Red Sonja is an interesting character with a lot of depth to her who often finds herself – somewhat unfairly – branded as mindless ‘T and A’ by a lot of her critics. In defence of those critics though, the covers to her comics rarely help Sonja’s cause, usually depicting her in some sort of anatomically unlikely pose in a state of near-nudity, a whirlwind of pouting cleavage and chain mail. Thankfully however, while the cover here is relatively sedate by Sonja standards, the content inside is anything but ‘T and A’, and perfectly sums up in the inherent appeal of the character.
With this latest tale, writer Zub and artist Lau have put together a Samurai-style tale of honour, violence, and complex family loyalties. The story sees Sonja lending her sword to a young girl trying to mend a feudal rift between two families, and flits back and forth between quiet, contemplative character moments and almost dizzyingly brutal action sequences.
Lau’s wonderfully detailed artwork here is truly a thing of beauty, particularly in the aforementioned battle scenes. The almost shockingly violent way that Sonja dispatches her adversaries makes for compelling reading, and the sharp contrast of colour between the crimson blood and the crisp white snow is terrifically done.
In ‘one-shot’ stories, it can often to be difficult to fully expand on a particular story, or to give each emotional beat the attention it deserves, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens here. While the tale being told is undoubtedly solid, it would probably lend itself better to a full-length graphic novel, as there just doesn’t seem to be enough room in this one-shot’s 40 pages to tell it properly. Developments feel rushed, and characters aren’t given enough time to full develop. So while Zub has definitely put together a tremendous story here, the execution is a little lacking, and I’d far prefer to have seen Red Sonja and Cub as a mini-series or a longer trade paperback.
Overall though, this is still worth a look, particularly for fans of the character, and definitely due to the beautiful artwork of Jonathan Lau. It all just feels like a little bit of a missed opportunity though, thinking about how truly great it could have been.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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