In Review: Red Sonja #1

A great first issue for the new direction of this iconic character. This is a Sonja I'll follow.

The covers: There are 29 different covers listed within this book. Good luck, collectors! The A cover is by Amanda Conner with colors by Paul Mounts. Sonja is precariously perched atop a mound of rocks, her feet barely able to keep balance. She swings her sword and dagger about to protect herself from unseen foes that surround her. Though they cannot be seen, their blood, weapons, limbs, and a severed head reveals they’ve come too close. Conner is perfection on this with Mounts making the colors stellar. This definitely deserves to be the A cover. Another beautiful cover is the B by Joseph Michael Linsner. Against a background of dark, threatening clouds, Sonja points at the reader, holding her bloody sword, standing among the corpses of men she’s killed. WOW! This looks fantastic. Sonja has some minor scrapes on her, and a bit of blood, but the ocean of bodies she’s standing among makes her look completely like a killer. The dramatic gesture she’s making really pumps up the visual tension. Next up is the C cover by Christian Ward. Sonja is sitting on a throne whose top is a monstrous skull adorned with spikes. It’s open maw creates the chair for Sonja, who scowls at the reader. She has a white cape over her shoulders that has become crimson. Red covers the majority of the floor as well. The light source is coming down the center, casting sparkles of light from the carnage she’s created. This also is  amazing. D Frank Cho, with colors by Sabine Rich, have created the D cover that has a full image of the Hyrkanian sauntering toward the reader. She has on her iconic metal bikini with a cape over her shoulders that is tattered and torn. At her feet is a vertical panel that shows seven men wearing different armaments, but all sporting spears, looking forward in unease. They may be looking at the title character coming their way. The background is a sunrise behind Sonja and it makes her look as though she’s Heaven sent, though she’s more often than not something from Hell. The E Cosplay Photo Variant features Jesyka Rose as Sonja photographed by Raquel Sparrow. Sonja, wearing her trademark outfit, holds a massive metal battleaxe in her right hand, a massive metal chain dangling from its eye. The background is snow white, with flakes falling around her. Her skin is almost as white as the snow, allowing the reader to focus on her red lips and hair, as well as the gore that’s on the bit. I love cosplay covers, so this was the cover I picked up. Mermaids have pulled Sonja underwater on the F “Seduction” Incentive cover by Bob Q. One creature is pulling Sonja down backwards, its arm wrapped around her neck. It holds a blade back ready to sever her head. Following their descent are thirteen other mermaids. Creepy and very cool. I wish this event had been in this issue! The G is the B&W Incentive cover by Conner. This is exactly the same as the A cover, just without Mounts’s contributions. I’m a fan of Conner’s visuals and I love to see what her work looks like before its colored. Following this is the H, which is the B&W Incentive cover by Linsner. This is the B cover, but also without colors. It’s neat, but it does look immensely better colored. Not to be outdone is the I B&W Incentive cover by Cho, which is the same as his D, but sans colors. This reveals a ton of linework that Cho did on the cape. I love this! The last in this series is the J B&W “Seduction” Incentive cover by Bob Q. Sonja is still being dragged down into the depths, but now she’s gone so deep all the colors have gone. I like this, but it does look better colored. How can one not be impressed by the work of the legendary Joe Jusko? He’s responsible for the K Sneak Peek cover. I like the tone of this frontpiece. Sonja is close-up, leaning against a wall. Her sword is held by her right hand, point down. She stares at the reader, sizing them up. Behind her are distant structures in light violets. Fantastic! A neat Variant is the L cover, the Atlas Signature Edition by Conner and Mounts. This features the art, and its colors, from the A, but the bottom eighth of the image is white so that the artists can sign it. There’s also a black bar at the top that proclaims it’s from Atlas. I’ve not seen one of these before and it’s a clever way to have a book signed and the signature(s) stand out. The M is the Blank Authentix cover. This is a white cover that features just the logo, publisher, and number at the top, so that an artist can create a one-of-a-kind image or this issue’s creators can sign it. I love these covers for their potential, but on their own they’re not much. The artwork of the A cover returns on the N “Virgin” Incentive cover by Conner and Mounts. Exactly the same as the cover that started out this summary, just minus all text. This is gorgeous. The O “Virgin” Incentive cover by Linsner is the B without text. I also really like this. I’m also liking the P “Virgin” Incentive cover by Cho and Rich. This is the D without text. Love this! The next original cover is the Q FOC Incentive cover by Ken Haeser. Sonja is holding a severed head before the reader in her left hand, while her right holds a massive bloody battleaxe in her right. Behind her is a mountain of skulls engulfed in fire. I like the colors on this, but the image looks as though it’s from an independent publisher. I feel the same about the R, the FOC B&W Incentive cover by Haeser. Same image, no color. I prefer it colored. Holy smokes! Check out the Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Lucio Parillo for Scott’s Collectibles. This has Sonja from just above the knees in three quarters view looking toward the left. She has a massive sword over her right shoulder, her skin has faint blue stripes of camouflage, a white fur coat drapes her shoulders, and massive white mountains are in the background. WOW! I’m also incredibly font of the Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Mirka Andalfo for Sad Lemon Comics. This has a very youthful and cute Sonja shown from the right. Her sword is bloodied, with some smears of red on her skin, of which much is showing. She’s in a winter setting and an exhale can be seen as the snow falls around her. On the ground are several bodies and their pieces. She has her foot on one of the corpses that lies face down. This body resembles a famous Cimmerian. I really like this. Next up is the Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Bill McKay for Sanctum Sanctorum. Sonja is, again, in a winter setting, though there’s no blood or bodies. The title character stares at the reader with her sword resting on her right shoulder. She has on massive golden shoulder plates and a brown woolly coat. Behind her is a snow covered wilderness, dotted only by a single skull in the lower right corner. Nice! The Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Dan Mendoza for Sanctum Sanctorum is a very modern take on the Hyrkanian. Sonja is sitting on a red skull topped throne. She’s showing a lot of cleavage, as her legs are spread. Her eyes are so big they go beyond her head. Her orange hair stands out against the dark violet background. This isn’t my style of artwork, though I know it’s popular with some. Now the Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Jamie Tyndall for 7ATE9 Comics is more my style! This is an incredible full figured image of Sonja standing with a sword raised before her in salute, her right hand holds a battle axe low. Her long hair blows to the right. Behind her is an immense sun and an ancient temple in ruins. The is a gorgeous image with beautiful coloring. You can’t go wrong with anything by Tyndall. Sonja leans on a massive sword she has point down. Wrapped around her arms and shoulder is a green cobra which she holds in her left hand. Another, smaller serpent is at the sword’s tip. The background is composed of a giant brown snake whose entire visage cannot be seen. The distant jungle is in violet. This is an excellent Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Jose Varese for Power Comics. A surprise addition is the Exclusive Cosplay cover for Stadium Comics, featuring Alyssa Stargoddess photographed by Leslie James Merritt. I’m surprised to find another cosplay cover with a different model as Sonja. Sonja sits on a brown fur coat against a frozen forest. She holds an ornate battleaxe over her shoulders. I love cosplay covers and I love this. The next three covers are really neat. The Exclusive “Dressed” cover by Dan Panosian for Essential Sequential/Comic Sketch Art features a highly detailed image of Sonja turning to look over her right shoulder at the reader. She’s standing in a tavern with a bloodied battleaxe. On the floor is a large older man with a red gash on his shoulder. Behind her is a bloody bar. This is great! Imagine my surprise when I saw the Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Panosian for Essential Sequential/Comic Sketch Art. This shows the entire image: an unbelievable setting that has Sonja and her victim in the bottom right. The lights, the dragon’s head, the woodwork, the metalwork — WOW! I need this cover! The Exclusive B&W cover by Panosian for Essential Sequential/Comic Sketch Art is the same as the previous, just without any colors. I love this just as much! The final frontpiece (Thank heavens!) is the Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Ryan Kincaid for Comics Elite. Sonja is back in the snow, though this has her in a strong gale, with snow and steamy vapor whipping about. It’s amazing she’s not frozen to death wearing her metal bikini, even if she has a heavy brown coat over her shoulders. She has a blade in each hand to fight an unseen foe. Her eyes lock on the reader, showing they may be her next victim. Her hair is beautiful and her eyes are to die for! This is sensational in every possible way. Overall grades: A A+, B A+, C A-, D A+, E A, F A, G A-, H B, I A+. J B-, K A, L A, M C, N A+, O A+, P A+, Q C+, R C-, Exclusive Scott’s Collectibles A, Exclusive Sad Lemon Comics A+, Exclusive Sanctum Sanctorum-McKay B+, Exclusive Sanctum Sanctorum-Mendoza D+, Exclusive 7ATE0 Comics A+, Exclusive Power Comics A-, Exclusive Stadium Comics A-, Exclusive “Dressed” Essential Sequential/Comic Sketch Art A, Exclusive “Virgin” Essential Sequential/Comic Sketch Art A+, Exclusive B&W Essential Sequential/Comic Sketch Art A, and Exclusive Comics Elite A

