With the final issue of this mini-series out, the 40th anniversary celebration of Red Sonja comes to a close. As with the other four issues, its head writer is Gail Simone, yet each one has two quick stories written by some of the industry’s best women writers. And also with every past issue, this one was very good. In terms of the three stories fitting together, this is actually the best of them, although I still feel that issue 4 was the best overall. As with my other reviews of this miniseries, I’ll talk of each story separately.
The first story is written by Blair Butler, who to my knowledge has never written a comic before. She’s better known as a stand-up comedian and TV host. Her story is more about one of the grey hunters than it is about Red Sonja. It’s about what motivated him to become a mercenary (the violent death of his mother), how deadly he is with a sword and who he always remembers when he fights. It’s a good story that ends with his death … by the hands of Red Sonja. It’s fitting that his mercenary days both begin and end with a woman. The art is also good, with plenty of details and a nice sense of progression. Each page has three panels. The top is mostly a silhouette showing what’s going on, the second shows his face as he grows and reacts to his surroundings, and the third shows his perspective.
The second story is by Kelly Sue DeConnick, who I’m quickly becoming a fan of. This is quite possibly the most entertaining of the “legends” yet. The Gray Riders (who are hunting Sonja) come across a group of actors who first easily outwit the Riders’ attack dogs, and then put on a brief play to show their tale of Sonja. I won’t spoil which of the players portrays the chainmail bikini-wearing she devil, but it’s hilarious. The art is decent. It’s not terribly detailed, but it fits the mood well. There is one odd panel where one of the riders looks like he’s high though.
The mini-series of course ends with the conclusions of the Gray Riders’ hunt. Red Sonja confronts them at their campfire, reveals that she has allies, and the final page shows the beginning of the fight. It’s nice that Simone doesn’t quite show how the fight ends, but still makes it perfectly clear with the narration. It’s also nice to see some of the legend tellers as her allies in the fight. The art in the main story is also fantastic, with tons of environmental detail, lighting and shadows, and a great finishing splash page.
Red Sonja has had quite the storied past. She was first created by Marvel Comics, back when they did a lot more than just superheroes. She even had a crossover with Spider-Man at one point. Then they tried to make a movie (which also had Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Conan/like role) which bombed for good reason. They didn’t know what to do with her afterward, so Dynamite comics bought her. She’s almost always had some sort of ongoing series since. With the exception of one issue of Queen Sonja, I only started reading her once Gail Simone took over.
She’s existed for 40 years, and this was a worthy celebration of her anniversary. Whether you’re a new fan, a long-time fan or haven’t read of her but want to try a Red Sonja comic, this is an easy recommendation.