In Review: Red Sonja #13

Exploits against an army of the undead make this a terrific Sonja issue.

The covers: A big eight covers to find before the dead overwhelm you. The A cover is by Ben Maxwell and it’s a terrific image of Sonja in the modern era, pulling down some pink sunglasses so she can look up more clearly at the reader. She’s wearing her typical metal bikini of nothing, and she’s sporting a rocket launcher in her right hand. She’s standing on a sidewalk littered with the iconic stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star before her features her name, while those around her feature the names of the creators on this issue. This is a really smart cover that looks brilliant. One of my favorite Ray Harryhausen monsters is feeling Sonja’s wrath. The monstrous Cyclops is emerging from the top of the cover, in profile, roaring at the minuscule Sonja who’s leaping in the air and stabbing the beast in its one eye. The monster is great, true to its film roots, and Sonja looks great against an orange background on this B by Brent Schoonover and Chris O’Halloran. The next cover, the C, by Moritat looks like a 1970s pulp novel. A vertical green-gray strip is on the right side of the cover showing several horrible looking men against a wooden structure. The rest of the cover is in white, with only Sonja colored at the bottom half, using her blade to take down one of her attackers. She looks spectacular and the colors are wonderful. Cathie Snelgrove takes a knee dressed as Sonja as she uses her shield for protection on the D, the Cosplay Photo Variant cover. Snelgrove looks great, her costume is aces, and the forest setting is terrific. This photo was taken by Jacob Schulz and once again my hat is off to Dynamite for using cosplayers for photo covers. A surprising cover is the E, the Subscription Variant, by Fernando Ruiz, J. Bone, and Dan Parent. The Hyrkanian holds her sword high, with a dagger held by her side in her left, as she stands above a goblin she’s just killed. One of the creatures behind her holds his bloody chest as he begins to fall to the floor. Two smaller goblins in the foreground point and yell in rage. This looks great and I’m hoping to see more Variants from this team. In fact, I’d love to see Parent do a cover by himself, as his work for Archie Comics is exceptional. The F cover is the “Virgin” Incentive Variant by Maxwell featuring his art from the A cover, minus all the text. If one enjoyed that cover, one will enjoy this equally. The G is a B/W Incentive Variant featuring the art from the B cover by Schoonover. This is nice, but I prefer it with O’Halloran’s colors. The same is also true for the H B/W Incentive Variant which is the E cover by Ruiz, minus the colors. Overall grades: A A+, B B+, C A+, D A+, E A, F A+, G B-, and H B

The story: When last we left Sonja and Wallace the mage they were in another dimension in a broken down castle in the desert, surrounded by an overwhelming army of the undead that want to tear them, and the men accompanying them, apart. Amy Chu & Erik Burnham start with Sonja thinking she’s been to this place before: it’s Hell, though Wallace is quick to say it’s this dimension’s version of that infamous place. Suddenly one of the soldiers who’s traveled with them bursts through a door. “Please, you must do something! You must save us! You can still do that, yes? You will? We will pay any price! Any price.” He brandishes a gold coin before the warrior. She takes the coin and flips it back into his purse. “Gold is worthless to the damned.” She turns to the mage and suggests he use his abilities to create a portal so they can escape. He does so, but it goes horribly wrong. I love stories where heroes are trapped in a location with seemingly no way out and they have to escape before they are slaughtered by overwhelming numbers. Chu and Burnham build the tension well, having the two leads go under the castle and learn information while encountering a surprising threat. Sonja’s solution about what to do is on Page 10 and what else would one expect her to do? The action is intense and takes a terrific turn on 14 with some new arrivals. And then things take another unexpected turn on 17, with the leads entering a location that will be familiar to those who are knowledgeable of Greek mythology. Every page of this issue increased the tension or took a surprising turn. This is exactly what one would want from a Sonja story. Overall grade: A+ 

The art: Carlos Gomez is an incredible artist. The first page is made of two moments from Sonja’s past as she’s recalling time spent in Hell. One image features her fighting a giant demon and the other shows her on a boat on a underground lake as hands reach out of the waters to drag her down. These are fantastic images and a wonderful way to pull the reader into the book. The bottom of the page shows Sonja looking out to the reader, contemplating these past exploits, while Wallace looks on questioningly. This final panel is a solid display of the characters so the reader knows who to follow in this character heavy issue. The undead skeletons look sensational. I’ve never seen this many skeletons look so good in a book. The portal that Wallace conjures is tremendous, but what it brings seems as if they were conjured from an Ashley James Williams outing. The setting where Sonja and Wallace journey to on Page 7 is great, which features an ominous statue and horrific paintings on the wall. Pages 12 and 13 are just flat out spectacular for the action and detail created by Gomez. Ray Harryhausen would have to be smiling down at what’s been put on this page. Complicating things for the heroes are the arrivals on 14, who are very different from the skeletal foes. I especially like the design of the speaker of this group. Page 18 introduces a pair of new supernatural characters who have some excellent movement on 19, which is followed by a character’s super exit in the fifth panel on this page. The character that is revealed in the final panel of the book looks great — different from any other incarnation I’ve seen of this infamous character in other mediums. That’s impressive, given how long this character has been in literature. Where Gomez goes, I will follow. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The two panels that are flashbacks of Hell are given a creepy tinted green-gray to show their age. They are further dated when the art turns to the present with bust shots of Sonja and Wallace since both characters are brightly colored, making them seem alive. This is excellent work by Mohan because the second page introduces the army of skeletons that wants to kill these brightly colored characters and those bones are aged in grays and browns. The hellish reds and rusts used for the skies constantly reminds the reader of where Sonja and her allies are. The portal that Wallace creates is a bright blue-white that is completely out of place and wonderfully alien for this horrific dimension. Throughout the book Sonja’s hair is given terrific shades of crimson, making her seem real, as is the work done on her and the other human’s flesh. The grays used for Pages 18 and 19 telegraph to the reader the true nature of three characters. The coloring on the final character has some terrific highlights, allowing every element of the art to stand out. This is excellent work. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Simon Bowland is responsible for the book’s dialogue, yells, sounds, screams, whispered dialogue, and the tease for next issue. Considering how much detail there is in the visuals, it’s impressive to see Bowland able to insert text without crowding the visuals. The yells and screams are perfect, enhancing the pain of the dead and dying. The sounds are big, just as they should be in a Sonja book. Bowland, like the rest of this book’s contributors, is delivering his A game. Overall grade: A

The final line: Exploits against an army of the undead make this a terrific Sonja issue. The story is smart, with Sonja at her finest, and the visuals are deliciously detailed. This series has been sensational since its first issue and continues to be so. 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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