by Gail Simone (Writer), Walter Geovani (Artist), Adriano Lucas (Colorist)
The Story: Becoming delirious thanks to the plague, Red Sonja remembers her childhood and how she lost her family.
The Review: Big writers bring their readers with them. When an author has accomplished some very well-received work on a title, usually a popular one, they generally receive a certain following. There are reasons why creators like Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder, Jonathan Hickman and the such always seems to receive high gigs and create their own stuff all the while, as they have an audience that are fully willing to try whatever they will receive from these giants of the industry.
Sometimes, it can lead to people trying new stuff that they perhaps weren’t willing to even touch before said creator decided to write said concept, team or character to begin with. I have no shame in saying that I began to read this title solely because of Gail Simone, who kept me highly entertained with titles like Secret Six and Birds of Prey (the first volume). While I was not a newcomer to the sword and sorcery genre, I had close to no actual desire to read any Red Sonja comics before she even announced that she’d be writing the title from now on. Willing to try the comic, it was with a bit of scepticism that I went along, only to be fairly impressed by what I had read. However, consistency in quality needs to be upheld if the book has to survive beyond the mere mention of Gail Simone’s name. Does this issue provide the quality the first two issues had?
In many ways, this issue does give the readers a lot of good moments, as Simone takes a good chunk of the issue in telling parts of the origins of the character. After all, no strong character actually begins its life with a sword in hand, as the story of Sonjita is told as the character continues to be affected by the plague. While it is not exactly the most original origin for a character to have, to have her family being slaughtered by barbarians, Simone do try to make the most of it as she adapts and deepens some of the lousiest part. It does not lessen the lack of innovation, yet it is competently told nonetheless.
What is perhaps much more competent is how Simone truly capture the voice of Red Sonja, showing her to be an honourable warrior woman with a code of her own, along with some traditions that goes back to her own childhood. It is shown in this issue that even though she is a savage fighter capable of rending people with her sword easily, she is not devoid of actual emotions, which makes her a bit more enjoyable than being just a silly barbarian that solely fights and drinks. Some of the moments with the characters may be dealt a bit with melodrama, yet the situation the character is in allows for the gravitas and the emotions to add to the story without it being superfluous or unwelcome.
What should never be done in a throwaway manner in those kind of books is the action, as the sword and sorcery genre thrives on the concept of brutal warriors going face to face. Thankfully, Simone does not shy away from the concept, yet never goes too far in it either, depicting the violence as it is, not showing it as being glorious or funny. The way she deals with violence, especially in the depiction of Red Sonja’s origin, is that it is traumatic, ugly and just bloody. While the vision of Red Sonja getting revenge is kind of satisfying for the character, what she does to the barbarians is never shown as being righteous or silly, but just bloody and messy. This is a savage world and Gail Simone reminds the readers about that very aptly in those pages.
Much of the violence is depicted with great effect by Walter Geovani, who does not shy away from the less-than-clean imagery found in this issue. While he portray violence in a most apt manner, he also has quite a talent to allow the narrative flow to be efficacious as his panelling is solidly fluid and imaginative as he plays with the pages composition in multiple areas. Doing so, the focus on a lot of panels is given to the characters reaction, which he does quite well as the faces he draws are expressive and detailed, yet not so that it becomes the sole point of focus on every pages. His backgrounds, when he actually have the necessary space to draw them, are also quite good, with him showing enough details that it allows the vibe of the scene to accentuate the effect of the script. Over all, Geovani is doing a good job here.
Where the book shine a bit less would be the colorization, which is done by Adriano Lucas. It is not bad by any mean, as the lighting and some of the environment are especially nice-looking, yet there is a severe lack of diversity in most pages, as brown, white, grey and perhaps a touch of red are the primary colors the readers get to see in a good number of pages. While there are some pages that do try to give some different colors, those used there are different, yet comes with the same problem as it never really pops up. It does its job at depicting a cruel world and a tale that is supposed to be rather sad and brutal, yet it diminishes the effect of the art a bit in result.
The Conclusion: While the origin of Sonja isn’t the most original one created, it is still told in a brutal and competent way, thanks to a focus on Red Sonja and her philosophy, the brutal but honest description of violence and the strong work by Walter Geovani.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière