In Review: Red Sonja #20

A very entertaining issue as a fallen leader seeks redemption with the help of a She-Devil with a sword.

The covers: Nine different covers for this issue, providing a Sonja for anyone’s artistic taste. The A frontpiece is by by Babs Tarr and features an incredibly muscular Sonja. She has on her iconic metal bikini, while her flesh is covered in scars, scrapes, and recent wounds. She holds an enormous battleaxe behind her shoulders and sports a slight smile, telling the reader she’s willing to fight some more if she needs to. The character looks great and the colors are very eye catching, with the sun behind her creating a red tint on the entire image. Very cool. (Hey, Dynamite, if you want to have Tarr illustrate an entire issue, I would be very okay with that.) Next up is the B by Tula Lotay. This has Sonja in a three-quarters view from the left, turning her head further to the same side. She’s holding a bloody sword in her hands and her hair is being blown upward as if she’s standing upon a thermal vent. The background is white with splashes of orange and crimson. A very striking image with her face looking wonderfully intense. The evil of Kulan Gath returns on the C cover by John Royle, Jagdish, & Juan Fernandez. A monstrous sized version of the evil wizard holds out a hand to grasp a tiny Sonja as the warrior leaps up to strike him with her blade. Both characters look fantastic and the coloring is outstanding. There’s a lot going on in this illustration, but the colors clearly put the focus on Sonja. The power of the electricity is fantastic. The D cover by J. Bone is fantastic. This is a very cartoony version of Sonja and I am completely taken by it. Sonja sits atop several corpses of warriors she’s just beaten. She has her sword planted before her, into the mass of bodies, and she is resting her hands on the hilt. Her cheeks are a little bloodied, but she looks none the worse for wear for winning. The expressions on the fallen foes are terrific. The background and bodies are red, leaving only Sonja to stand out with her pink flesh and orange hair. I really like this cover! The Cosplay Variant is the E cover for this issue and features Onyxeia as the famous sword wielder. Sonja sits among the foliage with a massive ax to take down any who think her an easy mark. The model looks sensational and the photography has her obscured slightly by the greenery. Excellent image! The F cover is the B/W Exclusive featuring the art of the A cover by Tarr, but without the colors. This is good, but I like it better colored. The G Virgin Art is more to my liking. Featuring the art by Lotay from the B cover, this is the same image but without any text. An excellent way to enjoy the art in its original form. Also worth picking up is the H cover, the B/W Exclusive, which is by Royle, featuring the C cover uncolored. This is also really well done. The final cover is the Scott’s Collectables NYCC Exclusive cover by Lucio Parrillo (limited to 500 copies). This is a stunner of a cover featuring Sonja with her blade held high against a brown and tan background. Sonja looks superb and is sporting blue warpaint. This is fantastic. Overall grades: A A, B A, C A, D A+, E A+, F B+, G A+, H A, and Scott’s Collectables Exclusive A+

The story: Last issue a man emerged from the fog to confront Sonja and she believes him to be Lord Skath, the man who used to reign over the land. Sonja knows he is the missing ruler because “I could tell by the tone of your voice. A warrior forms a bond with their weapon. They revere the one that serves them well in battle.” She goes on, but his response silences her. After he has finished his response in the street, he confesses he is Skath and tells the tale of how he lost his kingdom to Sandak. Amy Chu & Erik Burnham, with the latter writing the script, have the fallen man complete his tale before the Hyrkanian, Taya, and Lera in a tavern. The trio decide to help Skath and all seems to go well until a terrible reveal on Page 16. This was a fun story with the fallen leader being his own worst enemy. The decision on 17 is fantastic and the response from those up high on 18 had me anxious to see what new troubles would arrive. I didn’t have to wait long, as Sonja is put in a precarious situation at the end of the book. The dialogue is fun, the plot classic, and the action good. What isn’t there to like about this story? Overall grade: A

The art: Carlos Gomez & Vincenzo Federici are the book’s artists. Unfortunately it doesn’t state in the credits which illustrator is responsible for which pages. As a whole, the book looks fine, though it is obvious that the artist that starts this issue isn’t the same one who finishes it. The opening five pages look to be illustrated by Federici. The characters do not have the same streamlined look as Gomez’s characters, which is evident in the final fifteen pages. Look at Sonja’s face on the first page versus her countenance on the final one. This is also very clear on Page 3, with both characters looking smudgy in their faces. Even Sonja’s boots look a little clunky on this page. The next page’s largest panel is part of a flashback, and it’s easy to understand, though the setting is murky in its construction, created by a loose assortment of lines. Page 5 shows two opposing forces, with the individual in the second panel looking oddly constructed. However, Page 6 has the smooth linework I’ve seen on Gomez’s work, with the faces being smoother and the action very clean. The final panel on 7 has the same opposing forces meeting and they look little like their visages on 5. Page 12 has a great image of Sonja throwing something and the individual that catches this object looks outstanding. The action that follows on the next page looks exactly how Gomez has created bodies in motion in previous issues. Sonja’s reaction at the top of 17 is stellar and her power on 19 is undeniable. The final page shows the trouble she’s in and even if one doesn’t read the text, one knows what her fate will be if she doesn’t act quickly. This book finishes stronger than it begins. Overall grade: B+

The colors: Doing solid work on this issue is Mohan. The first page has Sonja catching the reader’s eyes due to her fiery hair and the ample flesh she shows. The coloring of an individual’s sounds on the second page in a sickly green increase the humor and the disgust of the situation. The flashback on Page 4 is given a good bronze tint to age the story visually for the reader. The coloring in the tavern is given a brownish hue to emphasize the materials in the setting’s construction as well as the inability of the lights to shine into every corner. The coloring on 11 is beautiful in the third panel for completing an idyllic forest setting. The sparring session on 13 gets some yellow highlights to amplify the actions of the characters. Notice how the colors darken at the bottom of 16 when something is revealed to create conflict and these dark colors continue until the final page’s drastic change in locations. Mohan is doing great work. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Taylor Esposito is responsible for the issue’s text which includes dialogue, sounds, whispered dialogue, yells, scene settings, and a chant from a crowd. I’ve been a fan of Esposito’s work for some time and he continues to be one of the best in the business with his work on this book. The whispered dialogue is a great visual to create the punchline to a funny bit of dialogue on the second page. It returns as a drunken man mutters his disgust at his situation. The yells come in many different designs, each perfectly suited for the occasion, from a larger font in italics to massive bubble letters to show the power of the speaker. The sounds are really fun with swords clashing being their primary source. Overall grade: A

The final line: A very entertaining issue as a fallen leader seeks redemption with the help of a She-Devil with a sword. The story has plenty of action, drama, and humor for fans of Robert E. Howard’s character and the visuals showing the Hyrakian to be in strong form. Books like this demonstrate why Sonja reigns supreme of all heroines. 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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