Sunday, September 15, 2013

Issue Review: Red Sonja 3

Fevered and dying of plague, Red Sonja collapses in the snow and falls into a delirious state where she starts seeing visions of her past.  As a child of twelve, she hunts with her father and brothers, but when she finds the white stag they are after, she lets it go -- she is too gentle to kill it. Her father says she may never be a hunter.  But then they hear noises, and discover that their village is under attack.  Sonja watches from the sidelines as Ryshak the Grand and his followers burn her village and kill everyone she has ever known and loved, including her entire family.  One of Ryshak's men finds her and tries to rape her, but she stabs him in the heart and kills him.  Then she spends the rest of the day burying the dead of her village. At night, she stalks out into the woods with her bow and arrows, and one by one picks off Ryshak and his men and kills them.  After reaching this point in her fever-dream, Sonja awakens. She is barely able to stand. She sees wolves coming for her, and falls back to the snow, waiting for death.  But Ayla and Nias, her self-appointed "body-guards" from Corinthia, drive off the wolves... only to discover that Sonja is dead.

This is an outstanding issue and is by far the best story of the new Red Sonja series.  This re-telling of Sonja's origin is exciting, interesting, and heart-breaking.  The young Sonja is full of heart and tenderness at first, but we see that gentle nature ripped away by the villains who destroy her home.  Gail writes this scene with Sonja doing the narration, and her words are perfect.  When Sonja's older brother Arrick dies, Sonja says, "I never knew how much I loved him until I saw him fall."  This statement really cuts to the heart of death and loss. So many times we take our loved ones for granted until we no longer have them, and then it is too late.  As a reader, I really felt for Sonja when I read that line.  Later she describes her mother dying from the force of "an axe cleaving the kindest heart I have ever known."  These scenes are packed with emotional power, and Gail's words are exactly right in each and every panel.

Later, when Ryshak and his men are hunted by Sonja, Gail and artist Walter Geovani do an excellent job of pacing.  In just a few pages, we see Sonja hunt down and kill every last one of the bad guys, thus avenging her village and earning her the term "She-Devil."  The layouts in this part are excellent, and I particularly like the scene where little Sonja is hanging upside down from a tree limb to shoot one of the bad guys.  Although what has happened to Sonja is too recent, and too horrifying, for the reader to cheer at this scene, we can certainly derive a grim and terrible satisfaction from the well-deserved punishment the bad guys receive.

The only (minor) complaint I have with this entire issue is the final panel, where the girls shout that Red Sonja is dead.  Come on, now. This is a new series, and so far its sales are a hit for Dynamite.  This is really a false cliffhanger -- every reader knows that Sonja can't be dead, so it's not really very suspenseful.  However, that is really a minor issue.  The art by Geovani and story by Simone are otherwise absolutely fantastic, and make this one of the best Red Sonja stories I have ever read.  And that's saying something, since I very much liked the work of Oeming and Rubi on the last series.

My score: 10/10

No comments:

Post a Comment