By Clyde Hall. A teaming of Red Sonja and Tarzan wasn’t at the top of my list for a most wanted meeting of titans. The Spirit and Plastic Man team-up is, though, as well as The Phantom and B’wana Beast, so I may not be the best judge. Dynamite has some established team-up cred, though, so my interest was piqued for a clash between the She-Devil and the Lord of the Jungle. “Piqued” translates to “peaking around 5” on the Comics Anticipation Meter. That reading promptly zoomed to a “10” when Gail Simone was named as writer, and her own re-teaming with former Red Sonja artist Walter Geovani here makes it an exciting duo two-fer.
If champions are defined by strong, intense villains, the sort who brook no common goals as excuse to ever side with the angels, the deepest-dye variety who dismisses any possibility of redemption, Sonja and Tarzan will be rising to their peak heroic form for this series. Because Simone’s Eson Duul is a timeless blackguard that the first issue establishes as someone we want to see lose. A lot. Everything. He’s also an individual who will not hesitate to engage both protagonists, never questioning his eventual victory. His minions punctuate his capability, each quite exceptional in their own right but submissive in their acceptance of Duul as the apex predator.
He’s a major malefactor in any era, and amazingly he’s managed to significantly, negatively impact both our millennia-separated heroes by the end of the first issue. The portrayals of Red Sonja and Tarzan by Simone and Geovani are adept in word and appearance. Sonja has the proper ire and attitude befitting a vexed Hyborian warrior-born, while Tarzan is in consummate balance with his upbringing as he navigates the perils of ‘civilization’. Lord Greystoke may have the edge between the two this issue, being physically powerful and attuned to the wisdom of the jungle, but able to translate all that into the trappings of English society. He’s not the man you want to challenge regarding what he can and cannot accomplish in matters of law nor across a board room table. And, as he assures, “I’ve a chest of jewels from a place called Opar that says I can.”
In the final section of the issue, Sonja and Tarzan share an encounter, and there’s a glimpse of how a She-Devil can also adapt to ‘civilization’ when given the right motivations. Future issues should reveal how she tamed the corset and bustle of the 1920s, as well as the price paid for journeying there. Simone bestows excellent dialogue while she paces her tale with the skill of a jungle tracker, repeatedly and transitioning silkily between pre-history and the Age of Innocence. The panel layout mirrors her stride, and Geovani solidifies the narrative with a consistent template of arrangement no matter the setting. They’re both master storytellers flexing their creative muscles for the meeting of two characters they obviously enjoy.
You may need a Red Sonja/Tarzan team-up in your life even if you think you don’t, and Gail Simone is just the writer to prove it to you. She’s orchestrated that rarity of a high-quality mashup able to please fans of both main characters. She’s also added a villain to the Howard and Burroughs mythoi worthy of keeping dark company with the likes of Thoth-Amon and Nikolas Rokoff.
Written by Gail Simone.
Art by Walter Geovani.
Colors by Adriano Augusto.
Lettered by Simon Bowland.
8 out of 10
Check out this five-page preview of ‘Red Sonja/Tarzan’ #1, courtesy of Dynamite!