In Review: Conan Red Sonja #1

So fun, so well written, so gorgeous. By Crom, this is good!

The cover: This might sound odd, but it’s so refreshing to have the first issue of a comic book come out and not have any variants to consider or chase. There’s just the one cover to purchase and there’s no need for any other because this is so good. The art is by interior artist Dan Panosian and has the Cimmerian and Hyrkanian about to cross swords as flame whips behind them and begins to immolate a tree. Both heroes look incredibly powerful and the pose of each is fantastic. The coloring is also great with the oranges and reds being the perfect backdrop to this pair. I wish this was a poster. Overall grade: A+

The story: Scripted by Gail Simone & Jim Zub, titled “The Age of Innocence”, the book opens with the mysterious arrival of Manus Drath to one of the Barachan Isles. He is there to meet a farmer who is going to allow him to plant something for Drath’s lord. This ominous opening then transitions to the city of Enshophur, in the rocky country of Koth, were a roaring crowd in an arena responds to animals tearing each other apart for their entertainment. Sonja is stone faced as she watches the untamed carnage. She is approached by a lecherous man who brags that he, Kalayah, is the Beast Lord, hired by the king to provide the entertainment. Before he can continue to tout his own praises, Sonja interrupts him and says she will sleep with him that night because she is a peasant because she needs the coin. She leaves without telling him her name, and loyal followers of the She-Devil with a sword know what’s coming. The events play out as one would expect, but Conan’s arrival into the tale is something else entirely. I loved their meeting on Page 10 and the first three panels on Page 11 had me laugh out loud. Simone and Zub define this pair quickly and make both joys to read. The cause of their meeting revealed, they soon strike off together, with the inevitable occurring on Pages 14 and 15. The resolution of those pages, and the following, is fantastic–this is how I want to see each character portrayed. With the truth revealed on 17, and a foe coming forward, it was great to see each hero’s reaction. The last page is the perfect mate to the book’s first and I’m ecstatic to see where Simone and Zub take this pair. Overall grade: A+

The art: I am completely biased, and I admit it freely. I really like the artwork of Dan Panosian. I’d buy My Little Pony comics if he illustrated them. His work is beautiful. He can capture the wonder of this lost age and the brutal horrors it contains. He gets to illustrate both in this issue and he does so magnificently. The opening page is a terrific moment as the setting is key to what happens on the last page, and in seven panels he’s created the perfect island, for readers and Drath. I wondered why he had the fourth panel devoted to one creature, but the justification for doing so is revealed on the final page in fantastic fashion. His calm and quite, yet ominous–due to the cloaked Drath, scene goes to two big cats mauling each other in a crowded arena. It would be a considerable chunk of change to film something like this. His focus on Sonja in the crowd is perfect. The way he has her speak and stand lulls readers into a false impression of her as much as it fools Kalayah. Conan is wonderful! His entrance on 8 is terrific, with the action at the top of the page cinematic. Page 11 is a terrific, ghastly joke carried out perfectly. When the inevitable occurs, it’s as good as I could have hoped. I can’t wait to see more of this pair rendered by Panosian as this series progresses. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Beautiful work from Dave Stewart on this book with his sensational coloring. Sonja is absolutely gorgeous with all the shades that Stewart puts into her. Take a look at the close-ups of her. Notice the coloring of her hair, her skin, and her lips. When she’s shown in the second panel on Page 4 her metal necklace is sweet in reflecting the light. The background colors in this sequence are superb. I love the background in the third panel on Page 3. Stewart could have given it a solid color, and that would have sufficed to tell the story, but by giving it that yellow tinged with orange-rose, he’s made the scene seem ancient; so even without any backgrounds, Stewart has solidified the time period of this tale. Wow. And I’ve only touched on the first three pages. Stewart is rocking this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft provide the lettering on this book, doing scene settings, dialogue, narration, and a pair of sounds. All look great, and I don’t know if it’s their contribution or not, but I really loved that Conan’s dialogue balloons are completely different from everyone else’s. It makes him much more powerful and more primitive than everyone else in this issue. Overall grade: A+

The final line: The Gods are smiling down on readers for allowing them to have this ancient tale. So fun, so well written, so gorgeous. By Crom, this is good! Recommended. 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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