Gail Simone makes her Dynamite Comics debut with this first issue of a brand new Red Sonja series, with art by Walter Geovani. The story begins with a king named Dimath invading a city of the Zamoran lands. Dimath has won victory, and he investigates the deepest dungeon. Two prisoners are left out of eighty, in terrible conditions. One of them is Red Sonja. The other is called Dark Annisia. The King orders them cleaned up and freed.
We then flash forward to a few seasons later. Red Sonja is asleep in camp, and three extremely stupid criminals decide to try and rob her. Before she does anything, two young girls with bows and arrows try and save her, only to be captured by the criminals. Sonja then jumps up and kills two of the criminals, leaving the third, who did not lift his hand against the girls, to die of a strange sickness.
The girls, meanwhile, have been sent from Dimath to beg aid. Sonja returns to his city-state in Corinthia, where she learns that his town is beset by a plague, along with other city-states. Each city-state with the plague has been sacked by the Zamorans, and wiped out. Dimath's city-state is next. He asks Sonja to train his remaining citizens to defend themselves. She gets four days to train them, before the massive Zamoran army shows up, and turns out to be led by none other than Sonja's former cell-mate, Dark Annisia.
This inaugural issue by Gail Simone was entertaining and well-written. Simone clearly understands characterization, and does an excellent job of establishing not just Sonja, but a number of other interesting characters, right from the get-go. The two hunter girls who try to save her -- Nias and Ayla -- are endearing, and I hope we will see more of them in future issues. King Dimath, who started out seeming rather cold and steely, turns out to be both kind and caring toward his people. And Sonja herself is both commanding and, occasionally, funny. We see all the classic ingredients of Sonja's character here: her bravery; her warrior's skill; her indomitable will; her protectiveness toward the innocent; and her vengeful nature. It's all here in the first issue, and one can easily jump from the wonderful early arcs of the previous series by Oeming and Rubi, into this one, without missing a beat. Gail deftly gives us a Sonja who is both fresh and traditional - not an easy challenge.
The art by Geovani is good, and the heavy, moody inks help to set the tone of the world. The layouts are interesting, and a few pages are designed quite originally, but Geovani manages to do this without being distracting. It's not as good as Rubi's work, but it was certainly enjoyable.
Overall rating: 9/10