So, here we are … the final issue of Amy Chu’s run on ‘Red Sonja’. I’ve enjoyed this probably more than any other Red Sonja run before it. There has been the odd ‘off-issue’, Sonja spent many of the early issues less central than I’d have liked and we haven’t found out much about Sonja’s past. It’s been a magical run overall, though, with superlative art from Carlos Gomez and others and just a deep sense of fun … breezier than most Sonja runs but that’s OK. Amy’s interest in sci-fi and time travel has manifested itself and she’s brought back the magic and mythology aspects that were largely absent from Gail Simone’s stint, bringing in sorcerers, demons, sphinxes and gods. Amy originally signed on for 6 issues, so hitting 26 is amazing, although she was smart enough to bring in Erik Burnham to help on writing duties halfway through and his involvement made the comic even better.
#25 is a good finish to the series. The story very basic … after reading an advance Uncomicmas review, I was hoping for more examples pitting the She-Devil’s sword vs the musician Tariq’s flute but that would’ve spoiled the surprise of what he could do with his music. I’d thought this tale might reflect the old ‘Wind And The Sun’ fable, where the sun succeeds in forcing a traveller to shed his cloak via gentle warmth where the wind failed with mighty gusts but instead we get just the one instance of comparing the two approaches directly. You could argue the flute didn’t necessarily win out in any case, since all the pirates ended up dead plus Sonja looked well in control during the fight itself – there was just the one panel of the big black pirate lunging at her back with his knife before the musician intervened. The bard asked why the pirates all had to die but in their state, they’d have drowned if Sonja had thrown them overboard. For me, Sonja crying came across as a little cheesy and something Amy had been dying to prise into the comic for ages … was it really necessary? Sonja can be a larger-than-life heroic figure, she doesn’t need that soppy edge. The roguish side of her came across more strongly here than in previous issues and it was easier to buy her operating outside of the law. Amy’s run has also been relatively bloodless and it’s been rare to see the She-Devil slicing and dicing her way through the opposition as she does here, so her violence came across that much more strongly. The exchanges between Sonja and the bard were fun and it was interesting to see the warrior get called on her bloodletting after she uses it to save somebody. She looked affronted and why not? There’s an interesting bit where Sonja mentions she was a pirate ‘in a past life’ … she could simply be using those words loosely to say she has experience in this line of work but I couldn’t help thinking of Brian Reed’s run, where the ‘Red Sonja’ monicker is passed down through the ages and the identity is assumed by different women to carry on defending the weak and serving the goddess Scathach.
Much to my (and everybody else’s) surprise, regular artist Carlos Gomez is back, after a break of 3 issues, and his art is as amazing as usual. If there’s one thing about this comic that’s really dazzled reviewers, it’s Carlos’ artwork. I like his design for the bandits, although one thing Carlos isn’t great at is distinguishing between different cultures, his designs are often pretty generic fantasy. Tariq has a decent look, almost Biblical but he’s as white as Sonja – you’d expect him to look more Stygian with a name like that. The pirates look like stereotypical corsairs out of a kid’s book with their tricorns and baggy trousers. IIRC, when Conan used to go out on adventures on the high seas, the pirates would more often be bare-chested and wearing more recognisably Hyborian Era garb, and I think the same applied with Sonja’s crew back in Eric Trautmann’s great run. These guys all look like Blackbeard. It’s a minor complaint though. Sonja’s use of a cloak and hood is interesting … doesn’t look like it would provide much in the way of disguise (and why would she need a disguise outside of her own time anyway). Maybe she’s just cold?
Carlos as usual excels on facial expressions, such as Sonja’s shocked surprise at remark Tariq makes about her violent approach to resolving issues, after she took the time out from eating rabbit to save his life. We get loads of combat in this issue, which is an area that’s occasionally been lacking in Amy’s Sonja stories. There’s a nice battle onboard a ship between Sonja and a big group of pirates, although it would’ve been nice to see Sonja swinging around on ropes Douglas Fairbanks Jr-style. As it is, in terms of choreography, Carlos tends to use most of the tried-and-true moves he’s used in the past, such as the She-Devil nailing opponents with flying kicks or swinging a sword with one hand and punching out some brute with another but to be fair, many artists have a limited repertoire when it comes to fight choreography. There's one great panel showing her leaping in the air, knees tucked in, as she buries her sword up to the hilt into a pirate. One thing Carlos does well in all his fight scenes is convey Sonja’s speed and agility … she looked like a dynamo here, whirring through the enemy ranks untouchable. She handles pairs of opponents offpanel with sickening ease and is clearly leagues beyond any of these guys as a warrior. Would’ve been cool to have seen a demonstration of the She-Devil’s strength as well, hurling a few people overboard but you can’t have everything.
All told, this was really a meat-and-potatoes issue that didn’t do anything outstanding but it was well-written and the art was tremendous. Far from the best issue in the series but the solo adventures closing out this run have been entertaining and have made a nice change from the giant epics that preceded them, particularly if you count issues #0-16 as one big arc. I’m really going to miss this comic but it’s time for a big change next month with the relaunch and new team of Mark Russell and Mirko Colak.