Red Sonja 2 Cover

This was originally posted at Word of the Nerd on December 5th

When last we checked in with our merry band of murderers in The Legend of Red Sonja, the Grey Riders – a group composed of various mercenaries out for the blood of none other than Red Sonja – were regaled with two tales of the “She-Devil With a Sword.” One was from a member of their group, a warrior monk out for revenge, and the other from a sea captain whose previous crew was saved by Sonja after the vengeance of a young woman went too far. For these two tales, Red Sonja writer, Gail Simone, brought in noted comic book writer Devin Grayson and novelist Nancy A. Collins to begin the narrative device of the Grey Riders gathering stories about Red Sonja as they journey to find and end her. In the second issue, Simone brings novelists Meljean Brook and Tamora Pierce to add some intrigue to the continuing legend.

We start with Meljean Brook’s “The Undefeated” where a warrior, Gordrak the Beheader, tells the Riders of his experience with Red Sonja when the two journeyed together to steal a ruby from a demonic beast. Both treated the journey as a competition, goading and one-upping each other in the process while proving their skills in the heat of battle. Gordrak’s tale, however, paints Red Sonja as a cowardly warrior eager to instigate, but content to stay behind and piggyback on the accomplishments of others. He only has the ruby because Sonja tried to claim an undeserved reward. But that’s really just the story Gordrak’s telling the Grey Riders. What we see is an entirely different story.

Second is Tamora Pierce’s “Double-Edged.” While eating and drinking their fill in a local tavern, the Grey Riders are approached by a young girl who warns them not to seek out Red Sonja. She’s sworn to protect Sonja because of the service she provided in helping her mother, a priestess of the Goddess Sonja serves. Journeying to dance for the Duke of Edecon, the priestess and her daughter gain Sonja as a bodyguard when a group of brothers don’t take too kindly to being dismissed as guards. When things turn sour, Sonja steps in to fight them off, though the mother and daughter are just as capable at defending themselves. Unfortunately, the brothers and their father follow them, leaving Sonja and her charges no choice but to confront them with lethal force.

If the first issue was roughly centered around the idea of how stories can alter perception, this tales in this issue are linked through the themes of concealment and deception. Gordrak’s tale emphasizes the theme nicely with the artwork giving just enough credence to the narration to make his story appear true. But we quickly learn that it’s a ruse, that Gordrak is an ally of Sonja, having fallen for her in their journey. His story is meant to throw the Grey Riders off, distract them to give Sonja the advantage. The second story has several motifs of concealment seen through the priestess being physically covered, only to reveal her face and her blessings from the Goddess when she, Sonja, and her daughter are threatened. Sonja herself is also disguised, wearing a tunic over her armor at the beginning, and disguising herself in plain sight amongst the Grey Riders. She’s already one step ahead of them, they just don’t know it yet. It’s a fantastic way of tying the stories together through a second framing device, one that shows there’s more to the Grey Riders’ pursuit of Red Sonja than just a typical chase narrative.

The artwork in this issue is a bit of a mixed bag. I loved Mel Rubi’s work in”The Undefeated.” The artist previously worked on the Red Sonja solo book from 2005-2007 and it shows how comfortable he is with the character. Sonja is as devious and skilled as she is charming and sultry. It’s a good pairing with Brook who is no stranger to the fantasy/romance genre herself. The artwork by Cassandra James on “Double-Edged”, however, feels a bit disjointed. The character models and proportions look a bit off once the story proper begins, but that could also be the transition from Jack Jadson’s first page to James’ style on the next. The action, however, more than makes up for it and Sonja seems to have a perpetual “I don’t give a shit” look on her face that completely sells you on the character.

Final Thoughts: The stories are picking up. Is Sonja one step ahead or is she lagging behind to keep the Grey Riders in her sight?

 

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