Writer: Jim Zub
Artists: Giovanni Valletta & Adrian M. Garcia
Colorists: Francesco Segala & Agnese Pozza
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Release Date: February 8, 2023
Reviewer: David Dunham
Although I haven’t read many Red Sonja comics recently, I’m fond of the Hyborean flame-haired She-Devil. So when the opportunity came up to review Unbreakable Red Sonja #3, I welcomed the chance to revisit one of my favorite heroines. Can Dynamite’s latest installment equal the excitement I felt pulling Marvel’s Red Sonja comics off the spinner racks back in my youth? Let’s leap into Unbreakable Red Sonja #3 and find out!
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After a three-page prologue about a woman trying to channel the power in a magical artifact, we find Red Sonja and a red-haired girl riding a horse through the desert. They’re fleeing a monster and Sonja is bleeding. When she falls from the horse, the girl cannot control it. So their unfaithful steed abandons them in the barren hill country.
I enjoyed the interplay between Red Sonja and the girl in writer Jim Zub’s story. First, the girl cares for Sonja, then Sonja mentors the girl. Unlike Prince Tarn in the 1985 Red Sonja movie, the girl sees little hope for a bright future. Sonja instructs her in weapons use, and when the passion and rage rise to the fore, she counsels the girl to master them to gain a tactical advantage. Thus, the girl proves a worthy partner when danger arrives.
I must admit: on two occasions, Jim took me out of the story. First, Red Sonja refers to someone sneaking up on her with murderous intent as assassination. While Sonja may have occasionally acted as a queen, the word seems out-of-keeping with a warrior maiden whose heart calls her to the life of a wandering sword-for-hire. The second time was one of the rare instances involving sound effects. While I’ve never fought using knives or swords, I felt Jim’s use of FWIP FWIP belonged more to Marvel’s Spidey-verse than Robert E. Howard’s Hyborean age.
The penciling and inking seem detailed and refined in the prologue. Then it seemed to relax after the first page covering Red Sonja and the girl. Features seem more simply drawn, yet Red Sonja and the girl often look more pleasing. Stippling and cross-hatching add shading and depth. When the two reach an ancient city, the penciling seems to grow sharper and refined before returning to the more relaxed approach that dominates this issue. It’s not a drastic transition between the two styles, but it is noticeable.
Only at one point did the illustrators pull me out of the story. Red Sonja sees a symbol within a circle on an old building in Lhasiri. The narrator states that this symbol is also on the guards’ armor. Yet the artist drew empty circles on the armor. Francesco Segala and Agnese Pozza enhance Giovanni Valletta and Adrian M. Garcia’s art with lush green forests, beige and tan wastelands, and of course, the protagonists’ flame-red hair. Sunset casts fire into the sky, and the land reflects its burning. Art and coloring merge in the final sequence to remind me of the eerie atmosphere in a Hellboy comic drawn in Mike Mignola’s inimitable style.
Conversations appear in spherical dialogue balloons. Carlos M. Manual frequently emphasizes uppercase words with larger bold lettering. The narrator’s voice reminds me of Akiro, the wise old wizard in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s excellent first Conan movie, who eventually became the Shadizar court advisor in the less-excellent sequel. His words appear on scraps of yellowed parchment, vellum, or whatever passes for paper in Robert E. Howard’s Hyborean age.
Noticeable differences in art merge with vibrant color in Unbreakable Red Sonja #3. Despite a few distractions, I found it easy to follow the action, and the cliffhanger ending left me hungry for more. Filled with relatable characters and atmospheric all-ages art, this latest installment in the fable franchise proves worth pulling off comic shelves or convenience store spinner racks.