In Review: Red Sonja #1

Slick storytelling and strong visuals make this book a winner in any time. Absolutely recommended.

The covers: Yowza! Sixteen different covers to seek out if you truly be a fan of the She-Devil with a sword! Nick Bradshaw provides the art and Pete Pantazis the colors for the A cover which has Sonja in action leaping over a car, sporting her blade and the top of a street light to take down the tentacled and winged terror that lurks just beyond the illustration. Behind her the stunned citizens of modern Manhattan look on. I’m a fan of details in artwork and Bradshaw delivers the goods — I mean, c’mon! Take a look at the bottom of the image: the taxi’s radiator is leaking. Does that need to be shown? No, but does it make this look all the better? Oh, yeah! Love the colors on this as well, with Sonja popping out from the background with her stronger coloring. The B cover is by fan favorite J. Scott Campbell who delivers Sonja kneeling on a white background. Her sword is stabbed in the ground, with only a black stain remaining of its prey, a dark waft of smoke issuing from it. This is a black and white piece, with only the title and Sonja’s hair colored and it’s pretty snazzy. The C is entirely created by Brandon Peterson. Sonja makes her way through a tunnel, holding her weapon in her right hand and a torch in her left. A wisp of blue smoke streaks behind her and she cannot see that it bears the image of a horned monster. Below the warrior are the bones from one of the vapor’s victims. Sonja looks great, the smoke-creature is eerie, and the coloring is excellent. Next up is the D cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli with colors by Jose Villarrubia. In a mist enshrouded forest, Sonja turns to the reader, her demeanor serious and her blade bears the fluids of her last foe. This is a super piece with the coloring, especically that mist, being outstanding; this was the cover I purchased. The E is a Cosplay Variant featuring Ashley Du as Sonja. She looks fine, but I grew up with Cosplay Sonja performed by Wendy Pini and she’s my mind’s default for the Hyrkanian. This image was photographed by Erik Paredes. The F cover is the Subscription cover and the one many fans will want to seek out because of what it honors. Mel Rubi with Mohan on colors have given their own spin to the classic Marvel Team-Up #79, created by John Byrne. Sonja is in the same position, with her wielding her sword to strike down Kulan Gath, whose form is living fire. This is a great tip of the hat to the story that inspired this series. The G cover is the same as the A but a B/W Incentive cover that features only the pencils. If one likes the A, then he or she will like the G. The same can be said of the H cover, which is a B/W Incentive of the D cover. The I cover continues this theme by being a B/W Incentive of the F, while the J is a B/W Incentive of the C. The K cover is a “Virgin Art” cover that features just the art of the B cover and none of the text. A Blank Authentix cover is the L edition to track down if one wishes to find their favorite artist to create a one of a kind original cover for this book. I like when companies make these, but on their own they’re very “meh.” The M cover returns the frontpieces back to original art. This is a Dynamic Forces Exclusive from Kewber Ball with colors by Schimerys Baal. This has Sonja sitting on the iconic throne from Game of Thrones; a nice and appropriate mash-up. The N cover is a B/W exclusive of the M cover, also available from Dynamic Forces. The O cover is a Nerd Block Exclusive from Jeff Dekal that is down low looking up at Sonja who has her sword raised high to strike at something, with the modern city’s buildings behind her. The visual is fine, but it’s from a bizarre angle that has me not liking it as much as if it had been set up more typically. The final cover — Whew! — is a Steampunk Comic Shop Exclusive by Eric Basaldua with colors by Nei Ruffino. This P cover has Sonja resting in a flowing stream that winds down into a valley. She looks calm and collect, though her leg bears the wounds of an earlier battle. Nice image with the colors radiating an incredible amount of warmth. Overall grades:  A A, B A+, C A, D A, E C, F A-, G B, H B, I B, J A-, K A, L C, M B+, N B-, O C+, and P A-

