(Gail Simone / Walter Geovani / Adriano Lucas / Simon Bowland / Joseph Rybandt; Dynamite)
It's been since the mid-'80s that I have read anything related to the Robert E. Howard universe and, even then, Red Sonja was a peripheral character in my consciousness. My vague sense of what she embodied had more to do with her chain mail bikini than any sort of character development or social-political heft. Apparently, in the interim, the character has grown along with her audience. Then again, given that Gail Simone is helming this title now, that should come as no surprise.
Gone is the two-dimensional character with the three-dimensional figure. Red Sonja is a person, a powerful, committed heroic individual who just so happens to be female, not in spite of it. Simone has fleshed out this character by focusing less on the flesh and more on the character.
But you all probably know this already. I didn't. Now I do. It is nice to see that as I have matured, so have some of the comics I read as a kid.
In issue five, Simone has Red Sonja doing an awful lot of talking and very little fighting, which I guess I wasn't expecting. In a comic that is devoted to sword and sorcery, a plethora of chatter might seem off-putting. But dialogue in the hands of Gail Simone can sometimes be more exciting than the fiercest duel and cut deeper than the sharpest blade.
Complementing all this talking is Walter Geovani's art swathed in the colors of Adriano Lucas palette. I'm not all that familiar with the past work of either of these artists, but looking at Red Sonja #5 makes me want to find out more about them. There is a surety to Geovani's Sonja. She embodies strength, beauty, and grace – but above all else, Geovani's Red Sonja conveys confidence. Lucas' colors enhance this, giving a clear sense that Sonja is a force both apart from those around her and connected somehow to the very land from which she springs.
And then there is that huge panel with the giant leach sucking from Sonja's stomach... well, that just speaks for itself.
As I have no background in what Simone is doing with her Sonja story, I fully expected to be lost when starting with issue 5, but I found my footing after only a few pages. I wouldn't call this issue a jumping on point by any means, but Simone takes you by the hand without ever being didactic or sacrificing story. She even knows how to toss in a good flashback for help.
I was pleasantly surprised by all that I found in Red Sonja #5. While my expectations weren't high to begin with, I was really glad to see that Simone and her art team have taken a character that, especially in the hands of a publisher like Dynamite, could easily be exploitative and misogynistic and all the things that I hate about so many corporate comics, and made her someone that you could show your daughter and say something along the lines of, "Here's a role model to consider."