Title: Red Sonja #1 Dynamite Dollar Book
Story By: Gail Simone
Art By: Walter Geovani
Cover By: Jenny Frison
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Red Sonja #1 Dynamite Dollar Book Previews
Red Sonja #1 Dynamite Dollar Book Review
In the aftermath of a victorious battle, a warrior king enters a conquered kingdom’s dungeons to find only two survivors of the cruel and unnamed regime’s torture. One of his soldiers argues that they should be put out of their misery – but the king shows a different kind of mercy, ordering that the prisoners should be set free. At this, one of them speaks. “My name,” she says, “is Red Sonja.” And with that, the return of a legendary (and controversial) comic book character begins.
Red Sonja is a remnant of the high fantasy comics of the 1970’s. She debuted in Conan The Barbarian, and was originally based on a character from the short story “Shadow of the Vulture.” In the summer of 2013, Dynamite relaunched her series, written by Gail Simone (Batgirl, Deadpool, Birds of Prey). Here, they re-present the first issue of Simone’s successful and continuing run in a $1 edition. It’s more than worth the price, and a great chance to jump on board another Simone title, especially with the trade paperback of her first five issues arriving on shelves next month.
Some (myself included) might initially question the validity of returning a character like Red Sonja to the racks. The character does have a controversial history (wearing nothing but a metal bikini will do that to you sometimes), and in the wrong hands Sonja could certainly be reduced to nothing more than another anatomically bizarre, poorly written excuse for thinly-veiled sexism. Thankfully, Dynamite put her in the hands of Gail Simone and Walter Geovani, and the result is a fun medieval high fantasy story with surprising depth and potential.
At the center of it all is Sonja herself, a reinvented heroine with a past that’s only hinted at in this first issue. What we do know, we learn in the first few pages – she’s been tortured and forced to fight to the death more than once in gladiatorial-style combat. But as the story progresses, we’re shown that this Red Sonja is not merely a one-dimensional “strong female character” on the hunt for revenge or to bury her past underneath a pile of dead bodies. She honors her debts, kills only when necessary, and – perhaps most strikingly – shows mercy more than once. This Sonja is intense, enigmatic…in a word, she’s human, and that brings a necessary core to the story that would otherwise be missing. Danaerys Targaryen, Arya Stark, and the other inhabitants of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones would find a worthy companion in Red Sonja.
Gail Simone’s writing is, as per usual, fast paced, clever, and perfectly suited to the story she’s telling. If you’re looking for a carbon copy of her recent work on Batgirl, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a story with the same sort of compelling narrative drive, only with swords and bows instead of bats, you’ve come to the right place. Geovani’s art does great work, conveying in equal measure the grit and glamour of the fantasy world being built for us. It grounds the fantastical in its own kind of reality, and makes for a striking place you’ll want to see more of.
Just as importantly, Geovani’s rendering of Sonja (and all the characters, for that matter) matches the quality of Simone’s nuanced writing and embodies them all with a distinct sense of realism. His Red Sonja is no oddly-proportioned fantasy woman bending herself into anatomically impossible positions to show off more cleavage – she’s a warrior, with a proud, confident bearing that refuses to reduce her to eye candy for the reader. Of course, that should be the norm across the board, but we all know it isn’t – and for that reason if no other, Simone and Geovani’s Red Sonja should be on your pull list this week.