Sonja’s quest for the greatest artisans in their chosen craft continues. In issue 7, she tracked down the greatest cook in the land and rescued him from cannibals. In issue 8, she found the greatest animal trainer in the land, and it wasn’t exactly who she expected. In this issue she finds the greatest known courtesan, known as the princess of passion. Each issue has been at least fun, but this one brings an extra touch of sentimentality that propels Red Sonja 9 into greatness.
The dark nature in this issue is twofold. On the one hand, the prostitutes are robbed of half their profits by the local town guards and are tortured if they refuse. On the other hand, Sonja is collecting the artisans under the promise that the dying king who desires them for his last birthday party will free his slaves if Sonja succeeds. Robbed of her belongings, a dirty, tired and increasingly horny Sonja cannot buy her way to see the “princess of pillowing”, so she finds herself into her chamber the way she specializes in, with climbing castle walls and interrogating the guards. On the way, she makes a few comments that make her face palm herself.
The princess turns out to be a kindred spirit to Sonja, which is where this comic really sets itself apart from the last two issues. While her profession is vastly different, she cares much for those less fortunate and desires to start a guild to protect others in her line of work. During their journey, she reminds Sonja that she can be beautiful on the outside. It’s that extra touch, and the princess’s words after this issue’s final fight that makes this such a great comic.
The art by Walter Geovani is also very good. Matching the writing quite well, Sonja appears just as rough and tired as her narration suggests. While there isn’t much dirt on her (and why would there be in the rain), she looks tired and in need of a bath. The courtesan castle is filled with all sorts of fancy decorations, curtains, and um … servants with all sorts of different outfits. While Sonja and the princess are travelling, Sonja is pampered with makeup and a new dress. She looks cleaner and fit for a castle, yet is still recognizable and appropriately ferocious in a fight. The action is well-choreographed and easy to follow, although at one point if feels as though there’s a panel missing (it may be intentional though). The background detail falters on a few pages when compared to the castle scenes, which holds the art back just a little bit, but it’s forgivable considering how much detail is in the first half of the comic.
It’s pretty much official. While I’ve never really enjoyed barbarian stories, Gail Simone has turned me into a Red Sonja fan. The writing throughout this issue is consistently entertaining and often funny yet dramatic at the same time. This storyline likely won’t top the quality of Queen of Plagues (issues 1-6), but this issue proves it a worthy follow up. It also helps that this issue is easy to jump into, since everything you’ll need to know is explained. Anyone who enjoys barbarian stories should be reading this series, or should at least give it a chance.