In Review: Red Sonja #3

The story could be skipped and having two different artists in the third issue make this relaunch's status shaky.

The covers: If you like Red Sonja there’s bound to a cover you’ll love in one of the twelve possibilities to pick up this month. The A by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts shows why Sonja is not only a threat on the battlefield, but also at the after party celebration. Sonja has her back to a cask of ale, her drinking horn raised high to the reader in a toast. She’s surrounded by several large men unconscious on the ground, unable to keep up with the red headed warrior’s drinking. I love the story this picture tells and that there are several fires in the distance, showing that the results of their victory are still smoldering. The colors on this are also excellent; I love when a scene is set at night and a colorist can still make the illustration bright. You can’t go wrong with the visuals when Conner and Mounts team up. Also an outstanding cover is the B by Joseph Michael Linsner. Sonja is walking toward the reader pulling a sword from its scabbard. I love the look on her face, the icy background, and the shield and axes just bellow the title. One cannot go wrong with anything by Linsner as well. Christian Ward creates a dramatic scene on the C cover. Sonja’s back is to the reader as she holds a sword up in her left hand. Her cape is violently whipped to her right due to the burning structure before her. Reds and yellows dominate this image from the mighty flames. Great action on this cover. Another winner can be found in the D frontpiece by Julian Totino Tedesco. This is an image of Sonja I’ve never seen before and I’ve been reading the Hyrkanian’s comic adventures for some time. Queen Sonja is walking past some of the common people who have dropped to their knees in supplication. They offer food and prayers to her as she makes her way, her head tilted up to consider the reader. This is an older looking Sonja and I really like it. If Conan can be king of his land, why can’t Sonja be queen? This cover begs a miniseries. The E is the Cosplay Photo Variant featuring Anastasya Zelenova photographed by Oltaura Photography. This is an outstanding photo of Sonja holding a long sword in her right hand while standing in some tall grass. She holds her left arm up to her head to block the sunlight so she may peer into the distance. This is a superior cosplay cover. On the next cover, the Incentive by Bob Q, Sonja is in trouble as she’s being held off the ground by a monstrous Gorgon whose lower body is that of a snake’s. The creature bares her fangs and her hair, composed of serpents, do the same. This action scene is set at night with a fire at the bottom of a recently wrecked building providing a dynamic yellow light source. Great moment that’s captured with tiny Sonja raising her sword against the beast to free herself. The Incentive B&W cover by Conner is the same as the A cover, just without Mounts’s colors. I like it, but I do like it better colored. The same can be said of the Incentive B&W cover by Linsner. There are no colors on this and it’s good, but it really pops with colors. Now the Incentive “Virgin” cover by Tedesco is the same as the D, but features no text whatsoever. This must be a poster, print, or tee shirt. It’s awesome. The Incentive B&W cover by Bob Q reveals a lot more line work that’s easier to see than in the colored version, so I would definitely recommend this to see what Q originally did with this piece. I do like Exclusive “Virgin” cover by Conner and Mounts which is the A cover sans text. How could you not like this cover? Linsner’s Exclusive “Virgin” cover is also stunning. There’s not a bad cover in any of this month’s offerings. Overall grades: A A+, B A+, C B+, D A+, E A+, Incentive Q A, Incentive B&W Conner A-, Incentive B&W Linsner B+, Incentive “Virgin” Tedesco A+, Incentive B&W Q A, Exclusive “Virgin” Conner A+, and Exclusive “Virgin” Linsner A+

