Sunday, January 12, 2014

Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani

Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues
Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Walter Geovani
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Pages: 186
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
MSRP: $19.99
Rating: 5 Stars

Let me say right off that I am not a huge reader of comics. I love good storytelling in any genre and I love good comic books. Most of the time I don’t find a lot to keep me interested these days. I am a sucker for classic sword and sorcery books and comics. So when I saw this new series from Dynamite starring everyone’s favorite redhead with a sword I was excited. Gail Simone has written some great stuff over the years and this volume is no exception.

This is classic Red Sonja material. It is also something new and fresh. Sonja’s story has been updated for this new run. Of course the old themes and images are there. What would a Robert Howard character be without seeing her family butchered and then taking revenge. What’s nice in this arc is that Simone takes time to give us brief flashbacks of Sonja’s past. She makes these interesting. The flashbacks are long enough to give us a scene, but short enough that they don’t slow down the narrative. 

In the story a king who once saved Sonja from a horrible fate is in trouble. Sonja comes to the rescue. We meet a lot of new characters. The sisters Ayla and Nias are very interesting. The character of Dark Annisia is well written. It’s great that our She Devil has an opponent who is equally strong and a woman.

Most important is the character of Sonja herself. Simone brings a lot of humanity to the character. One of the flashback scenes is particularly moving. We see Sonja as a young woman. Her family and village is wiped out in front of her. After escaping from one of the raiders she then buries the dead in her village. We learn that among her people the dead are never left unburied. This is where Simone really hooked my interest in the depth of the character. Among ancient cultures such customs were sacred and binding. The part about a young Sonja digging graves until her hands bled made the story seem so real. I don't want to give away too much. There are some great plot twists in this arc and saying too much will spoil some of the surprises.

Sonja is a difficult character to write well. After all, this is a woman who is supposed to be this amazing warrior. She is an expert with every weapon and every form or fighting. She is a strategist and an unstoppable killer. She manages to do all of this while wearing a bikini suit of armor. The question is how does one take this character seriously, yet keeping the classic look. Simone manages this with great skill.

The artwork by Walter Geovani is wonderful. It’s not over the top, but it is not subdued. He captures the perfect look for Sonja and the other characters. He work captures the mood and feel of Simone’s writing. These two make a perfect duo for sword and sorcery comics. There is action and fun, but there is also an emotional depth that is not normally found in fantasy comics. I plan to come back for more and recommend that you do too.

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