with the readers’ two swords at the bottom ready to engage the crimson haired killer. Very cool. The final cover is the P which is the “exclusive ‘blood red art'” cover, which means it’s in red ink instead of black, featuring the art from the B. Overall grades: A A-, B A+, C B-, D B-, E A-, F A, G A, H D+, I A, J A, K C, L A+, M B-, N B+, O A-, and P B+

The story: In the city of Enshophur in the country of Koth, Kal’ang is speaking with a prince who’s angered at seeing that the gift his father has sent him is a chest filled with red seeds. The wizard zaps the young man into submission, taking one seed for himself, and casting a spell to have the lad forget what’s occurred. With the youth gone, a seer appears before Kal’ang who tells the world’s greatest herbalist that the blood root seed will allow him acquire power. However, the seer has seen that two shall oppose him, “although the time and manner of their coming remains unseen.” The wizard puts his hand around the blind man, and they walk off together. “Many years later, in the kingdom of Kush”, a king seeks to raise an army and have the captains battle each other to see who will lead the troops. Guess which pair are there? There’s a really good action sequence, followed up with the pair relaxing, which turns into another action sequence, though these new antagonists are much more dangerous than the captains. Victor Gischler has his story move at a quick clip without sacrificing any action. He’s putting all the pieces into play and it’s a fun ride. The dialogue between the heroes is perfect — this is exactly how fans would want the two act around one another. I’m looking forward to seeing where this is going. Overall grade: A

The art: I’m a big fan of Roberto Castro’s art. This issue did not disappoint. He puts a lot of nice details into his work which are apparent on Page 1’s big panel: the prince has his back to Kal’ang, who is on his knees, facing the prince’s back. The royal son is flanked by two large guards sporting massive axes. When the prince turns around on Page 2 he’s got the classic good looks one would expect from royalty and a hero, but when zapped by the evil wizard it becomes apparent that the heir is no mental match for the herbalist. The top of Page 3 has a great example of wizardy in action. The introduction of the Seer on 4 is great — he looks ancient and crazy. Sonja and Conan’s entrances are spectacularly awesome and their action sequences equally impressive. As the two relax on page 12, it’s difficult not to be caught up in the setting, which is perfect. 22 is a excellent ending for the issue as the story truly begins for the heroes. Awesome characters, sweet settings, and sensational action makes this a beautiful book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The coloring work on this book looks great because of Alex Guimaraes. The colors are muted in the opening due to the dark setting within the castle, but the reveal of the prince’s handsome face and shock of blonde hair, have the book suddenly explode with color, which then turns into a blinding, beautiful use of emerald. The desert sequences where Conan and Red Sonja are introduced and fight are vividly colored, with the coloring of the leads’ hair amazing (Yes, I’m looking at their hair — it’s that good). Look at the muscle work done on Conan as he does battle — that’s how the Cimmerian should look! Page 14 has some really strong lighting work done with the colors. The best page is the last one, with a stunningly beautiful sky in several shades of violet. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene setting, narration, dialogue, sounds, screams, and a pair of villains’ specific speech are rendered by Simon Bowland. The font created for the final baddies of the book is great. I love how it looks, which makes them more inhuman for the reader. Overall grade: A

The final line: The Gods will smile upon you for following this twosome as they seek vengeance on Kal’ang. Perfect entertainment for those who like their action to be from forgotten ancient times. Overall grade: A 

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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