In Review: Red Sonja #2

The visuals are excellent, but the lack of action makes it a ho-hum reading experience.

The covers: A lucky thirteen different covers for the second issue in the Hyrkanian’s saga. The A cover by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts has Sonja against a blood red moon leaping to the lower right corner. A barrage of arrows are flying past her, missing their mark. She has a sword in her right hand and a dagger in her left. She’s covered in blood, as are her blades, and she snarls as she’s about to fall upon her foes. Terrific image that looks dynamite, particularly with the strong reds on black. This is a WOW! cover! The B by Joseph Michael Linsner has Sonja in the desert, an ancient city in ruins behind her, and a skull half buried in the sands before her. Great composition and outstanding coloring on this. Sonja is running in knee deep water on the C cover by Christian Ward. She holds her right hand up to stop someone from doing something and she wields a long sword in her left. The water is splashing around her as she comes to a halt. Against an orange and yellow sky several fulls take to the air. I love the coloring on this and the design of the water is killer. I just don’t like Sonja’s face on this figure. The D by Joe Jusko is a masterpiece. Sonja leans against a rock in a incredibly detailed valley. She holds her sword by the hilt, but point down. A shield lies behind her leg and a warrior’s helmet and battleaxe lie before her. The figure looks great and the colors are stunning. This is unquestionably a work of art. The E is the Cosplay Variant cover featuring Kate Dorn photographed by Belyaeva Yuliya. Sonja has on metal armor and a fur covered bottom and boots. She stands in a field holding a spear in her left hand. Her head is titled toward the overcast sky that is full of several birds. This is perfection. The Incentive cover by Bob Q has Sonja in the ruins of a temple. She kneels down and places her blade into a dais which radiates strong white and yellow light. Behind her are three spirits. On the left is a screaming woman standing atop a vast collection of skulls. Directly behind the Hyrakanian is a woman of the forest holding a spear. To the right is a woman with angle wings holding a raven. Great layout and follow through with outstanding coloring. The Incentive B&W cover by Conner is the same as the A, just without the contributions of Mounts. This is neat to see not only for how Conner’s work looked before it was colored, but for how she’s set up the blood on the character. This is killer. The Incentive B&W cover by Linsner is very different from the painted B cover version and is outstanding to see what the artist works from. The Incentive “Virgin” cover by Jusko is the same as the D, though all the text has been removed. This frontpiece was stunning before, now it’s achieved godhood. The Incentive B&W cover by Bob Q is the same as his Incentive, sans colors. I loved that cover and I love this one as well. Why isn’t Bob Q illustrating a monthly book? The Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Ryan Kincaid for Comics Elite has Sonja shown from just above the knees wearing her trademark clothing with a coat added. She has on brown gloves and is holding a sword with both of her hands. Behind her a fire rages. The tips of the flames match the color of the hero’s hair. Sonja looks gorgeous, reminding me of Jennifer Connelly, albeit with red hair. The Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Mark Sparacio for Comics Elite has Sonja in three-quarters view turning to the face the reader, as shown by the spin of her long hair. She has a sword in her right hand held upright and a dagger down low in her left. She looks angry and there’s a massive skull behind her with its mouth open in a challenge. Nice cover with the colors excellent. The final cover is the Exclusive Pencil cover by Sparacio for Comics Elite. This is the same as the previous cover, but with only the pencils. If one likes that cover, one will like this. Overall grades: A A+, B B, C C, D A+, E A+, Incentive Bob Q A, Incentive B&W Conner A+, Incentive B&W Linsner C+, Incentive “Virgin” Jusko A+, Incentive B&W Bob Q A, Exclusive “Virgin” Kincaid A, Exclusive “Virgin” Sparacio A, and Exclusive Pencil Sparacio A

