In my decades of comic book reading, I’ve read far more parodies of Red Sonja comics than I’ve read actual Red Sonja comics. Actually, this is the first true Sonja comic that I’ve ever read, but based on the parodies and general comic book osmosis, I figured that a comic book featuring Red Sonja would have three things: intrigue (someone would surely be involved in some kind of betrayal), metal bikinis (bikinis, made of metal), and action (while wearing metal bikinis).
This issue has all three.
It has less action than I might have guessed, but I have read other recent Robert E. Howard comic books, and I know the tendency now is to have less action than the old Marvel “Conan” days and add more slow-build tension. So I wasn’t exactly surprised to find that kind of pacing here, and it works well. Arvid Nelson writes “Queen Sonja” as if he’s writing a kind of post-Howard retro-Dumas political epic. This is a world of courtly intrigue and political maneuvering, and all Sonja wants to do is go out in her metal bikini and smash some stuff with her sword. The schism between the reality and desire is at the heart of every good story, and Nelson pushes that contrast to the forefront, while also indicating subplots about werewolf creatures and a mysterious unicorn insignia.
So we get a double layer of mystery to go along with the other good stuff in this issue.
Now let’s talk about the art, because it’s good, too.
Like many Dynamite comics, the coloring sometimes overwhelms the pencil art here, but Vinicius Andrade uses an interestingly pale color scheme throughout. He sometimes provides too much dimensionality and definition to every single curve and every single muscle, but his use of lighter hues gives the comic a kind of brightness that I don’t normally associate with savage sword kinds of comics. It complements the bright red hair of the protagonist nicely.
And penciller Jackson Herbert is astonishingly good at least a few times in this issue. He draws photorealistic characters (with idealized bodies, sure) without seeming to trace from photographs. We don’t get the stiff poses or the awkward Photoshopping collage effect with Herbert. Instead, we get hyper-detailed illustrations of powerful characters doing heroic things (or sitting around at court, wishing they could be out doing heroic things).
For my first exposure to an actual Red Sonja comic, this was a pretty good one. I’m not necessarily interested in finding out what happens next, but I appreciate the artistry involved in the creation of “Queen Sonja” #6. These guys seem to know what they’re doing.