Story: Marguerite Bennett
Artwork: Aneke, Jorge Sutil
Release Date: 16th March, 2016
After a somewhat slow, dare I say underwhelming first couple of issues, Marguerite Bennett’s new Red Sonja series is finally hitting its stride. Following the revelation that the tyrannical new King of Hyrkania is actually her former lover Savas, Bennett regales us with of the story of his rise to power, from petty merchant to iron-fisted royalty, culminating in a rather intriguing proposal for the She-Devil herself.
There’s a strong message behind the familiar swashbuckling fantasy trappings here, with Sonja’s power and presence making her almost irresistible to Savas, but her strong-willed independence refusing to let herself become a mere trophy or possession. Sonja has always been a bit of an enigma to me; a wonderfully complex hero and a truly positive female role model who seems to struggle against her cheesecake depiction time and time again, particularly on her covers. Thankfully however, artist Aneke’s take on Sonja strikes the perfect balance between beauty and strength, staying well away from the over-sexualized contortions and ‘blow-up doll pout’ that has plagued the character over the years.
While Aneke still struggles somewhat to differentiate the faces of her female characters, she fares far better with the males here, particularly the wildly emotional Savas. His shifting moods carry the early portion of this book, from lovesick to menacing to furious, and it’s clear that he’s going to provide a far more intriguing antagonist for the rest of this arc than the usual ‘evil noblemen and maniacal wizards’ Sonja has a tendency to cross blades with. Akeke’s work is given a sense of freshness thanks to the colours of Jorge Sutil and Morgan Hickman, and while the overall aesthetic is still a little clean for my tastes, there are some truly impressive sequences on display here – particularly during the frequent double-page spreads.
The final pages add an intriguing new wrinkle to the story, and the groundwork has been laid impressively for the next chapter of this particular arc. Bennett continues to display a firm grasp of both Sonja’s voice and her innate appeal as a character, and by thrusting her into this unusual position, the stage has been set for what should be a truly memorable chapter in the She-Devil’s history. You can count me in for the foreseeable future, that’s for sure.