Fire and ice. When I think of Red Sonja, I’ve always thought of fire and ice. If you’ll bear with me for a moment whilst I wax somewhat poetically, then I think you’ll understand. This lovely and unique warrior woman has always been depicted with mostly porcelain skin and that fiery, ginger mane of hair. Despite also being garbed in the loveliest metal bikini fandom has ever seen, it’s her skin and her hair that’ve been constants in her graphic life. Skin practically the color of snow symbolizes the cool, calm, icy confidence that runs through her veins; while on her head and down her back blazes an absolute fiery torch, held high as if to warn every ne’er-do-well, braggart, or marauder that she’s coming, and you’re about to get burned.
That’s what comes to mind when I dwell on Red Sonja, and, if issue #3 is any indication, Gail Simone agrees with me.
(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 our heroine, she had done the unthinkable – she had surrendered to her former friend and colleague in death, Annisia, accepting the sentence carried down of her exile into the wilderness. For Sonja had contracted the plague. That she might perish, those she had briefly served would be allowed to live out their days in isolation. Now, as she toils away what’s left of her time on the mortal plane, she’s troubled with visions. Of her past. Of her failures and of her victories. At one time, she believed she had miles to go before she could rest, but as life fades from her afflicted body two friends emerge from the wild … but they might be too late.
In this third issue, Simone continues to demonstrate why the union between her and the red-headed She-devil is, perhaps, a match made in warrior heaven. This whole arc began with Sonja being at her best; and now Simone has practically delivered her into the afterlife. (I say ‘practically’ though the events here may make you fear differently.) She’s served up a somewhat humiliated and broken soul as our lady suffers illusions of her past and a family she couldn’t save. Granted, she hadn’t the skills or the experience to do differently, but – on the cusp of her death – she’s insistent on finally doing right by her father’s wishes and the teachings of her people. She’s down but not out. She’s surrendered, but the fight still lives in her heart, despite what she confesses to the vision that plague her.
This is what great drama does. It takes a central character and puts him or her through their paces. It doesn’t do it solely to serve up dramatic circumstances; rather, it does it because that’s the only way our protagonist can learn anything about the emotional baggage she carries in her heart and in her memories. Sonja’s gone from the ultimate high to the ultimate low. As she learns from these nightmares, she’s as guilty for her situation as is fate; thus, only now is she prepared to take that great and private journey into whatever waits for each of us on the other side.
And – to my pleasure – Simone serves all of this up rather dispassionately. Using these visions as flashbacks, she introduces us into the Sonja we never really knew, in her early days trying to learn her place in the society to which she was born. There isn’t all of the dark psychology that kinda/sorta goes hand-in-hand with some of the costumed vigilante tales that occupy so much of comic store shelves. This is a young maiden who learned she was fast. Good with a bow. Cunning in the wild. She doesn’t hate herself for who she was or what she becomes. She accepts it, knowing that there’s nothing more to say on the matter.
The closing panels are a bit of doom and gloom, but I suspect this is a gifted author’s attempt to remind us of that age old adage: it’s always darkest … before the dawn.
RED SONJA #3 (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.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Fire and ice. Fire and ice. If you take nothing away from anything I’ve written here, then leave this space with what I said about how fire and ice define Red Sonja. I think you’ll be as surprised as I was when I read it how well all of that comes together in these pages. Yes, there’s the obligatory cliffhanger, but it’s the kind that only underscores how important you’re here again in thirty days.
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.