If not, why not? It is fucking AWESOME.
As everyone knows, Gail Simone took over the title and rebooted it – she was one of Dynamite’s hottest ever acquisitions and she took the comic to new heights of popularity and critical acclaim. Before Gail, humour had been hard to come by in Red Sonja stories but she totally changed the tone of the series.
With that said, I couldn’t stand Gail’s run personally because she changed so much about the character. She removed the vow entirely (and openly poked fun at it in one issue) – not just the ‘best her to bed her’ element but the whole path of vengeance and involvement of the Blood Goddess Scathach. Yes, removing all the rape references is no bad thing but it wouldn’t take a brain surgeon to rework the vow, such that Sonja’s granted inhuman abilities and skill in exchange for servitude to Scathach.
Gail’s Sonja was much more pedestrian than the Sonja before her - a highly skilled huntress, sure, but she was no longer the greatest swordsman around. She was formidable in battle because she was ANGRY … a calm swordsman totally embarrassed her in a duel and she only beat him when she dropped her sword and lost her temper. Gail also went to the other extreme, changing Sonja from a virtual virgin to a character who would fuck anything that moved – she was a total slave to her own lust and rage, constantly drunk out of her gourd … basically, she was a caricature of the classic She-Devil.
The comic did great business but as far as I was concerned, as a Red Sonja comic, it sucked.
Then last year, we got another reboot by Marguerite Bennett. The big gimmick about this one was that Sonja’s look was changing substantially, losing the chainmail bikini for a fur hood, cape and tunic … still not the most practical outfit for pitched battle but a huge change from the classic look. I didn’t pay too much attention to this one after the first ish but it only lasted for six issues and just kinda petered out. The writing was OK but nothing special, and the art was bland and mediocre.
Then I heard late last year that the series was being relaunched YET AGAIN and by another female writer … this time, ex-‘Poison Ivy’ scribe Amy Chu, who’d been suggested by Simone. On pencils was Spaniard Carlos Gomez, who’d done a few Marvel bits here and there but was more closely associated with Dynamite.
#0 came out in December for 25 cents or free of charge on Comixology. It wasn’t earth-shatteringly good but it showed real promise, with lovely artwork from Gomez. The bikini was back and briefer than it’s been under most artists. In total contrast to Bennett’s run, there were suddenly loads of gratuitous poses .. .the very first panel, which has been reproduced on the opening of every issue since, has Sonja dashing up a staircase towards Kulan Gath, with most of her naked arse on display. However, Gomez has a really cool style that hasn’t been used on Sonja for a long time, a blend of cartoony and realistic that really works. The closest artist to his style for me is Humberto Ramos but Gomez is MUCH better, with far better background work, facial expressions and movement. The story itself had a brief battle between Sonja and a big, nasty monster, followed by several pages of her dashing through a tunnel, and then a BIG REVEAL at the end.
The BIG REVEAL?
Sonja had been transported to modern-day New York City.
Yes, this has been done before twice in Sonja team-ups with Spider-Man but those stories never showed Sonja interacting with normal people, just fighting magicians and superhumans. The early issues of this series are all about Sonja finding herself in a totally strange environment, where she doesn’t understand the language, where her opponents have firearms, and she marvels at running water, let along modern technology.
And it is a fucking BLAST
The art continues to impress … Gomez is as good at drawing cityscapes as desolate Hyborian wastelands. He stills throws in butt-shots whenever he has a chance but he has at least given Sonja a leather jacket to help against the sudden snows that she brought with her from Hyboria.
Amy’s introduced a cool new sidekick for Sonja in young cop Max and there are more supporting cast members to come. Kulan Gath is the big bad but here is a business mogul with eyes and cronies everywhere.
#1 had Sonja facing off with the cops, getting shot in the shoulder, taken down and bundled off to a mental hospital on Gath’s orders. There, Gath’s minions made an attempt on her life but she busted loose and fled to Central Park, grabbing that jacket on the way.
#2 is out next week; I’ve seen most of the pages and it is absolutely fucking incredible. In contrast to Gail Simone’s butt monkey Sonja, here Amy’s giving us a She-Devil who relishes being in a totally alien land and acclimatises to it in record time. Chu’s admitted to not being much of a Sonja fan, outside of the Simone run, but she’s gone back to the classic version of the character. That’s not to say her stories aren’t funny … actually, #2 is the funniest ‘Red Sonja’ story I’ve ever read. There’s none of Simone’s self-referential, knowing humour, it’s more organic. Max, who speaks basic Hyrkanian, calls Sonja ‘naked lady’. There’s a great sequence where, deprived of her sword, Sonja has to catch a duck in Central Park with a wooden spear for her dinner and a guy out walking his dog spots her. Sonja keeps a low profile but in no time, attracts attention to herself in a bar with her unique abilities and goes viral on social media, alerting Gath to her presence – there are pics of the bar patrons posing for selfies with a nonplussed She-Devil.
The action also continues to be kinetic. After the cool escape scene in #1, there’s an even cooler bar scrap in #2 with some outstanding work from Gomez. Chu’s Sonja is also a real force to be reckoned with. On arriving at the bar and necking a beer, she proceeds to crush a load of big guys at arm wrestling (after having been shot in the shoulder in the previous issue, mind). The bar scrap isn’t a few panels of punches and kicks, oh no. Sonja tosses a fucking TABLE one-handed right across the bar into a giant thug with zero effort and in the next panel, slams his head together with that of another huge guy. Amy’s Sonja is a powerhouse … she’s said in a writer’s commentary that if Sonja were healthy, it would take more than three big guys to take her down.
So, yeah, this comic gets my highest recommendation. It’s due to go on for another 3 issues after next week’s but I’m hoping Chu and Gomez stick around after that. Apart from moans about the cheesecake art and the setting, the run’s been getting pretty damn good reviews so far. Chu seems to really love writing Sonja and it’d be interesting to see what she could do with her in a more traditional setting.
I’m getting the comics via Comixology … does anyone know how to post scans from there or is it proof against that kind of jiggery-pokery? If there’s a way to do so, I’ll happily post a few scans here.