Posts Tagged ‘Dynamite Comics’

Sam is joined by her friend Miguel for a rousing conversation with Joshua Williamson, writer of Ghosted, Captain Midnight, and Nailbiter.

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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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This was previously posted at Word of the Nerd on November 6th.

When Dynamite Entertainment announced at Emerald City Comicon that Gail Simone would pen the new Red Sonja book back in March, the company and Simone drummed up excitement for the book, and one of pulp comic’s great heroines, through the release of multiple variant covers for the first issue, each drawn by a female artist. Not only did the variant covers garner more attention for the book, they also highlighted the plethora of talent amongst female artists in the comic book industry, allowing women like Fiona Staples, Nicola Scott, Amanda Conner, Colleen Doran, Stephanie Buscema, and Jenny Frison to put their own spin on the legendary warrior.

Inspired by the outpouring of support and demand for female talent in the industry, Simone and Dynamite embarked on a “bold new experiment in graphic storytelling” by bringing together some of the best female writers, in comics and traditional prose, to pen their own tales of the “She-Devil With a Sword”. The result is Legends of Red Sonja, a five-part anthology written by Nancy Collins, Devin Grayson, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Marjorie M. Liu, Mercedes Lackey, Rhianna Pratchett, Leah Moore, Blair Butler, Tamora Pierce, Nicola Scott, and Meljean Brook working within the narrative frame set by Gail Simone.

In the first installment, Simone quickly lays down the foundation of the anthology: A group of 12 mercenaries known as the Grey Riders are hunting Red Sonja. They all have their own reasons for wanting her dead, but along the way they learn of her various adventures through the stories of others in their travels. The two stories featured in this issue are Nancy A. Collins’ “Eyes of the Howling God” with art by Noah Solanga, and Devin Grayson’s “La Sonja Rossa” with art by Carla Speed McNeil.

Collins’ “Eyes of the Howling God” is told from the perspective of Eles, the learned assassin amongst the Grey Riders. A monk once in service of The Howling God, he was witness to the murderous and thieving Red Sonja who violently slew the human embodiment of The Howling God before robbing the temple statue of its ruby eyes. When Eles tried to stop her, she marked him for life, slicing her sword across his eye and setting him down the path of revenge. Solanga depicts Sonja as an ancient Laura Croft giving her a chain mail shirt and short shorts. It’s a little off-putting considering the setting, and the fact that she’s essentially fighting a werewolf, but I’m pretty sure Laura Croft found herself in some supernatural situations, so who am I to judge? Next up in Gayson’s “La Sonja Rossa” in which a sea captain tells the Grey Riders of how his La Sonja Rossabeloved ship, Lacrime Di Gioia, was brought down by a young beauty with revenge in her eyes, but Red Sonja valiantly fought to save the crew and those on board from certain death, supposedly going down with the ship though the Grey Riders aren’t buying the tale. McNeil’s art is a little harder to pin down. At times it’s a bit cartoonish, but about midway through the story that cartoonish aspects work in the art’s favor, giving Sonja’s fight with a giant squid an epic scope.

What I definitely admire about the book are the different stories within this first installment. In Simone’s main book, Sonja is a fairly balanced figure – an opportunist possessed of a strong sense of loyalty prepared to mete out justice at her own discretion. The anthology, though not connected to the main continuity, continues Sonja’s characterization by giving the reader two diametrically opposed versions of the warrior. Eles, someone from within the Grey Riders, sees her as a thief and murderer having witnessed her actions personally. His view of her is ultimately biased, but no more so than the captain of the former Lacrime Di Gioia. He, too, was witness to the impressive feats of Red Sonja, though his is a tale of bravery in the face of death. Neither has more merit than the other. If anything, their stories emphasize the fact that Sonja is neither one or the other. A warrior the likes of Sonja is capable of actions both virtuous and immoral. It’s what makes her human and legendary.

Final Thoughts: We’re off to a good start. Next up are Meljean Brook and Tamora Pierce.