As the song goes, “sisters are doing it for themselves.” There’s always been some unspoken camaraderie between the fairer sex --- they’ll band together to protect one another from all forms of abuse and/or aggression; they’ll give a gal their own shoulder to cry on in times of emotional struggle or strife; and they’ll pitch in to help one of their sisters out if and when the opportunity presents itself. Men tend to band together over a common cause, but – so far as my learned eye can tell – women will band together just because they’re women. Think what we might, but I think there’s a nobility in that allegiance.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
When we last saw Red Sonja, she was marching into battle with a motley band of villagers she had trained at Dimath’s request when – lo and behold – the very general she’s leading those people against turned out to be someone very near and very dear to her. Her name is Annisia, and their friendship was forged not only in the battles they previously shared but also in their imprisonment in a cruel fate from their past. As readers learned (via helpful flashbacks), Sonja and Annisia spend years side-by-side in a dungeon, growing to know and understand what little comfort they could from one another’s company, until they found themselves freed from those shackles and sent on their separate ways. Now they’ve been reunited under the cruelest circumstances imaginable as Sonja learns that Annisia believes herself haunted by the souls that they’ve slaughtered before!
What Gail Simone has accomplished in only a scant two issues of this new incarnation of RED SONJA has a wondrously epic feel to it but also an interesting personal dynamic that perhaps I, as a reader, never expected. Here I’m presented with two Amazonian warriors – both equally committed to the task of dispensing their respective forms of justice and punishment – and they come together to clash in ways both physical and psychological. While it’s clear that Simone knows her audience will always root for Sonja, the writer doesn’t skimp on Annisia’s characterization, presenting a combatant who possesses equal cunning, equal physical prowess, as well as a compelling reason to wish her well. You can feel emotions being toyed with in such a way so as to lower your guard … only to be prepared for yet one more twist in the story that’ll likely change how you think of it going forward into the next segment.
Walter Geovani’s artwork – both the first issue and this second one have maxed out on battle scenes, though nothing has been even remotely as gratuitous as one might expect from male-dominated titles – is solid, with men and women rendered in crisp, clean lines; Adriano Lucas supplies some wonderful colors, but, by the issue’s end, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were a bit too much brightness to the palate here. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for easily identifiable panels and action. Still, there’s something to be said for the nuance of darker, gloomier colors (especially given developments here), and maybe that’ll change given the supplied cliffhanger to this read.
Dare I also mention, there’s the hint of a somewhat desired yet illicit romance between the two warrior women? That thought alone will drive male fandom (and probably some women) crazy waiting for its potential resolution. As can happen in some relationships, there’s an overwhelming sense of ‘resignation’ to all of it – maybe it just wasn’t meant to be – and that takes on even stronger meaning as Red Sonja prepares for what may be her most treacherous personal trial yet.
RED SONJA #2 (Ongoing) is published by Dynamite Entertainment. The issue is written by Gail Simone; the art is drawn by Walter Geovani; the book is colored by Adriano Lucas; it is lettered by Simon Bowland; and the series is presently edited by Joseph Rybandt. Individual issues bear the cover price of $3.99 … and that’s a bargain considering the depth, action, and characterization contained within.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Simone has dished up RED SONJA as not only the usual mover and shaker of her own adventures but also – particular in this second issue – as a victim to a very cruel twist of fate. Unlike other heroes, we know our faithful heroine won’t take the news lying down (or will she?). This elevates SONJA to the level of must-read at least for the near future as the character comes alive with all-new development as well as a growing cast of supporting players who hopefully might hang around for the duration. It’s a wild ride, and there’s no better time to jump aboard than the present.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that I’ve repeatedly contacted the fine folks at Dynamite Comics via email and their web site in hopes to arrange for reader copies of RED SONJA #1 (Ongoing); however, the company apparently does not recognize nor cooperate with requests from new media outlets.