“Red Sonja” #100 is a merry mixed bag of an anthology. Each of the five stories grabs onto one of Sonja’s many traits, creating a full celebration of her stubbornness, wiliness and lustiness. While all the tales are readable and enjoyable, some fail to leave a strong impression or rise above simple narrative. Artwork issues can compound the script’s problems, giving a so-so story even less memorable execution. This one’s probably only for dedicated “Red Sonja” fans but, for those who love the character, it offers a spirited celebration of the She-Devil.
Eric Trautmann and Dave Acosta’s “The Snare” goes full-on epic caption, an approach which the sword-and-sorcery fan in me just loved. From the first page where Sonja stands with her sword drawn in front of a map to the red-eyed monsters and gigantic spiders, this team doesn’t pull any genre punches. I didn’t always love Valentina Pinto’s colors here and Acosta’s faces are occasionally too blobby, but his framing is spectacular. The spider-slaying page is fierce and exciting, with scarlet “Spllutch” onomatopoeia scrawled above the spider’s disgusting body.
Roy Thomas and Pablo Marcos’ “Tresses” delivers a creepy blob-monster version of the Rapunzel story that hearkens back in tone and feel to older Sonja stories. I love that they’ve used Red Sonja to invert a patriarchal fairy tale, but the script and artwork needed to be just a little tighter and smoother. There doesn’t seem to be much of a point or theme to this story and even Sonja’s closing ruminations don’t come to any conclusions. Still, I enjoyed the old-school feel of the art.
Michael Avon Oeming and Taki Soma’s “Sticks and Stones” has perhaps my favorite plot in the anthology. Oeming is often tongue-in-cheek here, going so far as to turn Sonja’s laughably out-of-date bikini into a great gag about how “[armor] just gets in the way!” Taki Soma draws a leaner, cartoonier Sonja like a character from an old PC game, but it can be difficult to follow the action at times. The reader doesn’t always see the characters in motion or transition. I don’t need too much hand-holding, but the characters hopped panel-to-panel in a way that drove all the tension out of the fight scene.
Gail Simone and Noah Salonga’s “The Torch” offers a thoughtful message about ambition and sisterhood. Salonga’s strong inking grounds the tone of the story, giving it thematic weight even when the characters’ faces are a little stiff. Fitting for a ten-year anniversary issue, this story is more of a retrospective on Sonja’s life. Her regrets, ambitions and motivations all come into play but, most importantly, so does vengeance. (This is the She-Devil, after all.)
Luke Lieberman and Sergio Fernandez Davila’s “Three Wishes” shows Sonja at her booziest, lustiest and trickiest. Davila’s more detailed art imbues this story with a sense of the fantastic and, of the three stories that Salvatore Aiala Studios colors, their work jives best with this one. Sonja’s scene with her father’s ghost is also surprisingly touching and nuanced. He tells her, “I don’t want to be avenged. I want you to be happy. Forget me,” but she refuses. Her content body language and the dreamy color scheme as she says “never” suggests there’s something wonderful about her stubbornness — that her bloody quest against the world is about more than her father and a small, personal vendetta.
Letterer Joshua Cozine does strong work throughout the issue — a remarkable feat considering how many stories he has to handle. Each requires multiple treatments and a unique feel, but Cozine somehow manages to get it right for them all.
I’m always happy to read more Sonja stories, but “Red Sonja” #100 doesn’t have any standouts. Taken as a whole, it’s a solid introduction to the character that will hopefully draw some readers’ interest in her, but it isn’t going to be one of my favorites to remember.