In Review: Red Sonja #25

A strong story with sensational visuals that has me missing this run of Sonja already.

The covers: Nine covers close out this series. Sonja holds her sword low and with both hands as she eyes the motley crew of pirates that are about to pounce on her. They bear fists, knives, and axes to try and take the title character down. I like the looks of all the characters, but the colors are too dull on this A cover by Mike McKone. The B cover contains long overdue subject material by Erica Henderson. Sonja sits on an elaborate Asian throne, her sword point down in her right hand. She has her left leg thrown over the left arm of her seat. On the floor beneath her is a man wearing only furry black undergarments. His has his face in her right leg with his right arm wrapped around her leg. I’ve seen this cover often, but with a man in Sonja’s position. It’s about time Sonja was shown as the dominant character with the man in the submissive position. The colors are spectacular in reds, pale greens, and browns. I love this cover. The undead are trying to take down Sonja on the C by Tom Mandrake and colorist Sian Mandrake. Sonja is upon a horse that’s rearing back in fright as an ocean of zombie-like creatures seek to pull it and its mistress down. Sonja looks terrific and the creatures phenomenal. The colors are also great, with Sonja bright, the horse a pale brown, the background in orange and yellow, and the creatures in cool, dead grays. The D by David Williams has Sonja looking at the reader with her sword at their throat. There’s a cut on her cheek that’s bleeding and her sword is covered with blood. She looks as though she’s through playing and wants to end things. Her hair is gorgeous as it billows to the right. The background is a solid black really making her pop off the cover. The E is the Cosplay Photo Variant featuring Tatiana Neva as Sonja, photographed by Nelson Seralbo. This has Sonja roaring in triumph, her long sword is dripping in gore in her right hand, while in her left she holds high the severed head of the warrior she’s just vanquished. Splatters of blood are on her face, arms, chest, and legs. The setting is a rocky yellow-orange locale. This is fantastic! The  F “Virgin” Incentive is by McKone and features the artwork of the A cover without any text. I like this more than the A because it seems brighter. Next is the G “Virgin” Incentive by Williams. This is the same as the D cover, but without text. I really like the D, so I really like this. I also like the H frontpiece which is the B/W Incentive by Tom Mandrake. Featuring the same cover as the C, though without the contributions of Sian Mandrake, this is scary, but hard to find a focus due to the all the blacks on the attacking creatures. The final cover is the I Cosplay Photo “Virgin” Art Incentive. This is the same as the E, but without text. This would be an excellent poster, print, or tee shirt. Overall grades: A B-, B A+, C A+, D A+, E A+, F A-, G A+, H B+, and I A+

The story: The final issue in this series has the story by Amy Chu, with script by Chu and Erik Burnham. Sonja is singing over her meal that’s roasting on a spit. Her lyrics take a turn and she hears a voice yelling for mercy. She spies five bandits about to kill an old man, joining three of his comrades that have gone on to the afterlife. Just as one of the killers is about to split their victim in half, a blade comes out the front of his throat. The survivors looks up to see Sonja leaping down upon them. She makes quick work of the men, shocking the man she’s rescuing. His name is Tariq, of Zembabwei, and he and his friends were travelling to Kambuja. He asks if she’ll escort him “to what could be his final performance?” Seeing the man’s gold, she agrees and the next day the pair ride off. Their conversation as they travel is outstanding, with them covering music, death, and peace. Unfortunately when they reach the coast the only ship they see is a pirate ship. Sonja decides that it is the only way to reach their destination. How they get on the ship is good, but what happens on board is fantastic. Chu has created a neat twist that surprises Sonja and the reader. The ending of the book is musical, giving the Hyrkanian a perfect exit into the sunset. What a fantastic ending for this run of Red Sonja. Overall grade: A+

The art: Carlos Gomez is one of my favorite artists and having him illustrate this final issue is wonderful. The opening page has Sonja sitting before her meal, which is, ironic after last issue, a rabbit. When she hears the plea for help her response is excellent. The pose of the bandit threatening Tariq is awesome. Sonja’s snarl that ends the second page telegraphs that the bandits are in trouble. The violent second panel on the following page shows the first bandit to die and their reactions as they see Sonja off panel are spectacular. Sonja’s dive at the antagonists starts the fourth page and it’s powerful. Her actions are violent and Tariq’s wide eyes show he’s shocked. I love that Sonja’s a messy eater on Page 7, reminding the reader that she is a barbarian. There’s a neat three panel sequence that sums up some of Sonja’s major moments from this series. I absolutely love Sonja’s reaction in the third panel on Page 9 when she holds the money Tariq gives her. The laughter she has on the following two pages is also superb. Page 14 has the title character looking magnificent as she addresses the pirates and that pair of villains look perfect; the joy on Sonja’s face that ends the page is terrific. The battle that ends the next page is spectacular. The reactions to the action on 16 and 17 are beautiful. The large panel on 18 is an awesome shot of the carnage, but it’s beaten for pure emotion by the small panel that ends the page. The last page has Sonja looking perfect, with the final image the best way to end this series. Wow! I love Gomez’s work. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Another person whose work I’ve come to love is Mohan, who does an exceptional job on the colors. The greens of the forest on the opening page are strong and provide the perfect background to have Sonja’s light skin and fiery hair stand out. I really like that her hair is made up several different shades of red and orange, rather than given a blanket crimson; it’s so much more realistic with what Mohan has done. Notice how when Sonja is in close-up at the bottom of Page 2 her face is shaded slightly crimson to emphasize the tilt of her head as well as her anger. The red sound effects on 3 are the perfect match for the red of the liquid spurting from the bandit’s neck. The light blue background behind Sonja as she leaps upon her foes has her again standing out. Having Tariq wearing blue robes make him a consistently passive character against Sonja’s flaming red hot-head hair. The beach and surrounding setting on 12 is gorgeous, but notice how Mohan has the ship in very dark colors to give it an ominous tone. The sounds on 16 and 17 are in very bright yellows, demanding the reader pay attention to them. The final panel of the book is beautiful. Simply fantastic work. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Taylor Esposito is the book’s letterer and he, too, does great work. He creates a song sung, dialogue, sounds, yells, screams, scene settings, music played, and whispered text. I’m happy when songs are italicized and in a font slightly different from dialogue to show the reader that the text should be heard differently. The sounds on this book are great, with the two surprise sounds on Page 3 horrifically awesome. The yell on 4 is terrific. The scene settings are a done in a wide font with a red outline that makes them stand out on every page they appear, easily leading the reader to the next location. The musical notes are large and otherworldly, which is exactly what the story needs them to be. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This is how a series should go out! A strong story with sensational visuals that has me missing this run of Sonja already. Even if one has never read a Sonja book before this captures everything excellent about the character and would make a good entry point in following the Hyrkanian’s exploits. Thank you, Dynamite! 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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