In Review: Red Sonja #8

With a biker gang and the feds chasing them, Sonja and her friends have adventures on the road that would make any traveler envious. Get in for a good time!

The covers: An incredible eight variants to find this month and the only difficulty with them is trying to decide which one to pick. The A cover by Mike McKone features Sonja in leather pants and big boots climbing a stack of tires. She’s in profile, seen from the right, with her holding her sword in her left hand. Her long hair streams behind her from a breeze that’s showing the path of a trail of white smoke behind her. Great image showing the title character preparing to enter battle. The most joyous Sonja I’ve ever seen on a cover is the B by Ben Caldwell. Sonja looks as though she’s hammered as she smashes a tin can against her head, surrounded by several leering faces. She looks like she enjoying herself, that’s for sure! She looks fantastic, with the coloring on her amazing. The faces behind are barely visibly, which is fine. In complete contrast to the B cover is the C by Jonboy Meyers. This features an absolutely fierce Sonja riding hellbent for leather on an ebony steed plowing its way through the snow. The She-Devil With a Sword has a feathered cape to keep her warm, and the sword held in her right hand is coated in gore. The title and credits are thankfully located at the bottom of this illustration to preserve the integrity of the image. This is stunning! D is the Cosplay Photo Variant and it features Amanda Kitson photographed by Marvin of herohotties on Instagram. I had to do some searching for this model and her photographer because my review copy didn’t contain full credits. Wielding a sword almost as big as her, Sonja looks at the reader as she stands on a mountainside. Good image and I’m glad Dynamite is doing cosplay covers because they truly bring this Robert E. Howard character to life. Sonja stands strongly before the reader within a forge, as molten metal is pouring behind her. Artist Mel Rubi has her on this E cover look as if she’s done talking, her sword in the reader’s face. Great image and slick coloring. There’s also a Cosplay Virgin Variant that features no text. If you’re a fan of the D cover, you’ll want this one as well. A B&W Variant of the A cover also exists. This is really cool to see all the details McKone has put in the tires and Sonja’s clothing before it was colored. The final cover is a B&W Variant of the E cover by Mel Rubi. This is also impressive, with the lines done for the black spaces really cool. Overall grades: A A, B A+, C A+, D A, E A, Cosplay Virgin Variant A, B&W Variant McKone A, and B&W Variant Rubi A

The story: Five tin cans of empty Devil’s Ale line up on a large rock. A gunshot signals someone has fired and missed. Off panel a voice states, “I prefer my sword.” Another voice tells Sonja that it takes practice. A second shot has a can go flying. Suddenly an arrow shoots the next can down. “Thank you, but I think simpler is better.” This is followed by the final two cans being nailed by more arrows. An off panel voice responds, “I see your point.” The second page reveals that Sonja has been using a crossbow, much to Holly’s chagrin. Sonja eyes up a possible target on the desert floor, but Spike tells the pair they need to get back on the road. Meanwhile, “Somewhere in Hyrkania…” Officer Max Mendoza tries to entertain a group of women at his table, but is rebuffed. He tells his two friends he misses New York and that he just wants “to find some remnant of my childhood in Meru…and then go home, you know?” His situation is momentarily left to show that at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Clarksburg, West Virginia, agents are wondering who Sonja is, since she’s the chief suspect in the murder of Edward “Chuckles” Harrington, a member of the Las Aranhas gang. She’s also been linked to the terrorism incidents two months ago in New York City. The women have been spotted on CCTV at a highway rest stop and they’re to be considered armed and highly dangerous. What could possible go wrong for the heroines? Amy Chu is really stacking the deck against Sonja and her allies making it to Professor Wallace on the west coast so Sonja can go home. As they stop to eat, some members of the Las Aranhas gang find them and trouble happens. Back in Hyrkania, Max runs into a large problem without crossing a bridge. Obstacles are found everywhere in this issue, making the action terrific. Page 12 has Sonja leaping spectacularly into danger, with the battle ending quickly and resulting in her and her companions being taken to a surprising location. This leads to Holly getting some major backstory and the book taking a turn on the final page. A fun romp, with Sonja being true to herself in the modern world. Flat out fun reading! Overall grade: A 

The art: This issue clearly features the artwork of Carlos Gomez and it’s fantastic. The opening page focuses on the tin cans being hit and it’s a slick way to introduce the characters through their actions and words, rather than showing them outright. That’s reserved for the second page which is a gorgeous full-paged splash showing Sonja and the crossbow, Holly sitting on the trunk of the car watching, and Spike trying to hurry the pair on. The background is a beautiful mesa and the animal in the foreground makes its way across the page, oblivious to the fact that it could be Sonja’s sights. Max’s scene in Hyrkania has him surrounded by beautiful women, yet he loses all of them and commences to whining in a funny visual. The F.B.I. look professional in their suits, surrounded by several computer screens tracking Chuckles, his cohorts, and Sonja. The unnamed agent looks as though he wants Sonja’s head. Page 6 returns to the trio on the road and it features a sumptuous sunset. The eatery where they stop is full of fine details, but it’s the full-page splash on 12 that’s the best image of the book. Heck, that page could be a poster or print! The new character that enters on 16 looked appropriately worried and his reactions to one of the characters had me thinking of one the closing sequences in What’s Up Doc? The setting on 18 is a first for this series and Gomez makes it look lavish. The final page of the book is also a splash and features the heroines in a new setting. If it were possible, I would clone Gomez and have him illustrate every comic. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Mohan’s colors are a perfect match for Gomez’s work. They looked great when they were on The Dresden Files at Dynamite, and they look great here. The opening page uses some fantastic rusts and browns for the mountains and rocks, which are punctuated by the bright reds of the ale cans. I like how the gunshots are colored, but the sounds of the arrows striking the cans are not — a neat way to show differentiation in sounds. The coloring of the women’s skin is terrific, with the blending of shades outstanding. The second page shows more of the desert’s spectacular colors, with those in the distance very dark. The lighting inside the tavern where Max is with his mob is extremely luminescent, while all the woodwork is beautiful. The computer screens of the F.B.I. are a slick white with blues used for dark details. The sunset on 6 would be the envy of any tourist because of the coloring. Flames appear on 11 – 13 and they look great, as do the villains’ skin that’s shown. The primary color used for the setting shown in the fourth and fifth panels on 18 is fitting and funny. The final page uses blues that are sleek. What’s not to like about Mohan’s work? Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, sounds, scene settings, signage, and yells are crafted by the talented Simon Bowland. The sounds bring considerable fun into this issue and deserve to be read aloud while one makes their way through this book. The scene settings are very strong, dramatic block letters that allow the reader to transition smoothly through locations. There are only two characters that yell in this book and it’s funny that when they do they have the same font given to them…for an obvious reason. Very smart work from Mr. Bowland. Overall grade: A

The final line: With a biker gang and the feds chasing them, Sonja and her friends have adventures on the road that would make any traveler envious. Get in for a good time! A fun story, great characters, and incredible visuals make this a “must read” book. 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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