The story: This tale, crafted by Mark Russell, has some very classical elements to it as well as some very modern touches. The book opens with Stygian slaves being led into Shadizar, the capital of the Zamoran Empire. The former king of Stygia is hoping that Dragan, the emperor of Zamora, will be willing to take him on as a regional govern or satrap. The severed head that goes rolling by has him worry about his prospects. Before Dragan, the king asks why he is being accused of assassination. He learns that a prophecy of the Oreacon stated that Dragan will live forever until his empire stops expanding. When the king refused to allow the empire to add his kingdom to Zamora that was attempted regicide. However, if the former king call tell Dragan about a small kingdom he’s considering conquering, he may live. The land is Hyrakania and it is a brutal, barren land full of people who have nothing to lose. The story moves to Sonja who’s returning to the land of her birth since her Master, the Domo of Khitai, has died. She is being pursued by several men. Complicating matters is her dying horse. The battle that follows is great, with the title character’s narration superb. Once she reaches home, something odd happens to her. It’s comical and over-the-top. The humor continues due to some reading material she’s given. This does deliver some important information, but the text was unnecessarily silly. Sonja’s response is perfect, with those who read it receiving an absolute appropriate gift from the Hyrkanian. I liked the action and the narration, where this is going, but some of the humorous moments took me out of the reading. Toning down the humor would make this a better read. Overall grade: B+

