Whatever else may be said about Red Sonja #2 it certainly is not dull. Surprising? Yes, there are more than a few things in this issue that are completely unexpected which will raise the interest of long-time Red Sonja fans. Shocking? Yes, there are several things that will astonish the reader to a degree that may well inspire offense. But this issue is not dull!
The last issue saw Sonja taking command of an army of peasants whose pictures would be in the dictionary next to the word ‘rag-tag’ if Hyboria had dictionaries. Sonja did this as a favor to King Dimath – the only lord to whom Sonja will show respect and then only because he was responsible for freeing Sonja and one other survivor from a miserable existence as gladiators in a filthy gulag. Little did Sonja know that the general of the army of monsters moving to destroy King Dimath’s city is Dark Annisia – the only other warrior to survive the Zamoran arenas and Sonja’s sister in slavery!
The greater portion of Red Sonja #2 is focused upon the battle between Annisia and Sonja. It is as much a battle of wills as it is a clash of steel on steel. There is also a brief flashback, showing the horrors the two women experienced in the Zamoran slave pits as they were forced to fight their fellow prisoners to the death on a nightly basis.
To say more about the action of this issue would reveal all. Suffice it to say, Gail Simone has given Sonja a depth of character she has rarely received in the past. The issue also has a bit of Simone’s trademark humor, though the general tone of the story is quite serious and the ending of the issue a truly stunning moment that will have major repercussions for a long time to come.
Robert E. Howard purists will likely take issue with certain aspects of Simone’s story. While Howard did describe ape-like monsters more like men then beasts in two of his Conan stories, there is some feeling that an army of beast-men is at odds with Howard’s vision. Yet such things could be justified through the well-established connection between Howard’s writing and the works of H.P. Lovecraft, who once said Howard’s Hyboria was the pre-history of his own Earth. Given that, an army of sea-monsters reminiscent of the Deep Ones from Shadows of Innsmouth does not seem so outlandish. Besides, given Red Sonja’s origins as a pastiche heroine, it seems unlikely any purist Howard scholar would read her comics in the first place.
Artist Walter Geovani continues to impress with his artwork. Most artists seem to have trouble depicting Sonja as being attractive and powerful at the same time but Geovani suffers no such handicap. His Sonja is a beauty but it is the toned beauty of a female athlete – not a lingerie model who just happens to be holding a sword! Yet Geovani is more than just a penciller of pretty faces – he’s also a skilled choreographer, who lays out the action of the issue in a fashion that flows easily from panel to panel.
If you’ve never read a Red Sonja comic before, now is the time to correct that mistake. Gail Simone and Walter Geovani have made The She-Devil With A Sword a force to be reckoned with once again and crafted the perfect starting point for new readers. Fans of Simone’s work on Secret Six would be particularly well-advised to give this series a shot, as it features a similar dark humor mixed in with its action.