Red Sonja #1
Written by Marguerite Bennett
Art by Aneke
Colors by Jorge Sutil
Letters by Erica Shutlz
Review by Shane Boyar
Just as this issue of Red Sonja is a story of the ascension of a new king of Hyrkania, fans of the swashbuckling She-Devil are themselves faced with a change of those in the seat of power. Back in July of 2013, fan favorite writer Gail Simone teamed up with artist Walter Geovani to breathe life into the Red Sonja series, which for a long time was thought of with ridicule, if thought of at all. Though they faced their fair share of drama over the famed outfit of the titular heroine, Simone & Geovani did what few thought was possible and made Red Sonja a fan favorite series. They had found the warm, beating heart within the cold, chainmail-clad exterior, Hyrkania entered a golden age, and Dynamite had its new flagship series.
Now, however, the glorious reign of Simone & Geovani has come to an end, and though terrifying as it is to think to carry on without them, the choice to pass the pen to rising star Marguerite Bennett is so perfect it almost seems obvious in retrospect.
Joined by relative newcomer Aneke, whose work can be seen in the Red Sonja tie-in series to Dynamite’s recent Legenderry event series, Bennett’s first issue writing the words of the fabled warrior is a strong start aside from a few minor hiccups.
Aneke’s artwork is a joy and a strong fit for the series. For those coming over from the last run the style isn’t a huge departure from Geovani’s work, but feels a little more fluid; Sonja’s face a little softer, the lines a little less severe. Jorge Sutil’s colors are lush and a wonderful complement. The splash page following the introduction is awesome. It feels like something right out of the Monster Manual.
Bennett has brought us back into the world of Red Sonja at the end of a king’s reign, and on his death bed he presents Sonja with the chance to take the throne. Queen Sonja has a nice ring to it. She ponders over what it would be like to rule. We see her surrounded by scantily clad servants and suitors. Proof positive that Bennett will carry on the tradition of a raunchy Sonja. She turns down the offer though, she knows that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The pacing of the comic breaks down a bit at this point as Sonja apparently has left the kingdom after making her decision only to return a year later to find everything is seemingly in a state of peace and harmony. But what kind of story would this be if everything was perfect? Sonja ponders over who she is if there are no brigands to defeat, no evil wizards to vanquish. What good is a She-Devil in a land of peace? Of course, not everything is as it seems. After a series of slightly confounding vignettes, Sonja crosses paths with a family fleeing peaceful Hyrkania in terror, pursued by a group of soldiers called The Black Talon. The family has refused to join the Hyrkanian army and so have been deemed traitors. It’s clear now that Hyrkania’s peace comes only at the cost of the citizens’ personal freedoms. It’s a topic that bears discussing in our modern society. Is safety and happiness worth the costs of living in police state. Though for Sonja there is no discussion. As the captain of The Black Talon calls to Sonja to join the soldiers in their pursuit of the so-called traitors, Red Sonja, the huntress, the protector of the weak and downtrodden, draws her sword and rises up against them.
Change can be scary, but we’re in good hands with Bennett and Aneke. If you’re already fan of Red Sonja, this will feel like coming home again, and if you haven’t ever dipped your toes into Sonja’s world of Sword & Sorcery this seems like a wonderful place to do so.