The story: Mark Russell is the writer of this issue that begins with Dragan looking upon his army that is marching to destroy Hyrkania. He’s pleased with what he sees and turns to say goodbye to Empress Phatmos and Prince Cyril. His son is not happy to see his father leave and isn’t thrilled with his father’s justification. “Daddy has to keep expanding his empire, or else he will die. And them mommy will marry some upstart who will murder you to put his own son on the throne.” His wife is indifferent to his leaving, still angry, the emperor muses, that he killed her father. Before he leaves, Dragan gives a rope to his son with sixty knots in it. Each day he is to untie a knot. If he is able to untie all the knots, then his father was betrayed and he is to use the rope to hang the traitor with it. Leaving his wife and child, Emperor Dragan mutters, “I’m going to miss our family time most of all.” Russell then moves his tale to Hyrkania where Sonja learns how much gold is in the country’s vaults and how she is forced to be paired with a man on her war council. Sonja isn’t pleased, but does have a task for this individual and for others. The Zamorans arrive at Valzyet Sea, which separates their forces from those of Hyrkania, and begin to cross it, though Sonja finds a way to keep them back. The leaders of both sides meet and it’s a great exchange of words, with each leader being very bull headed. The reveal on 19 is outstanding and where it leaves Sonja and her people for future issues is going to be very interesting. There’s very little fighting in this issue, which was a letdown, but is very readable. Overall grade: B

The art: I’m an unabashed fan of the art by Mirko Colak and I was happy with this issue’s visuals. The partial double-page splash on Pages 1 and 2 looks great, showing a variety of men marching off to battle. I really liked the horns that heralded their appearance. Prince Cyril is obviously not a happy child, given how he can never raise his head. The brief encounter between Dragan and his wife is summed up beautifully by the second panel on Page 3. The look of the key on Page 5 is terrific and I hope it gets brought up again in a later issue. Sonja’s crown as queen is simple but befitting her character and her poor country. The individual that she has to deal with looks like an average rogue, which suits him well, and I’m sure he’ll be back to contribute heavily to the plot. The first panel on Page 8 is spectacular. It’s a great look at some of the structures of Hyrkania. Unfortunately the story doesn’t give Colak many opportunities to show them again, which is fine, but they’re just so gosh darned cool looking. The story that the Tongue of Fire tells on Page 9 is done with four panels that slant to the right as they progress, mirroring the character’s fall. There’s a full-paged map on 12 that shows how the Zamoran forces stack up against the Hyrkanians and it’s pretty cool and extremely sad. There are only two pages of action in the entire issue and the first is on 13 which is awesome. I love what Dragan is wearing when he speaks with Sonja and I was so glad that there’s a line that mentions it because it is unforgettable. The second page has action on 19 and it’s more of what one expects in a Red Sonja comic. It’s too brief for my liking, but what Colak does with it is good. It should be pointed out that this is the most realistic I’ve seen Sonja portrayed in a comic book — she’s not the glamorous red head in the metal bikini of series long ago. Yes, she’s wearing the bikini in the last half of the book, but she’s not glammed up like she’s often portrayed. This momentarily took me out of my reading, but I came to appreciate it. Having Sonja actually look like someone who was going through this rugged environment looking like this was the most realistic I’ve ever seen her. This made the character and her story more real. I’m interested to see what Colak will do next. Overall grade: A 

The colors: Dearbhla Kelly also adds to the realism of this book with her coloring skills. The golden horns that open the book look fabulous and the motley assortment of men marching to battle look true in browns, tans, and grays. I like that Dragan stands out with his olive colored hat on the first four pages. The lack of colors for backgrounds in some panels makes the reader focus more on the characters, which allows the artwork to provide insight into the individuals. The orange sky of Hyrakania makes the land absolutely desolate. I really like that Sonja’s skin is smudged with dirt as much as the men, showing her to be an equal among them and that no one is clean in this land. The dark blues on 9 are excellent for creating night and for making the tale a sad one. The browns, blacks, and reds on the map on 12 make the artifact real. The oranges and reds, including the sounds, are spectacular on 13. The crimson on 19 is awesome. And, as always, Sonja’s red hair has her catching the reader’s eye whenever she appears. Overall grade: A

The letters: This issue’s sounds, scene settings, dialogue, yells, whispered dialogue, and text on a map are created by Hassan Otsmane-Elahaou. The sounds are great, with the opening horns spectacular. The scene settings are epic, with those on 2 and 5 fantastic. I felt I was reading an epic with the size and shape of those letters. The dialogue is easy to read and the whispered dialogue from Dragan easy to read, but small enough to signal it’s being said under his breath. The text on the map is very stylized and difficult to make out, especially the word Hyrkanin. This is the only nick in an excellent job. Overall grade: A-

The final line: The story moves forward, but with very little action. The visuals are perfect, with Sonja looking the most real she’s ever been portrayed. Even the letters add to the tone, with some sensational sounds and scene settings. I enjoyed this issue, but it’s almost zero action made it a ho-hum reading experience. Overall grade: B+

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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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