In Review: Red Sonja #6

Red Sonja is popular for being a She-Devil, but this series has made her a Snore-Dud.

The covers: There are twelve covers to search for, if you’re not busy burning the trail behind you. The A is by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts and is a killer image of Sonja being held back by four of her fighters as she strains to rush forward into combat. She’s wearing a crown of antlers and a long woolly gray coat. A dagger is in her right hand and a long sword in her left. She looks intense! The four trying to hold her back have their work cut out for them. Each is a fully realized individual. the coloring has all but Sonja in darker colors, allowing her to be the reader’s focus. This is another outstanding job by this pair. The B by Joseph Michael Linsner is a change of pace for this character. On her knees in a wasteland, Sonja holds up one hand as she looks for help from the reader. There’s a trail of blood before her and three staffs with skulls on them behind her, joined by her sword stuck in the ground. Behind her are some ominous clouds with one resembling a skull. Cool, moody piece! Another change of pace is the intense close-up of Sonja which constitutes the C cover by Christian Ward. Her red hair engulfs the entire image save her blood splattered face and chest. Sonja looks intensely at the reader, ready to battle some more. Neat. The Richard Pace’s D cover teases a plot point from this issue as Dragan kneels before the surprised title character, holding a box with a glistening blue gem on a ring. The two leads look good, but the men watching are unfinished and some are indifferent at what’s occurring before them. The coloring has the pair stand out strongly in the night time setting, while the men are uniformly colored gray. This looks as though it needed more time to be finished. The E, the Cosplay Photo Variant, features The Crystal Wolf as Sonja photographed by Thomas Bridle. This is a fantastic frontpiece with Sonja sporting a massive battleaxe in both her hands as she stands on cliff with a wonderful view of snowy mountains behind her. Wow! Sonja wears her iconic metal bikini as well as woolly covers on her knees, with one sporting a skull, and a cloak with a fur neckline. Outstanding! The Incentive by Bob Q has me wishing this was the interior tale. Sonja reaches out toward the reader to grab her sword that’s in the foreground. She’s being kept from her weapon by nine green female vampires who are pulling her back on the crimson colored stairs. Behind these bloodsuckers are huge windows that contain matching crimson clouds and skies. I want this story! The Incentive B&W by Conner is the same as the A, just minus Mounts’s contributions. I really like this, but I like it better colored. The same can also be said of the Incentive B&W by Linsner, which is the same as the B, but also colorless. The Incentive “Virgin” by Pace is the same as the D sans text. If you like the original, you’ll like this. I do like the Incentive B&W by Q, with it being the same illustration as the Incentive he created. Even with the colors absent, this looks cool. The Incentive “Virgin” cover by Conner and Mounts is the A without text and Incentive “Virgin” cover by Linsner is the B without text. Both of these covers are ones to add to your collection. Overall grades: A A+, B A, C B-, D C+, E A+, Incentive Q A+, Incentive B&W Conner A, Incentive B&W Linsner A, Incentive “Virgin” Pace C+, Incentive B&W Q A, Incentive “Virgin” Conner and Mounts A+, and Incentive “Virgin” Linsner A

The story: As with the previous issues, writer Mark Russell splits the story between the past and the present with the former informing Sonja’s choices in the latter. Sonja and the Domo of Khitai play chess with Sonja worried for her master since it’s obvious the prince is plotting against the king and the Domo. He tells her not to worry, “Before a piece moves, there are a hundred possibilities. To consider them all is to waste ninety-nine percent of your mental capacity. Once it moves, it will tell you all you need to know about how to defeat it. Everything before is a waste of time.” In the present, Sonja and her people burn the land of Hyrkania behind them as they flee the invading forces from Zamora. Dragan is told that his men are hungry, so he orders some horses killed and fed to his men. He’s still feeling optimistic about his victory given that he has Sonja’s cousin held as prisoner. Things take a turn when Dragan sends Sonja a message and she ponders it for the rest of the issue until something has her taking an action. This is the end of the road for me and this Red Sonja series. The only action is in a flashback and it’s so quick as to be dismissed. I read Red Sonja for adventure. This story by Russell has been absent of any major actions. Instead, situations are discussed and actions taken, with little to no action. I’m done. For an original character, this tale might have worked, but for Sonja this is a sixth clod of dirt thrown on her grave. Overall grade: F

The art: There are also two artists, again, on this series, with Mirko Colak handling the events in the present and Robert Carey creating the past. I like Carey’s work on this book. His opening page shows Sonja and the Domo playing chess, which could have been visually boring, but he takes the time to focus on each character, helping to define each, and ending with a neat point of view for Domo. When the night time action occurs, Carey makes it look good, expertly using blacks to create the time, but still allowing the characters to be clearly seen. I feel sorry for Colak because all he gets to illustrate are exposition scenes. His characters are good and he, too, moves the point of view around often, but there’s not much he can do jazz up such moments. He does a competent job, but it’s visually boring. Overall grade: D+

The colors: Dearbhla Kelly has Sonja’s crimson hair always standing out whenever it appears. I really like the greens on the opening page, providing a visual example of vitality behind the characters as they discuss battles. The violets on Pages 2 and 3 are gorgeous. When the sun rises, the colors are fairly washed out; they’re realistic given the people and what they’re doing, but there’s just nothing that allows Kelly to use bright colors, save Sonja’s hair. I do like how Dragan’s message to Sonja is given a weathered yellow, making it appear like something from an old scroll. Like the art, competent, but blasé. Overall grade: C-

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, narration, Sonja’s narration, Dragan’s message, sounds, and yells are created by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. There are two types of scene settings, with one on the opening page and another on the second. The second looks better, but both are pretty cool. I like that the third page’s narration is in a different font from Sonja’s, telling the reader that this text is from someone else. Dragan’s message looks as though it was written by hand and is outstanding. The few sounds that appear are immense and pleasing. The yells come in a variety of sizes and shapes, making each sound different. I do have a question about the final text on the last page: Why is it there? The credits page faces this, so this text is unnecessary. Did Editor Nate Cosby not catch it? Overall grade: A-

The final line: I’m dropping this series because of the story. It boils down to too much dialogue, not enough action. Red Sonja is popular for being a She-Devil, but this series has made her a Snore-Dud. She does nothing but talk and plan and move her forces, talk, plan, and mover her forces, talk, plan, etc. I never though I could be bored by a character by Robert E. Howard, but this Sonja has proved me wrong. Not helping is the inability to have one artist illustrate the entire issue, as the segments in the past seem to provide time to an artist for the moments in the present, rather than expand the character. Best of adventures to you, Sonja. I’ll be back when there’s a change in writers. 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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