In Review: Red Sonja #5

The story is exciting, surprising, and clever, while the visuals match its epic scale.

The covers: Three different covers that I could locate online. Marguerite Sauvage created the Main cover which is a great image of Sonja in the middle of a mighty battle. Several trees are seen high above, but they’re difficult to see because of the figures in the background, the one partially shown in the foreground, and Sonja, holding her sword at an opponent’s face. Nice sense of action with all the flowing elements: the clouds, clothing, and characters’ hair. If the colors had been brighter this would have been a more powerful peace, as it’s a bit lackluster with the flat colors. The “B&W” Variant is exactly the same as the Main cover, just without any of the coloring. This is a very interesting cover to look at, as I’ve never seen Sauvage’s work in its original state. I like this. The “Virgint Art” Variant is also the same as the Main, though this one doesn’t have any of the text on it. If one is a fan of this cover, this is the piece to purchase. Overall grades: Main B, “B&W” Variant A, and “Virgin Art” Variant B

The story: Marguertie Bennett’s story line on this series has been good, but this is the issue where she really outdoes herself. There are three different areas of focus. The first involves Sonja, who does something for the majority of the issue that I’ve not seen her doing in a Dynamite Comic in years. It really is impressive and is the highlight of this issue, but I’m not going to spoil it because it’s spectacular. Instead, I’m going to give Bennett as much praise as I can while trying to remain vague. Sonja’s task in this issue starts with her in a location that fits in with any Howard fantasy tale, but Pages 2 and 3 show what it is she’s searching for, and with something like this not being seen for years, it’s startling, magical, and impressive. After this momentous reveal, the story turns elsewhere, but let me continue with Sonja. Her narration as she’s trying to complete her task is fantastic. It completely melds with what’s occurring with the rest of the issue without it feeling like Bennett is appearing as the writer and directly leading the reader. When she finally speaks to the individual that she’s pursuing it’s just as dynamic and had my heart racing all the way to the final page of this installment. But, wait — There’s more! The story also shows what’s going on with Midyan, held by King Savas, who conceives a sensational plan to assist her absent friend. Then the story moves to show a pair of characters making a dramatic change in their beliefs. This is a very clever story from a very clever writer who’s taken Sonja into a direction I’ve not seen before, and I’ve read a lot of Red Sonja comics! I’m looking forward to seeing where Bennett takes this next. Overall grade: A+

The art: I’ve not been pleased with the visuals of this series from its previous issues. Diego Galindo has been added to the book, working with Aneke. I’ve seen Galindo’s work on display on several Zenescope comics in the last year, and he’s quickly become one of my favorite illustrators. This book doesn’t look like the work he’s produced before, but it looks good. I don’t know which artist is responsible for which page, but all of this book looks good. The opening page with Sonja ascending a location is cinematic, with a nice, detail in the fourth panel: it is the calm before the storm. The double-paged spread of Pages 2 and 3 is a visual rush: this type of character hasn’t been seen in a Sonja book since I don’t know when and it looks fantastic. I love the figure in the bottom left of 3. Page 4 has a good establishment of the exterior of King Savas’s castle, which is very different from the first three pages of this book. The figure work in this location is good, with Midyan in the bottom panel beautiful. Heck, even the details on the cup she’s holding are good. The look on Midyan in the third panel on 5 mirrors exactly what the reader feels. All of the faces on 7 are terrific: anger, fear, and compliance that can be easily understood without reading the text (though it’s much more enjoyable if the reader were to read this book). The actions on 9 – 13 and 19 & 20 are very tense and easy to follow, which is quite an artistic feat, given what’s occurring. Pages 16 & 17 have no fancy comic book actions, but feature a very real situation that wholly depends on the artists to make it work with the characters’ reactions clearly shown, and they do: the final panel on 16 sells the moment completely, and is strengthened by the first panel on 17 and the slight smile at the bottom of the same page. Aneke and Galindo are a good team. Overall grade: A

The colors: Sonja’s pages are brightly colored, because there’s no other possible way to show the individual she’s after. This character’s colors are in complete opposition to the setting, and that’s a slick way to make this opponent stand out. Having Sonja’s dialogue balloons colored in a blood red is a terrific way for them to stand out on the page, showing the reader that there’s more than just some incredible action taking place. The deep violet skies on the opening three pages are also impressive looking. The king’s castle is comprised off all the typical colors one would associate with such a place, but Jorge Sutil gets the most of these pages as well, with some beautiful backgrounds to highlight the characters and some nice bright fires to light the scene; I really liked the lime used on 8 to show off one character. The most normal scenes of the book are on 14 – 17, but, again, using the right colors for backgrounds, Sutil makes these vibrant pages. This book looks good throughout. Overall grade: A

The letters: Erica Schultz is responsible for scene settings, narration, sounds, dialogue, yells, a non-verbal exclamation, an editorial note, whispered dialogue, and the tease for next issue. This issue really needed some strong sounds to add weight to what Sonja was doing, and Schultz delivers fantastically. There’s a really cool sound on 12 that’s a neat bit of foreshadowing. I also like the whisper on 15 at the end of the page. I’m liking everything with Schultz’s work. Overall grade: A

The final line: This title has grown impressively since it’s first issue. The story is exciting, surprising, and clever, while the visuals match its epic scale. This is a title to follow. Overall grade: A

To order this issue or other books featuring the exploits of Red Sonja go to http://www.dynamite.com/htmlfiles/

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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