In Review: Red Sonja #22

A fun issue as Sonja takes on a large problem for the right price.

The covers: You might find yourself crossing many bridges if you want to pick up all nine of the covers for this issue. The A is by Dave Bullock and features Sonja in her trademark metallic bikini thrusting her sword with both hands at a right angle at an unseen foe. This is an okay cover, obviously created with paint, but it’s just too rough looking for me. Next up is the B by Tom Grummett with colors by Mohan. This has Sonja with her sword behind her back slashing at some supernatural streaks of black that are swirling about her. The She-Devil with a sword is standing atop a lone outcropping of rock that seems as though it’s in Grand Canyon. This is a generic Red Sonja image that would work on any issue, but dang if it doesn’t look slick. One can never go wrong with Grummett’s art or Mohan’s colors. The next cover has Sonja standing on the head of massive statue as several large insects make their way up it to kill her. She’s sliced three aside with her sword and battered a pair back with her shield, yet more are climbing to finish her off. Another generic Sonja image, but this C cover by Tom Mandrake with colors by Sian Mandrake looks great. The teaming of the Mandrakes always produces superior visuals. And speaking of superior, the D by Reilly Brown with colors by Mohan has Sonja turned three-quarters to the right, two swords crossed before her. She’s revealing a lot of skin, though she, again, has on the metal bikini, but she looks completely vulnerable because there are several lizard-like men crawling over the rocks to get her. In the background a dragon crouches to unleash flame. An outstanding cover. The E, the Cosplay Photo Variant cover, features Joanie Brosas photographed by Cole Johnson. Sonja wears that iconic costume, wields a long sword that’s held low in one hand, and wears a short brown fur coat. She’s in a snow covered forest and this looks spectacular. These cosplay variant covers are always a pleasure to see and this one is aces. The F, the “Virgin” Incentive is the A cover by Bullock without any text. I’m not keen on this image, so this will be a “pass” for me. The G, the B/W Incentive, is the B without any colors. Normally I’m not keen on uncolored covers, but I’m a tremendous fan of Grummett’s work and I really like this. I can also say the same about the H cover, a B/W Incentive, which is the C without any colors. I’ve been a longtime fan of Tom Mandrake’s work as well, so any chance to see it in its original form is a something I relish. The final cover is the I, the Cosplay Photo “Virgin” Art Incentive. This is the E cover without any text. If one is looking for a pure photo of Red Sonja cosplay, look no further. Overall grades: A C-, B A, C A, A, E A+, F C-, G A+, H A+, and I A+

The story: Just giving a “heads up” at the outset, this is not the story advertised on the Dynamite website. It is created by Amy Chu & Erik Burnham, with Burnham writing the script, but this has Sonja encountering a familiar face on the road. As she makes her way through a forest on her horse, a gigantic troll appears, unseating the Hyranian and causing her transportation to bolt. She pulls her sword and brandishes it before the monstrosity, but it raises its hands defensively. “Warrior, no! Wait! We know each other! It’s me! Zercat! I am Zercat!” He reminds her that he encountered Max who “gave me an ideal to strive for. To be better than I was. To not attack anything that I looked at.” Sonja remembers this troll and he apologizes for her horse running off. She tells him of a nearby village just across the bridge he tends. He also says if he finds her horse he’ll return it. Surprised, Sonja goes into town discovering it mobbed. The reason why the town is drowning in people is funny and the task that Sonja finds herself accepting is equally humorous. What follows is a ten paged conflict with the reader aware of why this spat is occurring and the victim/antagonist unaware. The issue concludes as one would expect, but it’s still a terrific story, perfectly in line with Sonja’s motivations. The banter between the combatants will induce several smiles. Overall grade: A

The art: Even the cover of this issue credits Carlos Gomez as the artist, but that’s not the case. The real artist of this issue is Jonathan Lau and his work is good. The opening panel captures the real world and the fantasy world well, with gigantic trees that could only be found in fantasy and a heroine on a horse. The troll appears in the first panel on the second page and it’s a terrific entrance with the creature pushing back a tree with one hand. The shock on Sonja’s face on the third page is believable as she feverishly scrambles to get her sword. The troll’s reaction on the panels that follow is incredibly sympathetic. I love the point of view that ends Page 3, which is a close-up of Sonja that reinforces the size of Zercat for the reader. The fifth page introduces the village and it looks fine, though there’s a lot of space devoted to the sky. The people she sees before entering the tavern are very loose in their construction. Inside the business characters look much better. I really like the use of the circle panel on 7 to show past events, it gives the tale a fairy tale feel. I absolutely love the final panel on this page when money is brought up. The weapon that Sonja brings on Page 8 is great and the sense of motion that Lau does on the full-paged splash on 9 is excellent. The top panel on 10 is not as good because the reader is too far away from the characters, though Lau does zoom in for close-ups on the remaining panels. I love the spin atop 11 and the bending weapon in the second panel. The pose of Zercat on 12 reminded me of troll illustrations from The Hobbit during the 1970’s. I love the kick on the page that follows and the growing anger on 15 is perfect for the tale. A full-paged splash is used on 16, with another character committing some massive action. I have to give particular kudos to Lau for giving the title character a hairstyle I’ve not seen before on her, and I’ve been reading Sonja’s comic adventures for forty years. It’s very distinctive, but worked well. I’d be more than welcome to seeing it again. Overall grade: B+

The colors: Omi Remalante is the book’s colorist and starts the book off with a beautiful panel of golden sunlight going through the trees, while Sonja catches the eye for her crimsons. The Hyrkanian’s hair is much bigger than normally shown and looks terrific on every page it appears with outstanding highlights. Zercat has got peach colored skin but plenty of shading to give it a three dimensional look. The sky is gorgeous during the village’s introduction. The yellow and oranges used in the trio of circular panels contribute to their fairy tale feel. The sounds during the fight are colored brightly to have them stand out against the action packed visuals. I’d welcome Remalante back to a Sonja book anytime. Overall grade: A

The letters: One of the best letterers in the biz is Taylor Esposito who creates narration, dialogue, sounds, scene settings, yells, growls, and laughter. I’m always appreciative of narration and dialogue receiving two different fonts and that’s what Esposito does. There are many sounds in this book, each adding to the action incredibly. There are several different types of yells uttered in this issue, with their size and style informing the reader how each should be heard. I really like Zercat’s quiet growl and laughter which matched the visuals well. Esposito is always on point. Overall grade: A 

The final line: A fun issue as Sonja takes on a large problem for the right price. The story has several good laughs for the dialogue from the unintentional victim and the action is massive. This is a good entry issue for fans looking to try Red Sonja. 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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