So far in Marguerite Bennett’s Red Sonja run, the old king of Hyrkania died, taken over by a younger, vain king. This new king is trying to turn Hyrkania into a paradise, but by kicking out any foreigners and brainwashing his citizens into complete obedience. When Red Sonja openly defied him, he hired a trio of assassins who look like Sonja to kill and replace her. With the real Sonja on the run, the once grand nation is turning into a false utopia. That’s where this issue begins.
This comic is split between two major scenes. The first takes place in Hyrkania’s capital, with King Savas conspiring with a playwright and the assassins to alter the legend of Red Sonja in favour of his own rule. It’s a scene that later plays out on stage, exploring the kind of propaganda you’d see in dictatorships. These scenes are fun, but they feel like they could have more impact if they spent more time showing the story rather than a full page of people reacting to it. There’s nothing overly exciting about it but there’s nothing particularly wrong with it either. The other half of the story is Red Sonja trying to capture a giant, flaming bird. It’s a great action scene that includes an avalanche, hunting tactics and a really epic ending. Overall this is a fun comic that also sets up the next issue very well.
The art by Aneke and Diego Galindo is good. I’m not sure when one artist’s work begins and the other ends, so I’ll describe the package as a whole. The fight scene between Red Sonja and the fire bird is complete with large mountain backgrounds. The balance between snow, rock and small trees is great, with some of the trees being burned to a crisp. The bird looks impressive and scary all at once, with wings that turn into flames at the tip and the look of fury in its eyes. The rest of the comic has some great backgrounds, whether it’s the stage building complete with banners and an interior that looks like a Shakespearian playhouse, with a great variety of patrons in the audience. The final page is a glorious image of Sonja, the bird and a bunch of rebels ready to fight. Jorge Sutil’s colouring is also great. When the fire bird first shows itself, even the snow glows a bit orange, making for a very fiery looking sequence. The rest of the comic is well varied in colour.
I wouldn’t call this story arc as deep as some of Gail Simone’s Red Sonja stories, but it’s a great follow up. By telling the story of a king who’s trying to taint Red Sonja’s image, it’s a good exploration of what Red Sonja means to the people she protects. If you’re looking for a somewhat light-hearted barbarian story, this is definitely worth checking out.