(Dynamite Entertainment, 2013)
Review by Cory Thrall
“Legends of Red Sonja”
Written by: Gail Simone
Artwork by: Jack Jadson
“Eyes of the Howling God”
Written by: Nancy A. Collins
Artwork by: Noah Salonga
“La Sonja Rossa”
Written by: Devin Kallie Grayson
Artwork by: Carla Speed McNeil
I never knew I was a fan of Red Sonja. Come to find out that I am, and a big one. I saw her in comics throughout my life, never really landing on any sort of opinion. I’m usually not a fan of this genre, whether it be comics, films, books, etc. - so that was most likely a large part of my indifference. Of course, the horrid film from my childhood had left somewhat of an impression, but I would be hard pressed to remember any scene from that movie, especially today. Now, years later, Dynamite has resurrected the classic character (as they are so good at doing), and when I heard one of my favorite writers (Gail Simone) would be tackling the new series I was excitedly curious. I don’t think I would have looked twice if it had been anyone else. I felt she could bring it, and in the tough as nails/heartfelt as a romance style she’s so known for.
So, I picked up issue #1 of the main Red Sonja title, and have been engrossed in the run ever since. Hearing of the follow-up title - this “Legends of Red Sonja” - I was very curious and hopeful that my new found love for this previously unknown character would be made even greater through this series. The idea, simply, is a team of writers and artists work together on a ‘story’ for what I had originally thought was more of an ‘anthology’. Turns out I was a bit mistaken. Instead of separate mini-stories all their own, the three tales represented here are more of a linear piece, with each writer/artist team tackling one of the 3 sections of the overall story. Through flashbacks and tall tales we are told three ‘stories’ while connected to the narrative as a whole. It works as an idea, for the most part.
“Legends of Red Sonja” is to be released this Wednesday, 11/6/2013, and I was lucky enough to read a preview copy. Sadly, what I found inside this issue was a pretty big disappointment. The idea of the title is sound - different takes on a thickly layered character who has fought as many beasts and monsters as she has snarling men and women with weapon in hand. There’s a ton of room to tell a number of stories, and this title had me curious where these creators might take our Sonja. The problem I have with this is that it just isn’t interesting. The stories are flat, emotionless, and simply boring. The artwork is mostly quality work, but is also forgettable and weak. I may be a new fan, but I *am* one, and I found it hard to even finish this comic. The thing is, these are talented writers, artists, the whole lot. They didn’t get this gig because they were hanging around the Dynamite offices begging for change. So for this to fail on such a major scale is odd. Why launch a follow-up to a title that’s barely in its first run (the main Sonja title) and with such mediocre work? Did they think the ‘Cult of Gail Simone’ (of which I am a card carrying member, so no booing, please) would sell it on that alone? I don’t know. What I do know is that I found myself wishing I was reading a new issue of the main title, instead. What I do know is that I am disappointed in the creators showcased here, as such a strong character with tales of such magnitude (including a fight with a sea monster and a battle with a giant werewolf-god-beast thingie) should read as an epic batch of lore, with the artwork to match. Instead, the work feels too simplistic and lifeless. In a lot of ways, it seems the artists were more interested in drawing the best Sonja they could, then lightly build the scenery around her. This makes for uneven storytelling throughout, as the quality shifts and focus on the single character muddies the rest of the pages. It reads like a collection of Sonja pin-ups with slapped together backgrounds and settings. I might be a little unfair to the artists on this point, but if it messes with my enjoyment and ease of reading the book then it’s a problem.
The writing, even the parts by the usually wonderful and witty Simone, is almost as lifeless as the art. I could go as far as say things like cheesy or stereotypical, but that might be some of my misgivings of the genre poking its critical head in. However, the idea of a conversation being had by a group of traveling assassins branching out into the flashback ‘stories’ is a novel and - at first - really interesting one. It just doesn’t follow through in its entirety. It never feels cohesive, and is told so quickly it’s over before you know it. The pacing is the pacing of a conversation, which may or may not be on purpose, but in the end it makes for a simple and pedestrian comic.
This title does show room for major growth, and the pieces are there, even with such a let down of a first issue. Overall, I would steer clear of this unless you are a diehard fan of Red Sonja and just *have* to get everything they release. If you haven’t read any of this new incarnation and are looking for a taste of the new Sonja’s awesomeness, then you need to avoid this like a sword blow to your skull. This is not a good ‘first taste’ by any means. Grab an issue of the actual Red Sonja title, instead. Personally, “Legends of Red Sonja” is still on my pull list for this Wednesday, and will remain there as the next couple of issues come out. I want this book to be fun, to be as good (or at least comparable) to the main title. I want to love this. As of right now, though, I cannot recommend this title. Come back in an issue or two’s time, and we’ll see where this experiment has taken us.
Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter: @FeralFang27