Gail Simone’s Red Sonja series continues to impress me. While she’s been found by her bodyguards, the title character is nearing death from the plague and the cold. She’s going blind, and yet her personality is still intact. Even though she’s losing hope, she’s still determined to help the people who treat her well. It’s Sonja’s strength of character that makes her compelling.
If the last issue explored her vulnerabilities and past, this issue explores Sonja’s sheer determination. The flashback shows how even as a gladiator slave, she refused to not have an identity. Even as she was sent in the pits to die, she proudly announced her name after killing the men everyone thought she’d have no chance against. And in the present day fight scene, she takes on a bunch of … fish beasts? Anyway, she takes them on even while blinded and must rely solely on instinct, reflexes and her other senses. It’s a great fight scene too.
The flashback also ties into the story’s villain – a former co-slave, Annisia, who has been driven mad with guilt. She’s quarantining and starving a village for having the plague, even though they might not have it. Despite the fairly dark story there’s still room for humour, mostly involving booze or body odor.
The art is very good as well. There’s a lot of character detail on pretty much everyone. After Annisia kills an escapee from the quarantined city, there are blood stains on her cape. Every panel with Sonja in the wilderness shows individual hairs on her fur coat. The designs on the fish beasts are often impressive, whether it’s the beast with octopus tentacles around his neck or the several guys with giant eyes and fins on their heads. Hammerhead boy even has body armor on his hammer head. And yet somehow none of them look as intimidating as sick Red Sonja with a blindfold. There’s also a lot of environmental detail and there’s plenty of colour, even in the snowy white wilderness.
I first gave this book a shot because of how much I’ve been enjoying Simone’s Batgirl series. Apart from Simone though, this series had a lot going against it for my tastes. Sonja’s skimpy battle armor kind of turns me off with its impracticality, and I’ve never really enjoyed barbarian stories that much. So far though, I’ve been enjoying this series thoroughly. Simply put if you do like these kinds of stories, you should definitely give Simone’s Red Sonja a chance.