With two solid arcs behind them, writer Gail Simone and artist Walter Geovani kicked off their third arc on Red Sonja last November in a story that revisited the character’s roots and also shed some light on the most defining moment of her life, the murder of her family and the rest of her village. Of course, going back to the roots doesn’t mean that it is all a song and dance because there’s actually a dark twist to things here, and that’s where Red Sonja #13 really excelled. It paved the way forward for yet another superb engrossing story and I’ve been waiting for the second installment ever since.
In Red Sonja #14, coming some two months after the release of the previous issue, we see what is happening to Sonja with the curse that has been placed upon her by a dying necromancer, the curse to never be able to forgive anyone and to take serious offense at the lightest insult, even a perceived one. Suffice to say, things are tough, and as the big baddy of the arc makes his own appearance, it is clear that with all that the character has faced recently, her true troubles are just getting started.
To date, one of the more striking things about this title is how well Gail Simone is able to capture the spirit of the character with her dialogue and inner monologue. Time and time again Gail’s particular approach to the character has really resonated with me, and Red Sonja #14 is no stranger in that regard. Unable to forgive and with only hate and vengeance in her heart, Sonja is becoming closed off to the people around her, and Gail does well to capture the character’s disorientation and her succumbing to the magics being wrought against her.
Back in the first arc, there was this moment where Sonja effectively went insane and started hallucinating things. The issues in question were pretty outstanding because they went beyond the surface details to take a look at who Sonja is under her rough exterior, and that is what Gail does again with Red Sonja #14. We have seen Sonja fight off madness and insanity before, but we have not yet seen her fight as someone who is cursed, which is where the similarities and differences both come in.
Gail’s dialogue for Sonja was something else in this issue. We see Sonja as a rational calm-headed person and also as a berserker, with the appropriate twist to match. She has already almost killed a man for accidentally spilling ale all over her, and the curse gnaws at her from within, causing her to do things that she never would otherwise. But at the same time, it also lays bare just who Sonja is as a character, and the way that the writer teases it all out through the villain Fellan the Woodsman, makes you really appreciate all that she is trying to do.
Fellan himself makes for a rather complex villain. He is only small fish in a big pond, but at the same time, he is also a target and a quandary for the titular hero. Just as the murders of her parents and her village changed Sonja, so did her revenge against the men who did it. Fellan escaped Sonja’s justice at the time, but now he is in the crosshairs and things are decidedly not looking on the up and up for him.
Walter, Adriano, and Simon are on the art team for this issue, with Jenny Frison on the cover. Jenny’s covers for the series have surpassed expectations again and again and this issue is certainly no different. I love the bold reds here, and the somewhat delicate cast to the composition, which betrays a vulnerability in Sonja, someone that I’m quite happy to see excised out of her eventually. The internal art itself however, is just as great as I remember it being. Lots of cool action scenes here, and the big bad villain of the arc also makes his appearance to terrifying affect, marking himself out as someone who is definitely not to be trifled with.
Gail and Walter definitely start off the new year on an incredible high with this issue.