It has been an excellent year and a half for fans of Red Sonja, the She-Devil With A Sword. With Gail Simone and Walter Geovani’s reboot of one of Dynamite’s most enduring and consistently successful titles, Red Sonja has seen a huge upsurge in popularity and interest and there have even been quite a few mini-series and one-shots that have been released in this time. Gail and Walter closed out their highly excellent second arc a few weeks back, and the wait ever since has been quite torturous. Red Sonja is a title that I want more of every month and temporarily, the wait is over!
A new arc started on Red Sonja this past week and it brings a fantastic new story from the pen of Gail Simone as she delves into another facet of the She-Devil With A Sword. While bringing to justice a villainous sorcerer who has been killing several innocents in a nearby village, Sonja is cursed that she will never be able to forgive anyone ever again, and this is where the fun really kicks off and where Gail brings out the best in her protagonist. Walter and Adriano’s artwork is top-notch as always and I really loved all the artistic twists here.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this issue is that I really miss Sonja’s companions from the second arc. Their story came to a conclusive end in Red Sonja #12 and now Sonja has moved on to other adventures, other villains that need taking down. First among these is the sorcerer Kalas-Ra and we see how Sonja’s showdown with him goes down, and what kind of a curse he puts on her as he dies.
I’ve always loved Gail’s humour in these series and the new issue is no exception by any means. As always, Sonja’s inner monologue is fantastic as hell and I loved seeing her ruminations about her companions and her own nature as well. Grand stories about heroes always focus on the core aspects of their adventures, not the drudgery of trekking through mud and rain and confronting villains in their lair. That in itself has become kind of a cliche in fantasy, but it is also a good one to make use of, depending on the writer in question. And Gail is fantastic with it in every way possible.
Once the story kicks into high gear and we move into the second half, things get really interesting after the basic setup of the first half. Having lost the ability to forgive someone, Red Sonja comes to blows with someone in a tavern and this marks another downward trend for the character. We’ve seen before that Red Sonja can be ruthless when she wants to be but she often proves to be quite understanding and merciful even. But what happens when she can no longer be a benevolent figure, quick to forget even the smallest of slights against her? That’s when we find out that Sonja is in the fight of her life, contesting against the fates themselves.
Compounding everything is the fact that she comes face-to-face with a villain from her past whom she has hunted for a really long time now. If anyone, it is he who could use some mercy from the She-Devil With A Sword, but caught up in a frenzy of vengeance, it remains to be seen whether she’ll be able to do what she wants and what she needs to, both. With each arc, Gail has done something different and this new arc is proof of that. She has layered and deepened the character immeasurably.
Walter and Adriano and Simon are assisted in this issue with covers from Jenny Frison and Renae De Liz, both of whom deliver some really captivating images, especially Renae’s utterly badass variant. In the second half, when Sonja gets drunk, Walter plays a bit with the camera angles to reflect her state and those are some fun panels indeed. As before on this series, the primary focus is on the characters themselves, and Walter’s characterwork is excellent. He poses his character without going into body contortions and keeps things realistic. The same extends for his backgrounds as well in a way since he doesn’t go flashy with them but keeps things impactful and minimal. That works for me.
Fantastic new issue with a heart-breaking ending.