I wasn’t a fan of Red Sonja before the recent reboot. I’m not usually a fan of barbarian stories in general. Gail Simone’s masterful writing changed that in six issues with surprisingly deep characterization and great storytelling. But this series isn’t only written by Simone, it’s an anthology book written and drawn by the industry’s most prominent female creators. Sounds like the recipe for a marvelous mini-series.
The first two issues were almost perfect, with stories that fit together smoothly. As entertaining as this issue is, the stories don’t fit together quite as well. The premise is that a group is hunting the red head, and on the way they hear stories of their target. These stories are often from the perspective of the teller, and often clash with what actually happened. In between each story is a brief connecting story by Simone herself. They give the series a sense of pace, and end this issue with a moment of pure awesome.
The first story is written by Leah Moore, Alan Moore’s daughter. It tells of Sonja working with a mercenary to kill a powerful necromancer. It’s a great example of how pride can skew one’s perspective and cloud your ability to see your own mistakes. The art gives an extra creepiness factor, making this the standout story for this issue.
The second story, by Nicola Scott, is just funny. Without spoiling the joke, let’s just say it involves Sonja oblivious to her ruining of someone’s lifelong plans. It doesn’t feel as though it needs six pages, but it’s fun. The cute art style fits it perfectly.
Rhianna Pratchett’s story is solid enough, as it’s the tale of where Red Sonja first received her skimpy armor. To an extent it makes sense of why Sonja doesn’t protect her entire body, and it does ease my annoyance to that a little. There’s also one flashback panel of the storyteller’s history that’s simply hilarious. This story’s problem lies in who tells the story. The teller is a woman among the hunters who happens to admire Sonja. Maybe she’ll turn on them by the end, but it’s very questionable that not only is an admirer of the target travelling with people who want little more than to kill Sonja, but that she openly admits this.
While this issue’s stories don’t mesh together quite as well, they’re all still worth reading on their own. It’s still a worthy celebration of the character’s 40th anniversary. It’s also a good issue to read if you’ve never read a Red Sonja book before, as it explores an important part of her backstory while showing how fun of a character she is. If you enjoy stories of mercenaries and barbarians in a setting resembling the dark ages, check this series out.
Also, I recently read Leah Moore’s graphic novel adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I must say it’s brilliantly done. Of all the retellings and adaptations I’ve read over the past year, including film, TV specials and unofficial sequels, it is the best. It’s a relatively thick read for a graphic novel, but it’s not only a perfectly faithful adaptation, but the painted artwork perfectly matches the original’s tone and atmosphere. And that’s not to say every adaptation has to be faithful – Christopher Lee’s movies are anything but, yet they’re still very enjoyable.