Red Sonja is one of the greatest and, dare I say, none of the most well-known, heroines in fantasy fiction. She is brave, courageous, compassionate, fearless, daring, aggressive, dominant and much more. Under the pen of Gail Simone, we’ve seen some really great things with the character in the rebooted Red Sonja. And her current arc has only heightened all these aspects of the She-Devil With A Sword, as she is often known. Tasked to find six of the greatest artisans in the world for a dying king’s death-feast, we’ve seen some great adventures with Red Sonja and now it all comes to a close.
Red Sonja #12 sees Sonja and her friends Rat, Aneva, Osric, Gribaldi, Plaitius and newcomer Rakaua return to Emperor Samala for his death-feast. Sonja’s reward for spending an entire month gathering these artisans is that once they are presented to Samala, he will free a thousand slaves as her reward. Bu Emperors rarely keep their promises and Samala planned to betray Sonja from the get-go, so the direction of this issue is no surprise. Not really sure what I can say, other than that Gail Simone and Walter Geovani delivered one of their best issues to date.
Last we were with Sonja, she had convinced Plaitius to come with her, and that left just one more artisan for her to find. The new issue sees the short-tempered Hyrkanian swordswoman barge in to a town and demand to see Rakaua, the finest dancer in all the lands, who just happens to be a man and not a woman as Sonja initially thought. Lots of hilarity ensues and Sonja’s reactions to some of the claims made by the dancer are absolutely hilarious, as is her inner monologe when she is carrying away the dancer, thrown on her shoulders: “Giant snakes. I used to fight giant snakes, sometimes. That had a certain dignity to it”.
I think that captures Gail’s characterization of Sonja quite perfectly to be honest because even though she has been doing some great things in the new series, there have also been moments of hilarity where Sonja wonders just what she has gotten herself into.
Soon, she is back with Samala however, and the dying Emperor gives her a warm welcome as she presents the six artisans to him. Everything is going great until then, but you just know that the other show is going to drop since we’ve already seen that Samala plans to renege on his promise to her of freeing the slaves. And that is exactly what happens later on. That’s when the action in the story really kicks off and all the character development that Gail did in the previous five issues of this arc with respect to Sonja and her new friends comes to the fore.
As Sonja said early on, she doesn’t care for kings and emperors, has no use for them. In the previous arc as well we saw that a demented, degenerate ruler was the source of her troubles and that holds true as well, given the kind of man Samala is. To see him get his just rewards was a most pleasing sight, as was the way in which Sonja brings about his downfall.
It really doesn’t get any better than this, truth be told. There’s something almost mesmerizing in the way that Gail writes Sonja, partly because she really understands the character and has a good handle on her. Her relationships with her friends are the core selling point of this issue, and indeed this arc as well, and that’s what I love most about it as well.
As always, Walter Geovani is the penciller here, with Adriano Lucas on colours and Simon Bowland on the letters, with Jenny Frison once again doing a cover for the series. There are several great moments for Sonja in this issue, where she is in a clear dominant role, and the artists pull of those moments really well. You really get the feeling that Sonja is a kickass warrior who means business, again and again. And truly, in Rakaua, Gail and Walter have created a really wonderful character, down to his mannerisms and all. Loved it all.
It is a welcome cruelty, that each issue of Red Sonja be this amazing! And finally, Sonja gets some pillowing action of her own, after longing for it for so long in the series. Great way to end the arc!