Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Writer: Luke Lieberman
Artwork: Sergio Davila
Colours: Ulises Arreola
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Release Date: 12th June 2019
Taking us into Red Sonja’s past, her former mentor Ozzyus narrates a tale that sees the She-Devil tracking down a young woman who has been kidnapped and held as a slave of the monstrous Raka The Forsaken.
Opening with a typically Sonja set-piece as she uses both her sexuality and swordsmanship to decimate a ruthless Sultan, writer Luke Lieberman hits the ground running here, launching us headlong into the fray with Sonja’s quest already well underway. Everything feels suitably authentic and familiar, and Lieberman captures the distinctive voice and manner of his iconic leading lady right from the get-go.
It’s probably worth pointing out at this point that there’s not really much in the way of entirely fresh ideas here. I mean, we have Sonja the belligerent drunkard and tormented soul, and an innocent victim to be rescued from the clutches of a demonic threat. It’s all very much business as usual for long-time readers. That said, there’s a level of polish and enthusiasm to the execution that is bound to impress, and Davilla’s typically striking fantasy artwork adds a real sense of energy to the proceedings.
On the visual side of things, Davilla keeps things flowing smoothly throughout, taking advantage of the frequent action beats of Lieberman’s script to flex his artistic muscle. His Sonja is as surly and powerful as you’d expect, and he manages to retain her sexuality without veering into the murky waters of exploitation (something a great many other RS artists have struggled with over the years). In particular, the splash page with Sonja leaving the blazing tavern, bottle of whiskey in her hand and drunken smirk on her face is a thing of beauty.
Ulises Arreola and Taylor Esposito round out the strong visual package with some polished colours and lettering. Esposito’s work is as fluid and unobtrusive as always, and Arreola’s rich palette ebbs and flows throughout, with the tone of the story and adding a real depth to the backgrounds.
Raka himself is a fearsome threat, and his affinity with Bel, the God of Chaos, offers up some truly terrifying possibilities for both him and his followers. The final page introduction of a new party to the story does feel slightly jarring, and the issue ends a little abruptly, but for the most part this is a well laid out and intriguing opening issues.
At the end of the day, while it isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel, Birth of the She-Devil is a confident and dynamic look at Red Sonja’s formative years, and features more than enough blood, booze and intrigue to keep the pages turning.