The art: I am overjoyed to see Mirko Colak providing the illustrations for this book. I became a fan of his work seeing him work with Cullen Bunn on AfterShock Comics’ Unholy Grail and Brothers Dracul. A full-paged splash opens this series, showing chained prisoners making their way through the Gate of Woe as a soldier reads a proclamation to them. It sets the time period and the woe perfectly. The former king of Stygia looks good, set apart from others by his hat. The gag in the fourth panel on Page 2 is graphic and funny. The final panel on the third page is tilted to increase the supernatural aura of the Oracon. I love his look and that he’s holding a snake above his head. The three panels that introduce Hyrkania to the reader solidify it as a desolate land. The fifth panel on 6 is awesome. The next page is a full-paged splash introducing Sonja in the Wastelands, east of Hyrkania. Having vultures fly above her is a perfect ominous addition. The page that follows contains flashbacks of her with the domo. They’re quick, but neat, and I hope that further flashbacks occur that Colak can create. The action on 9 – 12 is brutal, graphic, and has Sonja come off as an efficient and capable killer. The fall on 13 is epic. Though they are only two panels, a quick flashback on 14 teases some of Sonja’s past exploits. The second panel on 15 has a great point of view to emphasize something. Two panels on 18 tease life in another location, which have me, also, hoping Colak is allowed to draw Sonja at this setting. Page 20 shows Sonja’s response to something and it’s creepy cool. However, on Page 21 something additional is shown and it’s awesome! Visually, it’s gross as can be, but it’s absolutely perfection! The final page is full-paged splash that has a character making plans and looking upon Sonja’s answer. Cool and visually funny. I cannot wait to see more of Sonja in action as drawn by Colak. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Dearbhla Kelly does a terrific job on this book’s colors. The first book is in a desert setting, but the colors blend together so well to make it seem real. I really like how Kelly makes the colors lighter the farther objects are from the reader, giving it a three dimensional effect. The characters on the pages that follow are colored darker/brighter than the background, making the reader instantly look at them, with the backgrounds sneaking up on the reader. The yellow backgrounds on 2 – 6 give the setting an ancient feel. The violets in the final panel on 3 give it a magical flair. I love that the soup that’s made on 5 and 6 is a dark red, which matches the color of Dragan’s wine that he spills — neat symbolism. The Wastelands are forbidding in yellow, orange, and tan. I like that Sonja’s thought boxes are colored a light orange, drawing the reader’s eyes. Blood flies freely in the action sequences, especially when the backgrounds are white. One of Sonja’s backgrounds is colored in pure crimson for a ghastly final deed. Gray and brown become important colors for the final two pages, for obvious reasons. Kelly could have gone more graphic on this pair of pages, but thankfully does not. Overall grade: A+

The letters: This issue’s text by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou includes scene settings, yells, dialogue, sounds, whispers, Sonja’s narration, death gasps, and a letter’s text. These are gigantic and amazing scene settings. The look of these words cement the time period and are fantastically dramatic. I love them! There are several different sounds, in size and font, and they make the actions funny and horrific. There are few whispered moments from characters, pulling the reader closer into the tale. Sonja’s narration is in its own unique font, which I adore. The two documents are in a font that is aged, regal, and beautiful to look upon. Thumbs up to Otsmane-Elhaou on this book! Overall grade: A+

The final line: A great first issue for the new direction of this iconic character. The premise is good and the action superb, though the humor is a little too modern at times. I love the visuals, with the characters and battles excellent, the colors spot on, and the lettering increasing every emotion and action. This is a Sonja I’ll follow. Overall grade: A-

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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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