The Legends of Red Sonja ReviewSeptember 7, 2014
“If you want to find her, you must look for her in the eyes of those she saved. You will find her nowhere else.”
Who is she? What is she? Why is she being hunted? Legends of Red Sonja explores the background of Sonja, where she comes from who she is and the adventures she has had, all the while she is on the run for her life from a band of hunters sent by royalty. Take a trip with Red Sonja in the past and present. So is Red Sonja worth picking up or is it a pass in the collection of Red Sonja #1-5 in a new graphic novel?
When Dynamite Entertainment revamped its long running Red Sonja monthly comic book series with Batgirl writer Gail Simone at the helm, the popular female creator was vocal about both her love of the red-headed barbarian and her excitement at working with an all-star, all-women roster of cover artists, including Nicola Scott, Collen Doran and Fiona Staples.
Dynamite is bringing the five part anthology series together into a spectacular graphic novel titled Legends of Red Sonja, bringing readers a loving take on the character for the fortieth anniversary of Red Sonja. The book features the talents of comic book creators Devin Grayson, Marjorie Liu, Blair Butler, Leah Moore and Kelly Sue DeConnick, and coming in from beyond the world of comics comes fantasy authors Tamora Pierce, Mercedes Lackey, Meljean Brooks, video game writer Rhianna Pratchet and horror writer Nancy Collins. This is quite the team put together to tell the tale of the red haired She-Devil with a Sword.
This story is based around a group of mercenaries tracking Sonja to exact vengeance for the murder of their prince. Though in her defense, he did attempt to rape her and she took the appropriate response. Instead of writing this from Sonja’s point of view, it is told from the mercenaries as they travel the country, tracking her. Sonja has their number though, and there is never a moment in the book where she is not taking action and getting the upper hand.
There is a great sense of ‘this will be epic!’ with this graphic novel; each narrator of her legend adds more layers to the character and layer after layer the writers build a myth, a symbol of hope, and a symbol of freedom. Red Sonja is a very powerful character that her legend that is built over the course of five issues that have been collected is full of character progression and tension building. Senseless death is not present here; everything that Sonja does throughout is methodical and calculated. The writers pull off a fantastic feat; you really feel the character through the pages, all the while Sonja does not truly appear until towards the end. She really doesn’t even narrate for herself; everything is told through stories told by others.
The action scenes that are found in the book all have a point, there is no mindless murdering and bloodshed; they make every death and every battle count. She inspires others to aspire to the great things she accomplished in her adventures and her stories have spread throughout the land,as the group of hunters and soldiers that are pursuing her are told in town after town about how great she really is. On the other hand, the hunters and soldiers all have their own stories about Sonja and how she’s a murderess. It almost casts a bit of grey over whether she is a character for good or evil at the beginning of the book as we mostly begin with the hunters issues with Red Sonja.
The graphic novel also acts as a very well done origin story which explains how she learned to fight, and why, and also it gives a very nice story of how she came about acquiring her very slinky metal bikini that she wears. The writing here is extremely well done; it’s almost like they took what could have been a typical sandals and swords tale and have turned Red Sonja into something more akin to Homers Ulysses; full credit to the writers of these tales for crafting such a story. It would be very easy to move on from this title just by going on the cover art alone; it features a fiery headed woman wearing next to nothing brandishing a sword; however if you did pass it over, you would be missing out on all the good that can be found within the cover, from the excellent story telling to the art itself.
Beyond the writing, the art that is very well done and it matches the tone and story very well. In the back of the book, it features all the cover art and artist concept art as well and some extra special features, which is great to see, just to give some colour to the process that went into this project. It’s surprising that with this many artists and writers working on the same title you would assume that the artwork and writing might run into each other, or lose the consistency along the way and disturb the reading experience. However, this is not the case as the artists and writers work very well together creating synergy and keeps the focus on the legends and stories that make up the bulk of this book.
Red Sonja (her attire aside) is actually a great female lead character with strong convictions; a fearless fighter, and valiant leader. Dynamite has maintained the perfect tone from the Robert E. Howard stories. This is one book that is entirely worth the price of admission, one for its great story, two for its very strong female lead, and three for some great art. This is definitely a graphic novel to add to your collection.