In Review: Red Sonja #14

Sonja continues to dazzle and terrify with this creative team.

The covers: A foursome of front pieces for you to find. The Main cover is by Jenny Frison who has Sonja standing in a field of poppies. She looks to be a little dazed, or is that the look of a killer releasing a silent sigh as she is forced to do battle with another? Frison continues to show she is a superior artist with this sensational cover. Yasmin Lang has created the Variant cover and this one will disturb you. Sonja is wearing a white cloak over her patented metal bikini. She holds a toddler in her left arm; it’s draped in black cloth. Its head is a lime green skull with worms breaking free from it. Its empty eye sockets match the crimson in Sonja’s hair. In the She-Devil’s right she holds her sword upside down, its blade obscured by the bany’s black cloth, though its tip is covered in gore. Behind her, to her right, is an hourglass, and to her left a rose. Wow! This looks like a tarot card illustration. Very cool. The Subscription cover is by the stellar Stephanie Buscema who has a bust shot of a mesmerized Sonja in a sickly green, with a skull for a pupil in her eye. A hypnotic progression of rings radiates out from her as several twitching neon yellow paramecium fly about her. Outstanding! The Red Sonja Contest Winner cover is by Matt Brooks. Sonja’s lovely face is surrounded by images that make up her hair: a dragon, a lion, a skull on a spike, a beautiful woman, and a certain Cimmerian shown from the back holding a sword. Nicely done with pastel paints on a white background. I’m usually not a fan of illustrations with dripping splotches of color, but I like this. Overall grades: Main A+, Variant A-, Subscription A+, and RSCW A- 

The story: The first five pages of this tale by Gail Simone are set in a tavern in an “impoverished, nameless little town in Argos.” Sonja made her way through town two days earlier and a Kothian now seeks her for killing his brother. The locals hired Sonja to kill his sibling and he forgives them in a very grotesque way. His path will cross Sonja’s path in a later issue. The Hyrkanian is far away in the forest in pursuit of prey during a downpour. Whom she encounters should not be a surprise, but what Sonja tells this person may be. The person she has found tries to reason with her regarding her motivations, but she’ll have none of it. However she will have something else from him on Page 11. I was happy to see the second panel on Page 12 because that’s not something readers often see of Sonja. The remaining ten pages have an excellent confrontation that starts as a slow burn until the proclamation on Page 16–which is killer–shows readers what course Sonja has set. The narration on 17 – 19 is fantastic. I had assumed I knew how this issue would end, but Simone won’t go the expected route with Sonja and she has her doing something very unconditional on the final page. Be careful what you wish for, Sonja! Fantastic! Overall grade: A+

The art: Illustrating the worlds of Robert E. Howard is a difficult task. An artist must be able to create realistic people, those tainted by the forbidden arts, supernatural creatures, and believable settings that could be a castle, tavern, forest, jungle, or desert. Walter Geovani is the perfect artist to chart his own path through this world. His first page is a gorgeously detailed shot of the exterior and interior of a tavern. The third panel’s tease of the “Lord” is excellent–I could hear those nails scraping on the floor. The barmaid is the focus of the second and fourth panel, alerting readers to her importance of what’s to follow. The second page is a splash that delightfully shows the dark, dread visage of the antagonist. What’s shown on Page 5 had me choking. And what of Sonja? She’s spectacular in every panel on every page. Geovani never takes a misstep when creating this fiery haired lead. My favorite images of her included Page 7 (Duh!), 16, 19, 21, and 22. A superior job throughout. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The opening pages in the tavern show that colorist Adriano Lucas is also at the top of his game on this book. I like how the interiors are cast in a bright orange glow to show the use of flame to light the room. This is in stark contrast to the gloomy exterior outside. Purple symbolizes royalty, and what better color to drape the arriving Lord? And if one is paying attention to the colors, the drinks on Page 2 are colored similarly to foreshadow an event. Sonja’s face on 11 is brilliant against the flashback, and when the trouble begins on 17 backgrounds go orange to enhance the action. Well done, Mr. Lucas! Overall grade: A+

The letters: Narrator narration, dialogue, Sonja narration, and a scream are crafted by Simon Bowland. I’m always pleased to see Sonja have her own unique font for her inner thoughts, which is also designated with a color change. However, Pages 6 and 7 should not be in that font as it is the narrator speaking about Sonja and not Sonja speaking about herself in third person. This should be corrected for the collected trade. Overall grade: B+

The final line: Two pages of erroneous font is not enough to collapse my love of this book. This is the perfect team for Sonja’s exploits as they show in this issue. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this series, start here. Sonja continues to dazzle and terrify with this creative team. 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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