Sorrow spreads throughout the land of Hyrkania. The good king lies at Death’s Door and all manner of miracle and magic can do nothing to preserve him. Once the final cure fails, he charges Red Sonja – greatest of adventurers, who slew the dread beast whose heart it was said might save his life – with one more quest. He asks her to take his throne!
It is a charge that Sonja refuses, saying she is not meant to wear a crown. She is queen of her own destiny and nothing more. Yet her respect for the king is such that she pledges to watch over his people and defend them… but only as a warrior, not a ruler.
A year passes and a new king sits upon the throne of Hyrkania. And all is well within the realm. Indeed, things are better than they have ever been! The new king has secured the borders, expanded the army and even started a series of educational initiatives that will see scholars educating all of Hyrkania’s children, free of charge!
It is a golden age for commoner and noble alike. But for one such as Sonja whose stock and trade depends upon a certain degree of strife and unrest, the future appears uncertain. With more soldiers and guards protecting the great cities and major roads, there is little work for an honest sell-sword.
Yet things are not always what they appear. This is a lesson Sonja knows all too well. And Hyrkania may yet have need of Her favorite daughter…
Marguerite Bennett writes Sonja with a voice that is unique yet will be pleasantly familiar to those who enjoyed Gail Simone’s run on Red Sonja. Bennett’s Sonja is a carouser, a fighter and something of a philosopher. There is also a fair bit of maudlin humor – both as Sonja ponders her fate in a nation that needs no heroes and in the flashbacks, which affirm that Sonja is bisexual and has no goddess-sworn oaths of chastity and sobriety.
Artist Aneke’s work here invites comparison to Babs Tarr’s recent work on Batgirl. This is not because of any precise similarity in style but a similarity of execution. Aneke’s Sonja feels younger than usual, filled with a manic spark that just crackles on the page. The bright colors utilized by Jorge Sutil further enhance the hopeful high-energy feeling that dominates most of the story, though things are subtly shadowier in the early scenes as the good king lies dying.
I have only one complaint about this issue. A reference is made to the nation of Khitai lying to the west of Hyrkania and Turan being in the east. As any Robert E. Howard scholar can tell you, it is, in fact, the other way around. Thankfully, Aneke drew the maps showing the lands around Hyrkania properly, so one can only assume this was an editing mistake, a clever in-joke for the long-time fans or that the good king is going delirious and can no longer tell west from east!
This does nothing, however, to excuse the references to Cimmerian Beer. It is well known that Cimmerians “drank aught but water” – a fact revealed in the very first Conan story! Yet for all this new Red Sonja series does right, this is a petty complaint. As petty as those complaints regarding the disappearance of Sonja’s infamous chainmail bikini and her oath of chastity being null and void.
So rest easy, Red Sonja fans. The She-Devil’s garb may have changed, but the foul-mouthed, ginger-haired Curse of Hyrkania is alive and well. Long may her legends be told!