Having just survived a duel with Death (though perhaps only inside her own dreams), Sonja the Red is ready for a good long rest. A good long rest with some good strong booze. And some boisterous and lively lovers, if all goes according to plan!
Alas, there is no rest for the wicked and Sonja’s debauchery is ended almost as soon as it is begun. Because as much as Sonja loves a good debauch, she loves substantial payments of gold even more. Even if earning said gold requires dealing with a group of religious fanatics with a treasure in need of protection.
Astonishingly, the treasure Sonja’s employers wish her to protect is neither gold nor jewels but paper – a tower full of books and scrolls and writings! Sonja has little use for such things or the holy women’s insistence that their home holds the means to empower and enlighten other women like themselves. Or that the local empress has declared their library anathema, desiring that no one should get ideas of becoming something better than the state into which they are born.
It is the duty of a good critic to remain neutral. And I think, on the whole, I manage that duty in most of my writing. I even avoid using the word “I” unless I deliberately choose to write in the first person, as I do now. But I fear impartiality is impossible for me in regard to Red Sonja #17.
It is not because I am one of the greatest Gail Simone fanboys to plague the Internet and love her revamp of The She-Devil of Hyrkania. Nor is it because I am a great fan of the artwork of Walter Geovani and consider him the finest artist to work on Red Sonja in recent memory.
No. It is for much more personal reasons than that.
Because when I am not writing reviews for various publications, I am a librarian. And the story of Red Sonja #17 is far more than your standard barbaric fare. It is a story about the power and importance of stories. And self-empowerment. And libraries. And hope. And it is one of the finest stories on those subjects I have ever read.
I grant that may sound somewhat hyperbolic. But I am passionate about this subject. As is everyone who thinks of Alexandria and sheds a tear for all that was lost there. For the spiritual descendants of the library burners are still with us. And while they rarely arm themselves with torches now, they are still eager to shut down the libraries and ban certain books for one reason or another. The American Library Association and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund websites are filled with tales of these people – less action packed than the tale of Sonja and her librarian nuns, but no less important.
As such, I speak to you today not as a critic. Nor as a fan. But as a proselytizer. Heed the lessons this book has to offer. And read on, lest you never read again!