Review: Red Sonja #1
There’s been a lot of talk about the new Red Sonja book from Dynamite, with a story written by Gail Simone (Batgirl, Birds of Prey) but I’m always one for giving new books a try and, to be honest, I have been very impressed with the quality of books coming out of Dynamite since I first started to give them a look. The quality of the stories are generally high and the art is also quite high; this team prides themselves on delivering some spectacular books month after month. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve not always been the biggest fan of Gail Simone’s stories – some I find great and others I find lacking in one way or another – but this new Red Sonja title falls under the category of “great”.
The character of Red Sonja is not one I am that familiar with, at least not in comic book format. I have seen the movie starring Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and I know that she was originally created by Robert E. Howard (who also created Conan). But that was the extent of my knowledge. Not once did I read the comic from Marvel nor any of the Dynamite issues, partly because even though I knew the name I had no knowledge of the character. My understanding of this new title was that it was a relaunch of the character, that it doesn’t necessarily tie in with anything that’s out there today (apart from maybe the original Howard stories) so it’s a good way to learn about a character that is a virtual unknown.
Gail Simone did a great job in introducing the character and setting her role early on. I don’t know Sonja’s background or heritage, but this first issue really set the stage for identifying who she is today. In a limited number of pages, we see her go from a position of weakness as a prisoner to having one of strength; from an angry, somewhat drunk person to a noble warrior with a sense of honor. Maybe it’s because the story takes place in a time where honor is displayed much more openly and politics doesn’t rule the day that it’s easier to portray, but Simone was able to portray the character as human but strong at the same time. In fact, I found that her version of Sonja is much more believable than some of the DC heroines she has written. Here, Sonja is in a universe unto herself and I envision that Simone is given certain liberties with what she wants to do, which means her hands aren’t tied and she can stretch the limits which shows some of her strengths as a writer. With DC… well, we know there are many conflicts between writers and editors and this may limit what Simone can do there, which may be why I get more of a stiff feeling from her writing there at times. I think this is definitely a book for Simone, as it lets her stretch her reach and not worry about crossing over into 50-some other titles and upsetting someone else. Her freedom allows for a great story and that’s what we get here.
Walter Geovani is the artist on the book (although on the front cover he’s accidentally credited as writer). I have never heard nor seen of Geovani to my knowledge until now, but he does a fantastic job on this book. The battle scenes are wonderful, showing detail where necessary and blurring things out when not. Some artists can only draw individuals looking one way and then that’s the end of it. Geovani manages to take Sonja out of her warrior outfit (which is her daily outfit) and put her into some more elegant robes… and the fact that his art shows her discomfort is great. Geovani is not just a one-trick pony, I think, and I am excited to see what else he can do in this more medieval world. His art is perfectly complemented by Adriano Lucas on colors, who I think adds that extra depth to the time period and the scenes. This is a team that I thoroughly enjoyed the visual product they produced, which is all I could have hoped for.
But let’s not forget the covers. Dynamite is notorious for creating variant covers for their books, and why not? They have a fantastic talent pool to choose from, especially with Alex Ross under their umbrella. For this book, though, Dynamite asked a number of female artists to provide covers to what can be considered one of the most powerful female characters outside of the Big 2 publishers, and one that pre-dates them all as well. The hardest part of getting this book for me was deciding which cover I wanted. The main cover by Nicola Scott (Earth-2) is shown above. I purchased the Variant A edition, which was done by Amanda Connor, an artist whom I came to love after seeing her covert art for Sex & Violence from Gray and Palmiotti. I’ve seen Connor’s work in a number of places since then, and her style is one that I thoroughly enjoy as it doesn’t seem over the top – it’s just right.
Other covers are from such amazing artists as Fiona Staples, Colleen Doran and Jenny Frison, all of which look fantastic but I could only choose one. There’s a number of store exclusive covers as well from the likes of Maria Benes and Nei Ruffino, but those aren’t available to me up here as I’m nowhere near those stores. Finally, there are a number of fun covers as well, including ones from Stephanie Buscema (left) as well as Agnes Gabowska. Although these don’t necessarily depict Sonja as we would expect to visible see her in the book, they are great art pieces. I truly think that after a few more issues are out, Dynamite could easily commission prints of these covers and they would be snatched up.