Review – Killing Red Sonja #1 (Dynamite)

Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writers: Mark Russell, Bryce Ingman
Illustrator: Craig Rousseau
Colourist: Dearbhla Kelly
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Release Date: 25th March 2020

When Red Sonja defeats Dragan The Magnificent at the Battle of the Bridge, she unwittingly sets in motion a quest for vengeance as the child emperor Cyril sets out to face the man who betrayed his father and the she-devil with a sword.

As a Teen+ title, this is a very different style from the Red Sonja tales that I’m used to reading, and if I’m honest, it took me a couple of read-throughs to fully appreciate what the creative team are delivering in this first issue. While this is still very much a Red Sonja story, it is one being told from the point of view of a child; a child that has been taught only the war stories and beliefs and code of vengeance that his father has drilled into him.

When his father charges him with the solemn task of avenging him should he fall in battle, young Cyril reacts as only a child can, seeing himself as the mighty hero, and plotting with gleeful abandon, the destruction of his foes. Delivering the narrative from this perspective could have led to a somewhat watered-down outing in this series, but once I’d got the hang of it, I found myself really enjoying this change of pace and perspective.

Where Red Sonja is typically a more traditionally Swords & Sandals title, Killing Red Sonja is much more fantasy based, with talking animals (represented in this first issue by a wise cracking Boar), man-eating giants, and in future issues we’ll meet wizards, sorcerers, dwarves, and mythical and murderous creatures. Also, this series serves a companion to the existing Red Sonja run and will introduce important plot points and characters for future arcs. However, this can be treated as a stand-alone story without reading any of the previous issues in this run.

The artwork is also very different from what I’d normally expect but, if you give it a chance, you’ll find that it actually works well with the story that’s being told. Rousseau’s art does have a very childlike appeal to it. Likewise, the way Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering is presented in over-simplified speech bubbles and Kelly’s simple watercolour palette both really enhance the narrative and reinforce the fact that this story is being told from the perspective of a fun-loving child, albeit a child that wants to brutally murder two people.

That’s perhaps the main thing that I really missed the first time I read through the comic. This sweet, cherubic child who I actually found myself liking, does some pretty appalling things in this issue, including ordering the torture and murder of anyone that might have the smallest scrap of information to aid him on his quest. Cyril ultimately isn’t a good person if you really think about it, but he is only a child, and a child that has been brainwashed by his father and a culture that venerates swift and merciless vengeance. Also, as a child he still sees things without the temper of experience or the shades of grey that an adult would recognise, everything is a grand adventure and he is the hero of his own story.

This is a very different take on Red Sonja, and while some might either not get it, or choose to seek out something a bit more typical of the world of our beloved Hyborian she-devil, I do think that this is a series that merits a deeper look, and I have a feeling it’s going to feature some interesting tests and developments in the coming issues.

Rating: 3/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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