Thursday, November 21, 2013

Issue Review: Red Sonja 5

Red Sonja and her two "body guards," the teenage girls Ayla and Nias, attack one of the watch posts set by Dark Annisia and defeat them.  Sonja is still weak from the plague, and must continue to take the medicine concocted by King Dimath's son. After she rests, they continue toward Patra, where Tiath (Dimath's son) awaits them.  On the way, they find a lonely unmarked grave where Dimath rests -- unmarked to protect it from Annisia as well as grave robbers. Sonja flashes back to the time when Dimath freed her from the Zamorans who had captured her and Annisia, and remembers pledging loyalty to him for his kindness.  Meanwhile, Annisia continues to be haunted by ghosts of the many whom she and Sonja killed in the arena. Her soldiers report that Sonja has come back, and she orders them to burn Patra to the ground.  Back in the village square, Tinath uses leeches to draw the plague out of Sonja, and once she recovers, gives her armor and weapons.  Sonja then challenges Annisia to meet her in the Zamoran arena, and the two fight. However, Annisia hears noise around them, and suddenly they see King Bazrat of Zamora and his men, ready to watch them fight to the death.

This is another strong story by Gail Simone, continuing the Queen of Plagues saga.  Sonja begins to recover some of her old swagger and sword prowess, and she sets her sights on ending the reign of Dark Annisia. Gail also reveals a little bit more about Sonja's back-story and particularly the relationship between her and Annisia.

Through flashbacks, we see why Annisia and Sonja are at odds: when King Dimath defeated Bazrat and the Zamorans, and freed the last two prisoners (Annisia and Sonja), the two reacted very differently. Annisia immediately turned away, wanting to leave Zamora and Dimath behind, but Sonja, grateful for the honorable treatment he gave to them, knelt before him and swore an oath of loyalty.  This made Annisia angry, as she did not wish either of them to serve yet another king.

Annisia also continues to be haunted by the spirits of those she killed.  Whether these are real spirits who have some sort of hold on her, or merely psychotic hallucinations that are manifested out of Annisia's guilt, is not yet clear.  No one but Annisia seems able to see them, however, so up to this point I'm betting on "psychotic hallucinations."

The supporting characters in this story continue to be interesting. Ayla and Nias are quite fun and lighten the mood a little bit. One of my favorite moments in the issue is when the girls say that, while Sonja recovers, they will be the generals who lead their people, one of the women listening says, "We're doomed."  I love the two girls and I hope Gail keeps them with Sonja for the long haul. They add a lot to the story, and are both extremely likable characters.

The ending of this issue was definitely a surprise.  I had thought that Bazrat was dead, although I realize now that his fate was never actually shown.  I had assumed Dimath took care of him and the Zamoran forces completely, but clearly they have not. Bazrat is not alone in the seats of the arena -- a bunch of his soldiers are also present.  This can only mean trouble for Sonja, but the question is: will Annisia and Sonja finally unite against a common foe, or will they continue to battle each other.

The art by Walter Geovani remains good.  His layouts are sometimes unconventional but not so much as to be distracting.  He does a good job with action sequences.  He uses splash pages wisely -- there are only two full-page spreads in the entire issue, and both are timed to provide maximum impact and to serve the story.  The sign of good art is that, the first time through, you don't notice it, because it fits the written words exactly, and Geovani does this quite well. He also does a good job with facial expressions.

Overall, this was another strong outing by Gail and Walter, and Sonja is definitely in good hands with this new creative team.  The story is well paced. The art fits the story.  The fantasy setting is immersive and believable. This series is well worth a read.

My score: 8/10

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