Writer: Torunn Gronbekk
Artist: Walter Geovani
Colors: Omi Remalante Jr.
Letters: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Dynamite Studios
Release Date: July 19th, 2023
Red Sonja is on the run in Red Sonja #1, after being framed for the murder of Lady Alaberta (in Red Sonja #0, released on Free Comic Book Day), and Lord Dragos wants her head! As she races across the countryside, evading Dragos’s men and battling them, trying to make it to a friend who can help clear her name. Meanwhile, another threat rises as Thord Varg ascends to king of Vestfold, a kingdom that’s dying, its populace starving and the kingdom on the precipice of losing a war. Varg, refusing to let Vestfold die, makes sacrifices to dark gods, summoning them and hoping their ancient black magic will save his kingdom. But the gods are hungry and want more.
As I read Red Sonja #1, I felt the issue had the same epic scope and fun as Walt Simonson’s Thor run from the 1980’s. Anyone who experienced Simonson’s run on that book was treated to lots of subplots, great new supporting characters and a powerful hero taken back to the core of what made them great. This is exactly what we get in this debut issue of Red Sonja’s new series, as writer Torunn Gronbekk gives us a Red Sonja who’s back to basics, brutal in combat but light-hearted when not faced with enemies, traveling across an ancient land always in search of adventure. I hope Gronbekk has a long run on the book, I’m looking forward to her version of Red Sonja, a character I’ve always loved but I felt has been hamstrung with gimmicks in past series, like being paired with children or being thrown into the 20th Century.
We get some thrilling fight sequences as some of Dragos’s army catches up with Red Sonja and she dispatches them in vicious and efficient ways. These scenes are beautifully choreographed and reinforce why Red Sonja rivals Conan as one of Robert E. Howard’s greatest creations. There’s a more playful side to Red Sonja that we get to see in another scene, where she visits an old “friend” who happens to be a VERY perverted Bishop. This guy seems straight out of a Monty Python film, he’s both pompous and ridiculous. Red Sonja needs a favor from him and she never accepts no for an answer, much to the dismay of the Bishop.
These humorous scenes offset the blood-soaked battle scenes wonderfully and keeps you turning the pages, looking forward to see what happens next. All the while, we cut back to the kingdom of Ventfold, where the threat of Thord Varg slowly develops. I imagine he (and the dark gods he’s summoning) will be a major nemesis for Red Sonja in future issues. The book ends on a cliffhanger that’s a perfect finish to this debut issue.
As noted above, Walter Geovani’s art on Red Sonja #1 graces the fight scenes with fantastic choreography. When Sonja battles a faction of Lord Dragos’s army, every sweep of her sword, every block and counter make the fight scenes thrilling. Geovani has always been the perfect artist for Red Sonja’s book, drawing Red Sonja as you would expect a warrior to look. She towers over everyone, with an athletic build, not loaded down with muscles as some artists have drawn her in the past. The ancient lands Sonja travels through are filled with mountains and depicted in beautiful fashion.
Red Sonja #1 is a fantastic debut to the new Red Sonja series, bringing her character back to basics. The combat is bloody and fierce, there’s a great subplot with the ascent of an interesting new nemesis for Red Sonja, and some scenes have a welcome injection of humor. If you’re not familiar with Red Sonja, pick up the book. If you’re a fan of Red Sonja, this book is highly recommended.