When it comes to legendary heroes like Conan the Barbarian or Red Sonja it’s rare to get an idea of what their childhoods were like.
Of course, all we really care about is the adventuring and killing most of the time, but if you could get a glimpse of their back story a lot of their pain and actions might get some sort of explanations. Enter Gail Simone’s Red Sonja #3 which flashbacks to the character’s past. Is it good?
Red Sonja #3 (Dynamite Entertainment)
This issue opens with Sonja wandering in the frigid wilderness, sick with some kind of plague and freezing her ass off to boot. Can anyone say involuntary vision quest?!
Considering how bad ass Red Sonja is you’d never know she even had a father. Instead, her oversexualized nature and killer instincts give you the sense she’s some kind of spirit of death. Simone knows better though, because what kind of character is interesting if it’s not relatable? She allows this plague to open a window for us as we learn what happened to her family, and the driving force of her ruthless demeanor.
Nice layout here.
Since this entire issue is a tangent into Sonja’s past this issue can be enjoyed by anyone. I for one haven’t read the previous two issues, but found the story compelling and understandable. What ends up happening to her family, where she was and at what age when it happened and the villains who kick her killer nature into high gear are all rather uninteresting however. A lot of what we see happen we’ve seen before.
The only compelling idea Simone introduces is how Sonja would hesitate before a kill, even when hunting deer. That’s an interesting idea that gets turned on its head when we see what Sonja is willing to do to get vengeance. It is however, a bit underwritten and goes by too fast to pack much of an emotional punch. Instead the story runs as you’d expect it to, with very little time spent inside Sonja’s head aside from some barks of courage.
Go back to Sherwood forest!
The problem is I never really believed Sonja’s transformation. It comes so quickly, especially considering only moments prior to her evolution she couldn’t even kill an animal. It might have helped the story some if we could see Sonja growing up in these flashbacks, rather than one fateful night. Still, the story is compelling enough and gives us a chance to see a very young Sonja kicking ass.
The art by Walter Geovani is great, particularly the layouts. Panels build on one another nicely, which give the flashback a subtle dreamlike quality. He doesn’t have much to do outside the flashbacks though, and yet makes these potentially boring scenes interesting to look at. Consider Sonja is basically standing, laying in and blankly looking around in the snow the first few pages while she thinks about her situation. There’s not much for her to do, yet it’s still captivating to see her speak about her withering horse and fall to her knees in exhaustion.
Pretty cool mask she’s got there eh?
- The art keeps things compelling
- Hey, a back story for a character like this is appreciated
- Not sold on Red Sonja’s transformation story
Simone shows us the father I never knew Sonja had, which is interesting and potentially huge in making Sonja that much more human and relatable. I just didn’t buy the flashback we were sold. It is interesting to see her loving and peaceful father and how losing him changed her life forever, but it’s all done in a rather predictable and uninteresting way. The art however, always looks nice and keeps you invested in the story. This is a case where my expectations for the story might have run ahead of me and when looked at as a story with pacing and progression it succeeds.
Is It Good?
Almost. I wanted to like this story more than it could deliver.