In Review: Red Sonja #18

Terrific reading as something terrible is revealed to be in Sonja's group.

The covers: Eight different covers to tempt you into collecting. The A cover is by Tula Lotay and features a sexy Sonja within a tent atop some pillows and a massive leopard skin rug. Should she look too easy an target, one should note that she’s holding a dagger behind her back. The shadows of the warriors who are looking upon her had better notice that blade. Great cover with Sonja looking beautiful and that dagger showing she’s no pushover. The B is by Billy Tucci with colors by Wes Hartman and is the cover I picked up. A gorgeous Sonja wearing her iconic outfit wields a bloody long sword in one hand and a battleaxe in the other. She grits her teeth as she takes a defensive pose, standing ankle deep in a pool littered with arrows. The water surrounds some ruins that have flames leaping from them. The art is fantastic and the colors stunning with the yellow sun throwing that hue and gold onto everything. Interior artist Carlos Gomez is responsible for the C frontpiece which has the title character sitting on a throne, her legs crossed casually, but one hand is at her temple showing she’s agitated, while the other holds a broadsword whose point is in the ground. She’s surrounded by hundred of skulls that caution the reader to get no closer. She looks incredibly strong on this cover. The D is the Cosplay Photo Variant featuring Jacqueline Goehner photographed by Geri Kramer. Sonja is wearing her metal bikini and a red cape as she holds a sword and an axe. Behind her are some tiny yellow flowers, while the white sky is punctuated by the bright title and a distant, out of focus mountain. I like how there’s a trickle of blood coming from her mouth, showing the reader she’s recently battled someone, as if the axe’s bloody blade doesn’t catch their eye. I love these cosplay covers! The E by John Royle with colors by Juan Fernandez is the Subscription cover and it’s absolutely insane with details. Against a maelstrom of flame, Sonja chops the head off a massive serpent that seeks to entangle her. The hero looks amazing, with her fierce as she whips one sword through the creature. I love how her hair also creates motion in this illustration. The serpent is ferocious and I’m grateful that blood was shown where its head has been severed. I love the coloring and worry over Fernandez, who probably went insane with all the work done on the flames. This cover is outstanding.  The F is a B/W Incentive featuring the C cover sans colors. I love the amount of detail that Gomez put into this before the colors were added, with those skulls stunning. The G is the “Virgin” Variant featuring Lotay’s art without any text. This is great, with the reader not distracted by any words and the shadows of her foes more clear. The final cover, the H, is a B/W Incentive which is the B cover without any contributions from Hartman. I love this with the colors, but this is also an extremely impressive image on its own. Just so darned cool! Overall grades: A A-, B A+, C A, D A, E A+, F A, G A, and H A

The story: A woman bearing the mark of one of Kulan Gath’s faithful opens this issue as she screams, “Give it to me!” With a turn of the page, Sonja obliges and swings her blade to decapitate the woman. The next page shows that Sonja is joined by Lera and Taya as they take more “ensorcelled” thugs of the dead Kulan Gath. As the trio dispatch with this motley crew they tell each other, and the reader, that Gath sent his followers out to seed terror so his conquest could be made easier; even the wizard’s death hasn’t stopped his willing zealots from fulfilling his orders. Sonja is puzzled why they continually flock to them. Amy Chu & Erik Burnham’s story, with the latter writing the issue, reveals why this is occurring and it’s a scream worthy moment on Page 9. Once this is revealed, there are some good character moments between Lera and Taya, with them getting some significant growth as characters. Pages 12 and 13 show the constant barrage the trio is under as they make their way to Cimmeria. Once there they find out that there’s been a major change in the owner of an estate they wished to visit. Sonja’s reaction in the first panel on 18 is hilarious and completely on target. I love how Lera takes over the conversation to everyone’s benefit, with Taya getting Sonja to go along with their new course of action with a bribe the Hyrkanian enjoys. Just as all seems to be going in a positive direction, the trio is given a shocking task that will remain unresolved until next issue. This was a travel issue, with the characters getting from Point A to Point B. It was extremely enjoyable because the characters are so fun. Had the heroines not reached their destination until the final page I would have happy. However, with the reveal of the new antagonist and his horrific plans, I’m anxious to see what the trio do next issue. Overall grade: A

The art: Carlos Gomez’s art is always impressive. This issue serves as reinforcement of that statement. The book opens with a full-paged splash of the zealot screaming at the reader from Sonja’s point of view. It’s a startling image of this frenzied character and it’s impossible not to have one’s eye drawn to the dark mark on her brow. The slight smile on Sonja’s face on the top panel on Page 2 is terrific, showing that that title character does find pleasure in what she does. The severing of the character’s head is graphic, but looks incredible. The pose on Sonja as she makes this fatal action is also very impressive. Plus, check out the background behind the characters in that panel — it, too, looks great. This is followed by an equally large panel on 3 that introduces Lera and Taya into the issue as they and Sonja battle their foes. I love how Sonja assists Lera in a grotesque, yet funny, way. As the characters fight, and they look impressive, note must be taken of the background that makes the forest come to life and the dust trails they characters make as they battle. Just so darned cool! The close-up of Sonja on 7 has her beautiful and absolutely in charge of the situation. The reveal on 9 made me gasp and the characters’ reactions on that page and 10 and 11 match the reader’s. The five horizontal panels that start on 12 and continue across 13 are epic. They show five different locations the characters are traveling through and the fiends they must battle: they are fantastic! The character they meet on 15 has got an incredible design, looking like everything Sonja would be offended by. I love the look of this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colorist who often works with Gomez is Mohan and it’s clear why: they are a perfect match. Notice how on the first page Mohan inserts a shine onto the screaming character’s forehead to have her dark mark catch the reader’s eye. And one should also note how what she screams is in a red lettering to increase her fury. With so much skin showing and her fiery hair, Sonja stands out in every panel she’s in. The many shades of green used to color the forest make the background a believable setting. The reveal on 9 is given a yellow-white glow, making the item appear holy. Cimmeria has very specific colors, which will surprise the reader as much as the characters. The colors of the character that appears on 17 are gaudy and gauche. Overall grade: A

The letters: Taylor Esposito is this issue’s letterer and he’s done sensational work on other books. He delivers a sensational job for this issue creating yells, dialogue, sounds, whispered dialogue, narration, the final three words of dialogue, and the final three words that end the issue. I love when there are different fonts and sizes used for yells, informing the reader how specifically loud a character is. I also enjoy seeing a different font used for dialogue and narration, as each is a different form of communication. The sounds are fun, with the battle noises graphic and appropriate. The final three words of dialogue drip wonderfully with evil. Overall grade: A

The final line: Action, mystery, and magic that’s only missing you as the reader. Terrific reading as something terrible is revealed to be in Sonja’s group. The visuals are beautiful for their excellent character work and epic battles. This is a prime example while this series remains one of Dynamite’s most consistent titles. 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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