In Review: Red Sonja #24

This will satisfy fans craving a Hyrkanian adventure, but it's not memorable.

The covers: There are nine different covers to pick up for this Sonja outing. The A is by Mike McKone and has Sonja sitting atop a toppled pillar, her hands resting on the handle of a battleaxe. This is a great atmospheric piece with the title character small against the the massive destroyed architecture. The colors are also cool, with the background a smokey faded rose. Next up is the B by Moritat. Sonja is in the foreground, shown from the right. She holds her sword with both hands over her shoulder, blood dripping from the blade. Behind her are the bodies of two armored foes, one with arrows protruding from his body and the other having a horn cut from his helmet. I love the expression on her face and the minimal colors, primarily in white, but Sonja’s fiery hair is explosive. The C features artwork by the sensational Tom Mandrake and fantastic colors by Sian Mandrake. Sonja is in a snowy forest with large bare trees dominating the sky. She wears her iconic metal bikini and holds a thick blade in her right hand and a spear in her left. Winds billow about her, disguising the monstrosity that appears behind her. The creature is awesome and Tom Mandrake makes it ferocious. Against the blacks and whites of the trees and the snow Sonja stands out spectacularly with her pink flesh and red hair. This is awesome. Dear Dynamite, is there any way to get this pair on a Sonja one-shot? One of the most spectacular action poses I’ve seen is the D by Reilly Brown. Sonja is leaping down from the upper left corner, her blade held behind her to bring down on the masses before her: the bottom half of the cover is dominated by a dragon, snakes, giants, the undead, and other monstrosities. Her pose is spectacular, the variety of creatures killer, and the colors smashing. This has so much energy! Against a desert background, with two silhouettes of figures in the distance, Sonja stands firm, looking at the reader, holding a long battleaxe in her hands. She’s wounded on her upper chest and thigh. This E Cosplay cover featuring Onyxeia as Sonja, photographed by Richard Bruce, is spectacular! WOW! The F “Virgin” Incentive by McKone is the same as the A cover, minus any text. Nice. The G “Virgin” Incentive by Moritat is the same as the B, minus the text. I like this more than the F because there’s more of Sonja on it. I really like the H cover which is the B/W Incentive by Tom Mandrake. Though it doesn’t feature the colors by Sian Mandrake, it’s still effective in eliciting chills. The final cover is the I, the Cosplay “Virgin” Art Incentive that’s the same as the E, save any text. This is one to track down. Overall grades: A A, B A, C A+, D A, E A+, F A-, G A, H A, and I A+

The story: This stand alone issue features a story by Amy Chu and Alex Chang, with the script by Chu and Erik Burnham. A white rabbit stops its munching at the sound of clopping. It’s Sonja on her steed who’s arrived and she fires an arrow at her meal. The rabbit is faster than her arrow and Hyrkanian curses the creature. She fires another arrow and misses. Pursuing the snowy bunny, who sticks out like a sore thumb in the green forest, Sonja is about to catch the creature when she turns a corner and encounters an old woman in the road whom she almost runs down. The woman and Sonja have words, with the title character not exactly being the most polite, even reaching for her blade to teach the old “crone” a lesson, but deciding it’s not worth it to kill the woman. As she rides away, the old woman points a stick at the woman and says, “…You need a lesson in respect for your elders, huntress.” And that’s exactly what happens to Sonja for the remainder of the issue. What occurs is fine, but if one has read any of the She-Devil with a sword’s previous outings, it’s very predictable. There are some fun moments, to be sure, such as on Page 6, 16, and 18, but this is primarily a “What the heck is happening?” tale. It’s fine, but it suffers greatly from been there, done that. There’s nothing that one will remember after some time has passed. Overall grade: C+

The art: Pasquale Qualano is the artist and his work is okay. Sonja’s introduction on the first page is neat for having her hidden from the viewer because of her distance and the hood covering her face. The rabbit is entirely sympathetic in its plight, and even seems to be smiling at the bottom of the first page. Sonja’s full reveal on the second page has her face and body looking really big, but on the pages that follows she’s much slimmer. The setting on 2 and 3 is good, with rocks and foliage being solid. Page 4 is a full-paged splash and the point of view is down low, making the rabbit huge, the crone fairly big, and Sonja and her horse small. I understand this was probably done to keep the focus on the rabbit, but it had me missing the old woman the first time I read the page. The old woman’s staff is a cool design: a gnarly wooden shaft that ends in a claw that holds an orb that resembles an eyeball. Very impressive and ominous. The old woman’s face isn’t clearly seen until Page 6, with her shown from a distance or from behind until then: this made the character seem unimportant. Her design is good, making me think of the Crypt Keeper from EC Comics. Sonja’s reactions in the fourth and fifth panels on 6 are outstanding and perfectly match her dialogue. The transformation panel on 10 is neat; I’ve not seen it done like that in a comic before and it’s effective. The joy on Sonja’s face that ends 11 is terrific. The full-paged splash on 12 is a letdown, sadly: it’s hard to make out the antagonist and the Ben-Day dots are really odd choice to texture the hero. The top panel on 13 is hard to make out, the action of the second and third panels are hard to make out (is the character behind her in that third panel?), but the last panel on the page is good. The fourth panel on 14 seems as though Sonja is wearing a wig and it’s off center. I do love the reveal that ends Page 16 — that’s gross, easy to understand, and creepy as all get out. The final two panels on 18 don’t hold much power because the action is too close to the reader and that final panel does not have to bet set apart. The art is serviceable, but not spectacular. Overall grade: C-

The colors: I think that colorist Omi Remalante is carrying a lot of work with the visuals on this book. A look at the first page, and all pages after, have the rabbit receiving a lot of shading from the colors. Look at the leaves in the foliage: they’re in heavy lines, with the colors providing their texture. Sonja’s skin is a light peach, allowing her to stand out strongly in the exterior scenes. Her hair is several shades of orange and red, making her an eye magnet. The coloring of the orb in the old woman’s staff is a sickly yellow, making it seem like an diseased eye. The oranges and yellows used for the foe on 12 are good, but also take a look at all the work done to with those colors to provide muscles for the character. Really sharp. Remalante looks to be going above and beyond the call of duty on this book. Overall grade: A-

The letters: Taylor Esposito is one of my favorite letterers and he creates this issue’s sounds, dialogue, yells, waking dialogue, whispered dialogue, and the word that closes out this tale. The sounds, always a strong point in Esposito’s work, are strong, with the opening page only having sound: I like the horse’s steps, the whoosh of the arrow (which visually shows the reader the bolt has missed its mark), and the sound of the arrow hitting wood. A dismissive “Fah!” is a great comment from Sonja done in lower case letters, making it sound like it’s uttered with disgust. When Sonja wakes groggily it looks as it would sound: brilliant! Esposito is always aces. Overall grade: A

The final line: This will satisfy fans craving a Hyrkanian adventure, but it’s not memorable. The story has been done before in other books and the visuals are just serviceable. At least the colors and letters are strong. This seems like a title that wants to stop being published. Overall grade: C+

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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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