Red Sonja #7 Spoiler-Free Review
Gail Simone, Walter Geovani
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: Red Sonja #7 is probably Simone’s best single issue of comics since Secret Six ended. Much as I’ve loved her work for many years, these past few have found her struggling to bring the effortless action storytelling that dominated her early Birds of Prey issues back or the violent dark comedy that made her a superstar with Agent X and Secret Six. While Red Sonja #7 isn’t at the level of Simone’s best work, it’s fun and unpredictable, filled with smart little character beats and jokes that only become evident on second or third reading. If Simone keeps it up for another few months, then Red Sonja #7 is where the series goes from “guilty pleasure” to “must-read.”
Artist Walter Geovani does location fairly well, and his creature-work is fine, but he was not a great choice for this particular issue. Geovani’s art is incredibly clean – indeed, to a fault. For instance, in Red Sonja #7 Sonja finds herself running into a group of filthy swamp-dwelling cannibals who, under Geovani’s pen, look fresh from the showers at Total Body Fitness. It’s not the only time Geovani’s slick-but-simple style distracts, but it’s the worst of them. He can handle the swamp lands, which he makes suitably creepy, and Geovani has absolutely mastered how Sonja herself moves and dresses, but I can’t help but feel a disconnect between the world Geovani portrays and the world Simone’s words discuss.
On the other hand, Red Sonja has typically had absolutely gorgeous covers. The cover of Red Sonja #7, by Jenny Frison, is no exception to that rule. Frison’s cover is moodier and far more eye-catching than her cover work on I, Vampire ever was. She manages to capture the atmosphere of the issue in a simple cover that says more with color than with figures, but she doesn’t give away the action. It’s a tactic I wish more comic covers would take, to be honest. Amy Reeder’s variant is less immediately evocative, though it makes me wish desperately for Reeder to contribute some internal art to the book itself.
As I said above, Red Sonja #7 is a huge step forward for Dynamite’s high-profile relaunch. I can understand why Simone led with the story arc she did – Sonja’s confrontation with Annisia and the Butcher was a big, dramatic arc brimming with history and epic conflict. But outside of a single exemplary issue, a feverish retelling of Sonja’s childhood, it was mostly just noise. Peter Parker hasn’t endured for decades because of the High Tragedy of losing Uncle Ben, but because we empathize with the simple struggles of being bullied in school, of trying to do the right thing, of small mistakes having huge ramifications. It seems counterintuitive, but we relate to those small gestures far more than the big moments, and that first arc didn’t really have much to relate to.
The sturm und drang of the book’s opening arc failed to connect with me on a core emotional level for a variety of reasons, but the biggest was this: Sonja was a hero, rather than a character. Here, Simone and Geovani have found a way to make her both. Indeed, it took Simone just two or three pages to win me over here. Red Sonja #7 finds Sonja trapped in a job she hates for a man she doesn’t respect. She’s wants a drink and a fuck and she wants to get paid.
I feel you, girl.
Rating: 4.5 / 5