The story: Three issues in and this saga by Mark Russell is at a standstill. It’s a realistic story, but this is a tale of Sonja maintaining and defending her position, somewhat, and a backstory of her teacher Domo. Sonja and Dragan’s forces are still separated with two weeks required by Dragan to get resupplied after losing to the Hyrkanians last issue. Sonja is approached by a “cousin” who has come to aid her and her people, but the price is not to Sonja’s liking. This provides the impetus for the climax of the issue. Before and after this occurs is the tale of Domo’s life which features a lesson for a much younger Sonja. Is it interesting. Yes. Is it needed? No. It does justify Sonja’s choices in this issue, but it could have been entirely omitted and the story in the present lose absolutely nothing. And Sonja does little, again, in the action sequence at the end. This is akin to buying the third issue of a new Batman comic and Alfred has all the action. I’m also growing tired of Dragan’s modern day proverbs and punchlines punctuated by profanity. They were funny in the first issue, now they come off as easy characterization that’s out of place for the time. Essentially, nothing happens in this issue for the larger story arc; the protagonists and antagonists are in the exact same places as they started this issue. Domo’s tale came across as filler. Three issues in and this relaunch has already reached this point? This does not bode well for this series. I want to like this series, but each issue lessens my love. Overall grade: D+

The art: Mirko Colak & Bob Q are the artists for this issue. Colak handles the visuals for the story set in the present, while Q does the tale in the past. They do not gel well. It is very obvious when the change occurs in illustrators. Q’s art is not at the same level as Colak’s, but even he is not given much to create that’s exciting. Dialogue sessions comprise most of Colak’s work, as the tale has Sonja and her cousin speaking with different individuals of their army. Colak does what he can to make things visually interesting, especially by changing the point of view like an expert cameraman. Only on the final three pages is there action, but even then the action is obscured: Sonja did use her blade on a new opponent, that appears out of nowhere, at the bottom of Page 20? And I couldn’t tell you how the fighter dispatched the warrior in the panel that follows — where’s the weapon? How are people being killed in the third panel on 21? There’s no payoff for the final panel of the book because the action is entirely absent between the third and fourth panel on 22. If Colak had been able to illustrate the entire issue, there would have been the opportunity to make this climax smoother. The art by Bob Q does not work for me. It’s very simplistic. The colors seem to be completing the images. Take a look at the backgrounds on the first two pages for examples of this. Better are the pages when Sonja returns to Domo with the requested package. The line work is more consistent and the last page of his work tells the story so well text wasn’t needed for me to understand what’s occurring. I probably would have enjoyed Q’s work if he had done the entire issue. Having his work interjected into Colak’s is too jarring. Overall grade: B-

The colors: There are also two colorists for this issue: Dearbhla Kelly & Bob Q, who colors his own work. Kelly’s portions of the book have brighter colors because they are set during the day, while Q’s are dark because they are set at night or in a mine. Kelly’s work is good, with colors employed to help the reader quickly differentiate and identify the characters. I like that the sounds have bright colors to make the noises loud for the reader and that certain panels have bright colors, especially in the end, to increase the action on the page. Other than that, the day scenes are dominated by the typical colors of Howard’s tales: yellows, oranges, and yellows, while at night things are just dark. I would have preferred the night and mine scenes to be a little brighter, but working to see into these locations isn’t too bad. Overall grade: B

The letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is the book’s letterer creating scene settings, dialogue, map text, credits, sounds, yells, and death rattles. The scene setting is washed out on the first page due to it having a white outline that blends in too easily with the artwork. This could have been corrected with different coloring, the deletion of the outline, or an entirely different design. Page 8’s scene setting was lost on me because it occurs after the dialogue. It should have been in the upper left of the panel. Heck, it could even have been partially outside the panel, leading the reader into it. Moving the dialogue over or having the talking at the bottom of the panel would have helped. The sounds are a strong element of Otsmane-Elhaou’s work and the death rattles are really cool, thought the last one on 22 is awkward because it’s upside down. Even the letters are sliding in quality in this series. Overall grade: C+

The final line: The story could be skipped and two different artists in the third issue make this relaunch’s status shaky. The story goes nowhere, adding nothing to the conflict between forces. The inclusion of a backstory for a supporting character doesn’t add anything to this issue. Two different artists’ styles do not gel well. The colors are fine, but the letters have awkward moments. Three issues in and this is happening? Extremely disappointing. Will Red Sonja do anything worthy of her past incarnations in this series? 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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