Writer: Jordan Clark
Artist: Miriana Puglia
Colorist: Ellie Wright
Letterer: Jeff Eckleberry
Release Date: 2/15/23
Reviewer: David Dunham
A horde of nightmares invaded her domain and forced Hell Sonja to flee to Earth. An uneasy truce with Red Sonja allowed her to battle her pursuers. Trapped in her new human body, can she survive being captured by her enemies? Let’s raise our swords, leap into Red Sonja/ Hell Sonja #3 and find out!
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Abandoned by Red Sonja, Hell Sonja lies on a table, tortured by her captors. As the surgeon carves into her flesh, she glimpses temporal life anew. The former Queen of Hell feels mortals’ fear, pain, and insignificance. Does she want to live if she can no longer wield the power of an Eternal Humbled by her loss of significance, she wonders at the value of continued existence. What does she have to show for her life after all? Perhaps she deserves to be captured, tortured, and killed.
Red Sonja may feature in this issue, but Hell Sonja owns Red Sonja/ Hell Sonja #3. She must face the seeming pointlessness of resistance. Will she opt for an easy exit or find a reason to remain vital? Much happens to her in this issue. Her newness to fear and pain, and the visions that overwhelm her, make her passive stance understandable. Would we prove more resilient were we in her place?
Red Sonja/ Hell Sonja #3 opens with an aged leather cover bearing the imprint of Hell Sonja crowned in her former glory. This suggestion of European Medieval religious beliefs abruptly shifts to Nazi Germany’s holocaust horror. Immobilized, Hell Sonja watches as a Human with tentacles spilling out from a devilish mask cuts into her. Demonic spectators look on as a blood-splattered surgeon reaches into her and pulls out a horned baby.
This metaphor—that she is an infant to her humanity—accompanies her newfound compassion. Visions of life in all strata of Medieval Europe are colored in shades of red, suggesting humanity’s temporal flesh-and-blood nature. A glimpse of a cosmic entity intrudes upon these visions, reminding her of her former grand place in the supernatural order.
Consistent and lifelike portrayals of Hell Sonja and nightmarish monsters draw the reader in. Light sources—particularly in the operating room–create glowing objects and over-exposed surfaces. Shadows remind us of the harsh lighting. Color gradations breathe life into characters. A cosmic intelligence in a colorful star-filled space invokes as much awe as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. The blood and gore in this issue shock but do not overwhelm. Fanciful visions of Hell are worthy of anywhere Skeletor places his throne. We share Hell Sonja’s thoughts thanks to flaming white narrative boxes outlined in red. Red-outlined dialogue balloons reveal her words. The large and black upper-case letters are rarely bold, and the sound effects are few. Yet strangely, we never feel their absence.
New readers may find it hard to wade into the crimson waters of Red Sonja/ Hell Sonja #3. Readers expecting Red Sonja to dominate this issue may want to give it a miss. With Hell Sonja cast in such a passive role for much of the comic, a quick flick through—and the late appearance of their flame-haired Hyborean heroine, may not justify adding it to this week’s reading pile. But take a deeper look at this introspective horror comic. Hell Sonja’s trials rival the inciting events that made Red Sonja an unrivaled heroine of any Age. And don’t worry: not all the blood spilled in this issue will be Hell Sonja’s.