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Review: Simone’s Red Sonja #1

RSV2-01-Cov-ScottOh boy, oh boy! Gail Simone’s highly anticipate Red Sonja #1 is finally here—at last an end to the long run of lame ducks that has been Red Sonja for the past few years. Well, sort of…but you be the judge, oh lovers of the She-Devil with a Sword!

*Spoilers* The premiere issue in this series is written by Gail Simone and penciled by Walter Geovani, and while the two make an excellent team, pairing mainstream style few-panel pages with Simone’s script, the whole first issue seems a bit awkward. For one, the events that lead Sonja to the main plot of this first issue (and which will likely consist of the first arc in the series) are a bit unbelievable, and minor characters are given rather silly lines, especially the two ‘bodyguards’ sent to bring Sonja to the aid of King Dimath.

It seems for the first few pages that Simone hasn’t really mastered the voice of Sonja—or perhaps I just don’t like the atmosphere of the Red Sonja comics as they’ve been written of late—but by the time Sonja finds herself training a legion of rejects and children to fight an army, the script picks up in quality and tone. And the issue wraps nicely in on itself, linking beginning and end in a surprising way. Surely there’s something familiar in a parable of the psychological effects of inhuman torture and imprisonment.

The narrative is one for legends: a great warrior is chosen to teach a city of rejects and children to fight a trained army within a week. That warrior is Sonja, who takes to her task out of thanks for Dimath saving her life, and who actually apologizes when she is unable to prepare the conscripts in time. The apology aside, this is definitely the essence of Red Sonja, who constantly bathes in war and feeds off the donning of her bikini-mail armor.

The cover by Nicola Scott is fantastic, and I wish Scott had illustrated the whole book. Geovani’s artwork was certainly adept at capturing the violence and blood of Sonja, but it’s disappointing that the most artistic flare is seen in the curves and exposed skin of Sonja’s body, rather than in bringing to life a fantasy world deserving of more artistic attention.

I’m a big nerd for sword-and-sorcery type books: I love Dark Horse’s Conan, was sad to see DC’s Sword of Sorcery cancelled, and I even have collected issues from Marvel’s original run of Red Sonja in the 1970s. But I’ve constantly gone back and forth regarding Dynamite’s books like Red Sonja and Warlord of Mars, as they tend to feature writers who make the stories awkward and artists that spend more time on boobs and butts than on captivating imagery. This isn’t to say all of Dynamite’s books are bad; in fact they have a good line-up, but I wish they’d do something more engaging with the franchises beloved by so many.

I’ll continue to read Simone’s run on Red Sonja, and I hope to see an improvement in the script as she becomes more familiar with the character’s tone and the book itself. If she can bring the emotional depth and quality of writing I experience every time I read Batgirl, then I know Dynamite’s new Red Sonja will be a book worth putting at the top of the week’s pull-list.

Story: Gail Simone  Art: Walter Geovani, Nicola Scott (Regular Cover)
Story: 7  Art: 6.5  Overall: 7  Recommendation: Read

Dynamite Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

One comment

  • Note: another reason I had a hard time getting liking this comic was no fault of the artistic team, but the editors miss-credit Walter Geovani as the book’s second writer, and they did not credit a single artist (other than the colorist). This is a mistake in both print and digital copies…come on, 35,000 copies of a sold-out comic with a HUGE misprint!