In Review: Conan Red Sonja #3

This is a stark dip in quality from the first issue.

The cover: This image is the perfect introduction to this issue as it shows exactly how this book begins. Sonja and Conan are in an arena surrounded by several men who want to kill them. Can the pair of heroes escape death at the hands of several attackers? If you don’t know the answer to this, you’ve obviously never read any of their original tales by Robert E. Howard. Sensational image by Dan Panosian with the characters back to back. Each is ready for action, intensely looking at their foes. I love the shading that Panosian uses–the dots used until the 1990s. Makes this image seem like classical 1970s high adventure art. The coloring is also really strong, with that bright orange sun making the light blues of the title resonate. Outstanding! Overall grade: A+

The story: The King of Koth has hired the finest warriors in the land to kill the heroes in an arena for his amusement. This is being done to avenge the death of his son killed by the pair (actually by Conan) in the first issue. Conan only has a length of chain to defend himself, while Sonja has only a broken wooden shaft less than two feet long. They are attacked from all sides and in six panels the battle is over. The outcome is never in doubt, however what occurs on Page 5 is as surprising as the Prince’s death in the first issue. With the battle concluded the pair leave, but one of them has changed considerably since the first issue. Joint writers Gail Simone and Jim Zub have the pair going into an unexpected situation on Page 9. As this scene progressed, I wasn’t surprised who initiated such action, as this is an aspect of this character that has finally been released in comics by their current writer. Although I will admit to gasping at the reveal on 11. I had forgotten about that plotline, and it has now returned to grow in this issue. I love the quick solution in the fourth panel on 12 and the reveal of all their woes on 14. There is no other character that could possibly create so much trouble, save this person. This individual’s inclusion was a masterstroke. My joy soon turned to disappointment with what occurs on Pages 15 – 22. This scene is dragged on for too long and the conflict rings very hollow. Just because these two characters meet does not mean that this situation has to occur. I felt as though I was reading a Marvel Team-Up from the 1970s. The story starts strong but comes off as an ancient retread on the final 8 pages. Overall grade: C 

The art: The visuals on this book are acceptable, but not stellar, for one primary reason–few backgrounds. Penciller Randy Green and inker Rick Ketcham do a very good job on the characters. Both leads are fierce and look incredible. Conan is the epitome of manliness and Sonja a strong woman. Each is very attractive and when in action look incredible. The scenes on Pages 2, 3, and 15 – 22 are drawn very well. The secondary characters also look very well. The King on Page 3 looks appropriately regal, and his exit on 5 terrific. But this is only half the job of an illustrating team. I’m not liking that the settings are few and far between, and when they do appear it’s often just a wall. An argument can be made that the settings are not as important to the book as the action is; however, they are a key visual component of any story that helps to immerse the reader in the story’s universe. If they are badly drawn, or appear infrequently, the reality that all contributors hoped to create is lost upon readers. Where do these disappearances occur? Pages 3, 4, 7 – 9, and 17 – 21. Please note that they disappear during the fighting. Without the colorist’s contributions, the skirmishes in this book would be occurring in a void. I can’t rave about visuals in a book that do this. Overall grade: C-

The colors: The contributions of Dave Stewart on this book are something to rave about. Stewart is filling in the gaps left in the art to create a reality for readers. The bright yellow sun creates the dominate coloring on the opening five pages and Stewart effective blends different shades of this color to create depth in the sky. This is a technique he uses throughout this book. When tight close-ups are used on the leads, he masterfully shades their skin to add perspective. The blending of colors is used to add some perspective to panels that are empty of all but the characters, as is done on the final pages. Stewart is an exceptional colorist and could have shined even more brightly had he been given more to work with. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft create narration, dialogue, yells, sounds, grunts, a dying man’s last words, and a tease for next issue. All look good, but I needed more sounds on the final pages, as there is a sound that starts the battle on Page 18, and then the conflict oddly goes mute. Overall grade: A-

The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob: These are two strips that appear at the end of the issue created by Jim & Ruth Keegan. These give insights into Robert E. Howard’s perspectives on things, taken from his letters to others. They were informative and well drawn. I’d purchase a book that just focused on these. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is a stark dip in quality from the first issue. What began as an excellent saga has regressed to a cliché 1970s hero team up. Very disappointing. Overall grade: C+

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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