By Molly Jane Kremer. Dynamite Comics announced last October that its three most prominent female characters—Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, and Red Sonja—would be getting much needed costume redesigns along with new creative teams. The previous costumes (for Sonja and Dejah Thoris especially) were scanty enough that the new, but still pants-less designs, seem downright conservative in comparison. For a Martian warrior princess, a new actual breastplated shirt is proooobably gonna work better than a couple of gold pasties. And for a sword-wielding barbarian huntress, a maille shirt is certainly going to be a bit more useful than a chainmail bikini.
But just as important as a less sexist visual representation is well-rounded, complex and enjoyable character work, and in that, writer Marguerite Bennett is an inspired choice to follow-up on Gail Simone’s acclaimed run. Simone gave Sonja more depth and less, well, cheesecake-factor than she’s had in most of her long history, and injected a much-needed sense of humor to the series. So far, Bennett has given us a more introspective Sonja—much of the comic has the warrior reflecting on choices made throughout her life. The comic holds back from the action in lieu of establishing Sonja as a character, taking good care to develop her personality. Throughout, the almost slyly gleeful tone recalls Bennett’s recent (and very enjoyable) Witch Hunter Angela miniseries over at Marvel.
Aside from some awkwardly-angled sword brandishments in a couple panels, Aneke’s art is more accomplished than one would anticipate for such a relative newcomer to sequential art. There are a few dynamic and imaginative layouts, and a very good sense of storytelling. The scenes of battle are just as compelling as scenes of Sonja wandering through city streets: Aneke draws very expressive, attractive faces, although Jorge Sutil’s coloring makes everything look just a bit too glossy.
Though there’s little use of swords (and even less of sorcery) in this issue, Bennett applies most of the book’s pages to reintroducing us to Sonja herself, and her thoughtful, almost nostalgic journey through her homeland. The action will obviously pick up in later issues, as it certainly begins towards the end of this one, but the important matter is we have a firmly established, sympathetic and multi-faceted female lead to bring us there. Red Sonja #1 is a wonderful introduction to the character, whether you’re hopping on for the first issue, or have been following Sonja’s exploits for the decade Dynamite has been publishing them.
Written by Marguerite Bennett.
Art by Aneke, colors by Jorge Sutil.
Letters by Erica Schultz.
8 out of 10