In Review: Red Sonja #5

This is like having Conan turn in his sword and become an accountant. I'm done.

The covers: If you’re a fan of the crimson haired Hyrkanian warrior you’re going to need much coin in your purse to track down all twelve covers. The A cover by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts is a powerful, fiery piece as Sonja stands on some ground surrounded by flames, with even higher tendrils of fire reaching to the night sky behind her. She’s has a torch in each hand, with the one in her right raised high and the one in her left held down to the ground. Even though she could burn to death, the look on her face is one of controlled rage, as if she’s the one who set the blaze. The colors on this are outstanding from Mounts, being able to have so much yellow, orange, and red on this cover and not have it become a mess is amazing. The B by Joseph Michael Linsner is the exact opposite of the A. Sonja sits in a chair casually with her legs crossed and her arm over its top holding a gold goblet. Her sword is leaning against the left of the chain, its tip on the floor covered in gore, whose trail can be followed up to the reader. A skull is on the floor at the right with blood on it — obviously a recent addition to the decor. Having this on a white cover really makes every element stand out. Who knows how many others she’s killed before sitting down? This is Net-kills and Chill. The villain of this series is Dragan the Magnificent and he stares at the reader with madness in his eyes. Behind him is a dark map of his empire and light blue dots flit about. A killer job on this C cover by Christian Ward. Sonja slowly leaves an unknown land as a fire burns behind her. She stops a moment to consider what’s occurring, but her mount is ready to move on. Nice D cover from Jenn St-Onge, but Sonja’s too far from the reader and there’s way too much sky. The E is the Cosplay Variant featuring Mai S. photographed by Eric Valverde. Against some concrete pillars, Sonja stands in her iconic outfit, knee high leather boots, a fur coat over her right shoulder, and a bow held on her left shoulder. Mai is gorgeous, but, in this picture, not a Sonja one would want to tangle with. This was the cover I purchased for her attitude. The contents of the Incentive cover by Bob Q has some interesting elements. Sonja’s back is to the reader as she’s coming out of the bottom left corner to look upon a small waterfall. Within the waterfall is a standing blonde haired woman in white holding a sword out in her hands. The surroundings are dark, with several large leafless trees and the water itself black. Sonja really stands out due to her colors, as does the mystery woman. This frontpiece has nothing to do with the contents of this issue, so I’m wondering why it was chosen and approved. I like the Incentive B&W cover by Conner, because her work is always fantastic, but this really shows how much Mounts added to it with his colors. I like this, but I like it much better with the heat that Mounts provides. The Incentive B&W cover by Linsner has the artwork the artist created before finalizing it. I love this, too. This image is quickly becoming one of my favorite Sonja covers of all time for capturing this tone. The Incentive “Virgin” cover by Jenn St-Onge is the same as the D, just without any text. This draws even more attention to the vast amount of space devoted to the sky. I need to be closer to the character. There’s also an Incentive B&W cover by Bob Q which has his artwork without the colors. It’s okay, but shows how much the colors added to it. The Incentive “Virgin” cover by Conner and Mounts only magnifies the talents of both artists. Fantastic in every possible way. The Incentive “Virgin” cover by Linsner is the same as the B, just without any text. It is a fantastic cover in any format. Overall grades: A A+, B A+, C A, D D+, E A+, Incentive Q C, Incentive B&W Conner A-, Incentive B&W Linsner A, Incentive “Virgin” St-Onge D, Incentive B&W Q C-, Incentive “Virgin” Conner A+, and Incentive “Virgin” Linsner A+

The story: My biggest disappointment with this relaunch has been the story by Mark Russell because it has Sonja in a position I’ve never seen her in before: queen for her people. My hat’s off for trying something new with a character, especially one that’s been published for some time, but to take away the elements that made the character popular — for Sonja that’s the warrior element — is a deadly mistake. She’s barely lifted a sword in the previous four issues, and she doesn’t raise one at all in this installment. The format of the story has also become too predictable: check in with Dragan and get a modern day joke, the Hyrkanians plan what to do to stay alive, and flashbacks with Sonja’s training under Domo interrupt. I just don’t care. This is like having Conan turn in his sword and become an accountant. Sonja is still written as a smart character, but without her involved in the action, I just don’t care. I’m done. Overall grade: F

The art: Also not helping is the use of two artists for one book. I’m always disappointed when one artist can’t do one book. This screams to me that the book was solicited before it was completed. I’m a fan of Mirko Colak’s work, but he essentially has no action to draw — okay, there’s one page, only one — but the rest of his talent is on groups of people having discussions and characters moving from one location to another. The people look fine, with each looking unique to others and their clothing fantastic. Sonja, however, gets to listen from a chair, stand and listen to someone, cry, and then ride slowly on a horse. It’s a crime that Colak isn’t given something more for the title character to do. Robert Carey does the flashback sequences for five pages. They look very different from Colak’s pages. I’m not liking Domo’s face, especially in close-up. Carey’s pages are colored extremely darkly, often losing some of the visuals. Very disappointing. Overall grade: C-

The colors: The colors on this issue are very dark. And very dreary. I get that the Hyrkanians are in a terrible situation and have been for a long period of time, but the colors are so gritty it brings the visuals down. And since the characters aren’t active, except for one page, these colors by Dearbhla Kelly make the visuals tedious. The colors are even darker on Carey’s pages, with the night time panels and the full-paged splash losing parts of the panels. I actually went online to find the word for the dominate color of this book: it’s closest to corn or medallion. It’s flat, dead yellow. Overall grade: D+

The letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is the letterer who creates this issue’s scene settings, narration, sounds, dialogue, yells, and the text of a letter. I’ve nothing but praise for his work. The scene settings are epic looking, resembling something out of a tome, the narration is in a font that is unique from all other texts (the sign of an expert letterer), the sounds match the actions flawlessly, the dialogue is easy to read and differed from the yells by size and girth. Otsmane-Elhaou is the only creator who emerges unscathed from this book. Overall grade: A+ 

The final line: It took me five issues to make the decision this Red Sonja is not for me. The idea of Sonja as ruler of her people is neat, but she’s done nothing for so long I want her to abdicate as soon as possible. The visuals are by two different artists, creating a disjointed reading experience, with the colors being so dreary as to make the non-action of this book even more difficult to slog through. Only the letters are at an acceptable, and outstanding, level. Good luck, Sonja. I’ll return when there’s a new writer. I’m done. Overall grade: D

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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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