The story: “January, 2017.” Snow begins to fall in Manhattan as young police officer Max apprehends an even younger shoplifter. His partner Jay shows up and tells him that backup has been requested for a “Naked woman swinging a sword. No one understands what she’s saying.” She puts the live feed of the woman through her radio and Max understands the unknown woman who says, “Mother of Mitra, where am I?” The two leave the young thief and speed to the scene. The officers find five of their brothers already on the scene, guns drawn on the woman who’s speaking in a language they can’t understand. It’s Sonja and she’s wondering why the men don’t attack her; they’re waiting on a translator to find out what this red headed woman’s problem is. Max can make out most of what she’s saying and begins to speak to her, but only after shots are fired. Writer Amy Chu has crafted a fun tale of Sonja out of her environment and trying to make sense of a world that is full of magic and a language she doesn’t understand. Just as it seems that the officers can help her, others enter her world on Pages 14 and 15 to make things worse. I like the relationship that Chu starts with Sonja and the officers, with them obviously set to encounter her again. Sonja acts realistically given what she’s dealing with and her focus to retrieve something speaks volumes of her character. There’s a tip off on the first page of who the villain of this piece will be and he is seen on the last page. This story took me back to the joy of 1979 when this premise was first addressed and I’m raring to see what Chu has Sonja do next. Overall grade: A

The art: This is a strong element of this book. Carlos Gomez does an outstanding job; I’ve fallen in love with his work on several Dresden Files books from Dynamite and my joy with his visuals continues with this series. The book opens cinematically with a long shot of Manhattan that zooms in on one building before coming in from a bird’s eye view of the thief running down the street. Both Max and Jay look great, with the former having a constant smile on his face, even in the toughest of situations, while Jay is much more serious with what she’s dealing with. Sonja is awesome — she is absolutely a warrior, with how she wields her blades and fights her foes and she’s the beautiful woman one expects. Her first appearance on Page 4 is a full paged splash and she’s dynamite as her hair flairs about from the snowstorm occurring. The anger in her face as she’s taken away on 10 and one realizes that she will make every officer pay for what they’re doing to her. Pages 15 and 16 show her in action and she’s the powerhouse fans want. The full paged splash on the penultimate page is a tremendous shot of the title character alone in the big city and ready for action. Speaking of the big city, one of Gomez’s strengths is his ability to create incredible settings and he succeeds on every page doing so. The city is as much a character as the people are and it is as varied as the cast. The skyscrapers surround Sonja, which is exactly what she would feel they are doing, the chaos of lights and traffic increase her unease in this strange land, and the location she ends up at on Page 13 is terrifically detailed. Every panel of this book brings Sonja to life. I really like Gomez’s work. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Mohan is also a Dresden Files contributor and he’s just as outstanding on this as he was on that. I like that the city is a grey beast that almost radiates death, something that Sonja has been around often, but not at this volume. Mohan doesn’t blanket the city in this color, there are the expected highlights (lights, cars, characters’ skin), but the snowfall smothers the palette wonderfully. This dimming of the colors makes Sonja the focus for the reader on every page because of her crimson locks and all the skin her chain metal bikini allows. My favorite page was 15 where one character was wearing a vivid dark green that instantly captured my attention and foreshadowed danger for the title character. And take a look at the warm glow that Mohan gives to 19, emphasizing the light that Sonja will bring to this bizarre world. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, radio broadcasts, yells, dialogue, sounds, and narration are brought to life by Simon Bowland. One of the better letterers in the industry, Bowland does a slick job using a variety of fonts to tell this story, with the strong scene settings and radio broadcasts being a good way to pull the reader into this tale. The sounds are great, with Page 16 having my two favorites. I must also draw specific attention to Sonja’s narration which has its own unique font. It’s sadly rare to see narration receive its own font, but Bowland is the rare letterer who knows it should be done, and I’m extremely grateful he’s on this book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Sonja is lost in time, transported to the modern world, and readers are the winners for getting to read this outstanding tale. Slick storytelling and strong visuals make this book a winner in any time. Absolutely recommended. 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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