Red Sonja’s consciousness is transferred to modern day New York, silently present in an unsuspecting museum curator until it is awakened to continue to wage war against the evil mage, Kulan Gath. Is it good?
Altered States: Red Sonja #1 (Dynamite Entertainment)
Writer Brandon Jerwa builds up the legend and legacy of Red Sonja in just one page using a variety of differing rumors of her death to display her popularity in Hyboria. He is aided by Juanan Ramirez depicting her prowess in battle, devotion to the goddess, Scáthach, and virtue and persistence in fighting the forces of evil.
However, there are some interesting depictions on the first page including a random skeleton wreathed in flames which appears in the second panel out of nowhere! Either that or Red Sonja’s sword has gained magical powers enabling it to instantly combust enemies on contact. There are a bunch of other issues with the art from Sonja’s hair covering her face as she hangs suspended in the air (Who knew she had gravity defying hair?) to a sword skewering a monster through the stomach while both of Sonja’s hands are above the creature’s back. (That sword must really have some magical properties!)
Much of the story is told through an internal monologue, but it is difficult to tell whether it is Sonja, the museum curator’s thoughts or if it is the consciousness of Red Sonja. Letterer Marshall Dillon uses the same speech boxes with an orange header to denote both characters’ thoughts. There is a very minor distinction in the background tint of the speech bubbles, and you have to focus in order to notice it. It really muddles the two characters up and becomes quite confusing attempting to figure out whether Red Sonja is communicating within curator Sonja’s thoughts or whether they are just the thoughts of curator Sonja. This does improve later on in the book when the speech bubbles are right next to each other and are more easily distinguishable.
Brandon Jerwa’s dialogue and monologues also leave a little to be desired. It is somewhat related to the previous point, but instead he mixes up thoughts with the monologue and dialogue. Certain thoughts should be monologue and dialogue and vice versa. At one point the villain is about to strike out at curator Sonja and her response is to think “Please.” She begs for her life in her own mind instead of begging the villain who is about to attack her.
The story in general is a fun idea although executed a little poorly. I enjoyed the concept of the interdimensional travel, but it is not clearly conveyed and only brushed upon with a few words of dialogue from Kulan Gath, which are more mysterious rather than straight-forward, and illustrated by one small inset panel depicting Sonja running through a gate of lightning. However, once you get past this, the similarities between the two dimensions makes for an interesting story. Jerwa and Ramirez are able to create monsters and challenges out of what would otherwise be everyday occurrences such as subway trains and even ticket turnstiles! It captures the essence of low fantasy with exciting action sequences.
Is It Good?
Altered States: Red Sonja #1 has good action sequences and an intriguing plot idea. However, the plot idea is not executed properly with quite a bit of confusion as to the dynamic change in surroundings. There are also many hiccups with the artwork from gravity defying hair to a magical sword that not only combusts enemies, but also skewers them without Red Sonja’s guidance. Jerwa’s choice of using inner monologue instead of dialogue in many areas breaks up the flow of the story leaving you scratching your head after many scenes.