Gail Simone (Writer), Walter Geovani (Artist), Adriano Lucas (Colorist)
The Story: To settle a debt of honor, Red Sonja has to train poor villagers how to defend themselves from a brutal horde in a few days.
The Review: I have to confess, I didn’t particularly have high expectations out of this one. It is a sad thing to say, but I have close to no knowledge of who Red Sonja is and what she does, as her character, to me, consist mainly of being a epitome of fanservice. Let’s face it, to those left in the dark, a woman clothed in the thinnest of armour that leaves pretty much nothing to the imagination may lead a lot of readers to think so about the character. The only reason I was interested to begin with, beside the fact that I do rather like the sword and sorcery genre, was that Gail Simone, the writer who brought us the delightful Secret Six was going to be the one telling us stories with this character. With the knowledge that she is quite talented when it comes to strong female characters and female-centric book, could she be the one to make me see the character in a different light?
It is, much to my surprise, pretty much what she did. Not only is Red Sonja a character that has many facets, which Simone manage to show us here, but she also does so in a way that makes it interesting for the readers to explore further. She is a brute, a savage with a sword that can beat most without even thinking about it, yet also able to show mercy and compassion during a fight. She can be bashful and without any reservation, yet has a personal level of honor that shows she has a code even though her violent tendencies may lead otherwise. In the very first issue of this first volume, Simone shows us just who is Red Sonja in a way that feels compelling, proving that she is much more than mere eye candy. I have no problem saying that my initial thoughts on the character were wrong and that thanks to Simone, I have seen the error of my way. The bikini armour may still be there, but the character filling it is interesting.
However, as interesting as the titular character may very well be, a book cannot go very far without a story to propel the characters and action forward. Thankfully, Simone presents us with a setting that allow for the barbarian to thrive, as war, thieves and ferocious and savage beings are there to provide much in the exploration of the world in which the character exist. As she interact with thieves, envoys and peasants that she has to train, we are presented already in a very dire circumstance as a small village is about to be raided by a large horde. While the story here is a lot of presentation and setup, it cannot be said that it is not effective setup. We are presented to the characters in an effective way, the world seems expansive, we know enough to feel the gravitas around what is happening and Simone even throws in a surprise or two in the process. It is not bad at all for a first issue, although the tale may become a tad more gripping in the next few issues.
What is already pretty gripping, though, is the artistic direction from Walter Geovani, who seems quite at ease in the barbaric domain of Red Sonja. He draws the armour, the weapons, the barbarians and the action quite well, making it mesh together in harmony in accordance to the setting. What he does quite well, though, is the posturing, something that is very common in comics. Sometimes, artists draws the characters in ways that allow the art to speak the emotions and intents without the use of words, yet do so in a way that seems almost caricatured, as if they were drawing action figures instead of humans beings. Geovani understand this, as he makes the movements and poses of most character minimal or at least feeling natural in the context in which they are.
As for the colorization, I have to say that Adriano Lucas is doing a wonderful job as well. Putting a heavy emphasis on the darker aspects of the world, the savage and violent attitude with the sombre colorization makes the reader catch on quite quickly about the tone of the book. It is not only done in dark colors, but it does enhance the visual effect when the lighter colors do come and it does work rather well with the dark humour Simone puts here and there in the story.
The Conclusion: While most of what we see is setup and an exploration of the character, leaving the story a bit on the side, this issue nonetheless present us with an interesting world and a character that is definitely more than what she seems. Great art, a good tone and some good action makes this book a winner and a great introduction to just who is Red Sonja.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière