In Review: Red Sonja #15

This is how Sonja was always meant to be! Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: Eight covers to collect if one is a fan of the fiery Hyrkanian. The A cover by Mike McKone has Sonja looking at her bloody sword that she holds high after dispatching several foes who lie before her. Take a look at the bottom center, where a dead man’s hand seems to seek mercy even in death. In her other hand is a bloody battleaxe. The composition on this is good, the character looks great, and the colors sharp. The B cover by Carlos Gomez looks as though this could be the cover for the collected edition of this saga. Sonja is front and center with her sword drawn. To her right are Molly and Spike who accompanied her across the United States. To her left are Max and Wallace, magic swirling out of their hands. Behind all is a monstrous Kulan Gath reaching for Sonja. Gorgeous cover in every possible way. Juan Doe, who illustrates AfterShock Comics’ Dark Ark and World Reader, turns in a very stylized C cover of Sonja. The warrior has her eyes closed as she swings her blade, with it leaving a bright yellow path. She’s killed something, which is noticeable due to the splatter of blood emerging from the right side. Her hair is tremendous, taking up the left upper corner. This cover is dominated by reds and yellows. I really like this. The D cover is the Cosplay Variant that features Joanie Brosas, photographed by Robert Alvardo, as Sonja holding a sword behind her back. She’s a great looking Sonja and having her on a white background really makes her pop off the cover. This is one to track down! Joanie can be found on Instagram @joaniebrosas and Robert’s work can be seen @alvardopinup. Anthony Marques and J. Bone are responsible for the E Cover. This has Sonja falling down from some unseen location that’s a wall of flame onto a mass of upraised spears. She’s got blood on her, but it may not be her own as it’s also on her sword. She’s not pleased with what she’s doing, given the grimace on her face. This is a fairly cartoony Sonja and I like it. The colors are bright and that increases the eye catching value of this illustration. The F is a B&W McKone Variant that’s the A cover minus the colors. This looks great and if one likes the A, they’ll also want the F. Juan Doe also gets the Variant treatment on the G, which is a Virgin Variant. This is exactly the same as the C cover, just without any of the text. I also really like this cover. The final cover is the H which is the B&W Gomez Variant, which features the artwork of the B cover without any colors. I love Gomez’s work, so it’s no surprise that I also love this. Overall grades: A A-, B A+, C A, D A+, E B, F, A-, G A, and H A+ 

The story: Amy Chu & Erik Burnham created this tale with scripting done by the latter. This issue begins right in the heat of a battle in a forest with Sonja kicking a man in the face and then ramming her sword through his chest. Other foes are being taken by Lera and Taya who are felling foes with a bow and sword. They remind the title character that the closer they get to Shamballah Kulan Gath’s influence will grow more powerful. Peeking out from behind a tree, Wallace confirms what the women have said, only to be grabbed from behind by a strong man. He’s able to make a magical clone of himself to take this opponent down. With all the antagonists dead, Sonja reveals that the “opposition is slowing us down more than I’d like.” She then suggests, with a smile, a way to get to their destination more quickly. “Meanwhile, back in Shamballah…” Max, being held captive by Gath to feed him magical energy, is shocked to see that Sonja has entered his master’s caste. The villain isn’t surprised, realizing that the Hyrkanian before them is a clone of Sonja created by Wallace. It should have evaporated long ago. Max tries to give this Sonja a warning, but Gath takes his voice. This allows the evil wizard to convince the clone to do something that’s not revealed until Page 13. This issue has Sonja finally meet Gath, albeit in his own quarters, but the old man has a surprise for her. The dialogue on this is great, with Sonja being absolutely fierce, the action is top notch, with the physical battles amazing and the magical ones cool, and the closing cliffhanger a jaw-dropper that will leave the reader gasping until the next installment premieres. An absolutely thrilling read. Overall grade: A+

The art: I’ve been a fan of Carlos Gomez’s art since he illustrated several of Dynamite’s Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files comics and this series has only continued to cement him as one of my favorite illustrators. The opening page demonstrates his skills wonderfully: a small panel shows a close-up of a man being kicked to the face, which is followed by a huge panel of Sonja stabbing the man through the chest. Look at the great work on the characters, with the impact to the man’s face excellent and Sonja’s fury immense. Additionally, the clothing on the characters is great, with each wearing unique garbs, rather than cookie cutter costumes that repeat on everyone. Look at how the arrows are clearly shown hitting their marks in the first panel on Page 2 that introduces Lera and Taya. Wallace’s introduction is also great, with him essentially hiding behind a tree. Take note how Sonja is shown in the bottom of his panel, reminding the reader that a massive fight is still occurring. When jumped from behind, the magic that Wallace uses looks cool. When the battle ends, the large fourth panel on 3 shows the aftermath of their fray. Clone Sonja’s appearance on 4 is cinematic, with the character backlit. Gath has some great panels as he seeks to turn the clone to his cause. Shamballah is a fully rendered setting when it appears. It’s called a ruin, but it’s still a tremendous vision. Gath’s tower on 7 is fantastic, it being the only structure that seems kept up in the city. The full-paged splash on 9 has a great entrance with the characters’ emotions excellent. The only thing missing for the bottom panel on 10 is music — it’s flawless! The skewed point of view on 11 wonderfully shows how Gath’s power warps even the reader’s perspective. The entrance on 13 is cool, with just enough to set the character apart. The battle goes on for four pages and it’s everything one would want when Sonja battles one-on-one with another. There’s an absolute stellar visual that comes in on the third panel on 18 that’s followed by a perfect visual accompanied by perfect dialogue. The final page of this issue has a major surprise that’s full of tremendous energy. The reader will undoubtedly feel what’s happening. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The opening three pages are set at night in a forest and colorist Mohan nicely gives the proceedings a dim blue to darken the pages; this allows all the visuals to remain clearly seen by the reader. Magic gets a cool blue outline around white to highlight the mystical energies used by Wallace and Max. The entrance of the Sonja clone is awesomely colored with the light source behind her; it makes her look incredibly fierce and deadly. When Gath speaks his dialogue balloons are colored black with the lettering done in white. This is a slick way to visually differentiate him from others. Browns and tans color the streets and buildings of Shamballah, aging them appropriately and allowing the characters to really pop off the page. Yellow is the dominate color that ends this book, reminding of Jean Grey when she went bad. Mohan is kicking some major butt on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Simon Bowland creates sounds, yells, dialogue, a whisper, scene settings, Gath’s unique speech font, and narration. The yells come in several different sizes and fonts, making the strength of each utterance obvious to the reader. The scene settings are electric, in bold letters slanted to the right, pulling the reader into the panel quickly. Gath has a font all to himself, composed of letters that seem ancient. There are several sounds in this issue and they’re used for a variety of actions, but those during the battles are great. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Sonja and Kulan finally meet and things don’t go as planed for the Hyrkanian. The story and visuals are outstanding. This is how Sonja was always meant to be! Highest possible recommendation. 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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