In Review: Red Sonja #4

An epic collision of the past and the present with an exciting story and stellar visuals.

The covers: Nine different covers for the faithful to find. The Regular cover by Mike McKone is a creeper. Sonja is shown from the waist up, her eyes focused intently on the reader. Her gaze is frightening enough, but she’s also covered in blood and two pasty hands, baring an odd collection of rings, are wrapped around her as if to throttle her. Kulan Gath is making a major error in trying to capture this She-Devil. Outstanding cover. The Jonboy Meyers’s Variant has Sonja in a winter setting, a massive sword is sunk into the ground before her. She looks forward at some unseen foe that’s cause her to be bloodied. Fantastic details in the art and excellent colors make this outstanding. A real life version of Sonja is available on the Cosplay Photo Variant. This Sonja sits on a throne of skulls, looking toward the left. The red smoke behind her is beginning to obscure the stone wall. The person who is Sonja looks fine, but the posing puts too much of her in profile. If one is a fan of Funko Pops!, one need go no further than the Jason Meents Variant. A Pop! Sonja, who is wearing her angry eyebrows, stares at the reader, refusing to acknowledge the sword she has planted in the giant snake beside her. Cute, but I’m not a Pops! fan. The Subscription cover is by Mel Rubi. Sitting in a broken chair on a battlefield, Sonja keeps her sword draped across her legs, ready for another foe. Good art and strong colors make this fine, but there’s too much empty space in the upper right. It’s full of a murky sky and is appropriate for the setting, but I would have preferred to see Sonja more in the center of the cover and closer to the reader. The Incentive cover is a Cosplay Virgin Photo Variant. It’s the same as the Cosplay Variant, but is pulled in closer to the cosplayer and features no text. This is much better. There’s also an Incentive Variant that’s a black and white version of McKone’s Regular cover. If you like that, you’ll like this. I do. Another Incentive Variant is a black and white version of Rubi’s. Good, but the empty space is extremely noticeable. The final cover is also an Incentive and it’s one to track down. J. Scott Campbell has done an Artboard Variant featuring two versions of Sonja sketched out on comic artboard. Campbell is an outstanding artist and this would be a prize in any collector’s cache. Overall grades: Regular A, Meyes Variant A, Cosplay Photo Variant B, Meents Variant C-, Subscription C, Incentive Cosplay Virgin Photo Variant B, Incentive McKone Variant A, Incentive Rubi Variant C-, Incentive Artboard Variant A+

The story: The first page has a quick summary from last issue of Holly explaining to Sonja who one of the museum’s benefactors is: Hank Gault. The first Gault arrived in America in 1893, building an empire left to his son, who left it to his son in 1987. “Three generations running New York City.” The problem is that he is the same person: Kulan Gath. Amy Chu starts Page 2 right in the thick of things as Sonja is confronting the sorcerer in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where “Gault” is holding a party. Gath recognizes the Hyrkanian and addresses her in own tongue. After some sarcasm from the villain, Sonja charges him with her sword, which is deflected from his chest. This provides opportunity for Officer, but off duty, Max Mendoza to help his red headed friend by raising his gun. Sonja tells her ally to aim for his amulet. Gath grins, pulling open his jacket to reveal a metal vest, showing both that the shots would be useless. However, he makes matters worse, “See all these people around you? They are all my followers.” The party guests bow before their master. “Don’t you see what you are up against? I control this whole city.” It’s at this point that Max attracts Kulan’s attention and something is revealed about this young officer. This is a good development, tying into past events and explaining much about him. Once this reveal is made, Max brings a different tone to this book. Even Sonja is surprised at what he can do. Page 10 has an incredibly powerful scene for him. 12 introduces a major threat for Sonja and Max, allowing Gath to escape and the heroes fighting for their lives. Page 17 shows this character will not be easy to take down and I was glad that Chu endowed the individual with this trait. The book ends with a slick cliffhanger that could go in any direction. A fast paced and fun story. Overall grade: A+

The art: Carlos Gomez is one of the greatest talents in comics today. His work is incredible. It’s exciting, even if there’s no direct action. For example, the first page features the history of Kulan Gath through history. The first image of the villain is the typical CEO photograph that just resonates evil. Next is a photograph of him arriving in America. As he gazes upon the Statue of Liberty, the disdain on his face oozes off the page. Next is a newspaper with him looking like the definition of a crusty old entrepreneur. The final photo on the page is of the present, with him smiling in his huge office while on the phone. In one page, Gomez has created the villain’s persona with only four images. Page 2 is a dramatic image of Sonja confronting her foe, while surrounded by several of his bodyguards. The drawing has been tilted, with Kulan superior at the top of the page, while Sonja is distant and below him: what an excellent way to show the power dynamic of the scene. The next page has a spectacular large panel of her leaping into action and it’s amazing: she’s beautiful, strong, and a terror — all in one illustration. The flashback on 9 is a great summary of one character’s life. The final panel on 10 is a emotional powerhouse. The character that arrives on 12 is an epic budget buster moment, full of characters and tons of action. When this character unleashes on 15 is incredible. The fight is great and the action outside is wonderfully detailed. My God, it doesn’t get any better than this. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Having worked with Gomez on several Dresden Files series for Dynamite, Mohan is a key contributor to this issue’s visuals. The book begins with a terrific yellow for the paper that gives the image the perfect age. This yellow is echoed on the second page for the floor and background of the museum: Mohan is using colors to provide easy transition for the reader to another location. When Sonja launches into action on 3 she is spectacular with her red hair looking stunning on an off yellow and orange background. Throughout the book, Kulan Gath’s skin looks as though as it’s aged beyond time, with it having motley patchwork colors. When Max makes a strong action on 10, the coloring on the items, his clothes, and the letters are white, making him a symbol of purity. The colors for fire on this book are powerful, just as the vibrant green used for one character’s fluids are disgusting. The cool blues used in the final panel are a smart choice for magic. Mohan is aces. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, newspaper text, narration, Hyborian speech, yells, and sounds are sensationally brought to life by Tom Napolitano. I love when narration is differed from dialogue, and it looks awesome. The sounds increase the action every time they are used, with the bottom of Page 10 being exceptional. Based on this book, Napolitano needs to be doing more books! Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: An epic collision of the past and the present with an exciting story and stellar visuals. Highest possible recommendation. 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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