When it was announced that Gail Simone would be taking over the writing chores for Red Sonja, the reading public breathed a sigh of relief. It was not that the previous series was terrible, it was not, but it was not great either. The best word to describe it was mediocre. There were arcs in that series that were interesting and some that were thrilling but many did not even come close to being so and more often than not, the series was generally ruled by mediocrity. Not a great formula for one of the best characters in your stable.
So Dynamite decides that they are going to start putting some top-tier talent on their books and that is where Gail Simone comes in. In the forward to this volume, Simone espouses how much she has always loved Red Sonja, after coming to the character late in her younger years, and when she was given the chance to write one of her favourite heroines, there was but one conclusion that could be reached. In the end, it not only worked out for her, and not only for Dynamite, but for us, the reading audience as well.
In this volume, the previous series is essentially discarded without actually saying so and begins with a fresh start right out of the gate. Here, we get a Sonja that is harder, meaner, and deadlier and even a little more barbarous than we are used to seeing. And it is refreshing as most writers tend to forget just exactly what kind of land, what kind of setting, she is living in. She truly is a devil with a sword and is referred to as such numerous times throughout the book. This is the Red Sonja we have been waiting for – the female counterpoint to Conan as she was meant to be. Life has forged her as hard as the steel she bears and we are witness to some of it, from her childhood to her time in the pit, battling for her life at almost all stages. While the previous iteration of the title had character development, what there was, was very little whereas in this current book, it is jam packed.
During this first arc, we find Sonja going up against someone from her past she had not seen in some time. At the behest of a king, who is one of the few men she has ever respected, she is called upon to join him and his people to aid them in a battle that they will most surely lose. It is possible that with her help they might overcome and though it seems hopeless, she agrees. When it comes, it is a conflict that does not sit well with her as she used to call this foe her friend, but as with all things, Sonja will do what she must to overcome, and whether friend or foe, it does not matter. Thus are we introduced to Dark Annisia, Sonja’s sister by all accounts, even if not by blood, and she will not rest until she takes Sonja down.
A fresh start is exactly what Red Sonja needed and it shows on all fronts. From the new characters to the new perspective, everything seems bold and enthusiastic. The one holdover from the previous series is current artist Walter Geovani who has just gotten better with time. His Sonja is beautiful, yet lethal and she shows it in every panel. Dark Annisia is the same under his pencil and when they fight, it is like two competing storms raging against the other. One minor complaint are the creatures he draws as they look like Peter Jackson rejects from the Lord of the Rings films, but other than that, Geovani is a fantastic artist and Dynamite would do well to sign him up for a long haul on the book.
Gail Simone has more than proven her ability to write strong, female heroes, and frankly, pretty much anything. With this book, it seems as if she was saving some unknown reservoir of greatness to unleash upon Red Sonja had she ever been given the chance to write her. How fortuitous for us, that very opportunity had presented itself to her. It has recently been announced that she has extended her run on the book and that news will surely be welcomed by all. From mediocrity to first-rate, from sell-sword to hell-sword, Red Sonja is a book not to be missed.