Warring ninja armies. A league of lady assassins. An angry sea god with a naked woman living inside him.
Red Sonja has seen a lot of action of late, so to speak. Although between learning the secret stories surrounding the mystical treasure known as the Blood Dynasty and slashing her way through legions of barbaric adversaries, the new incarnation of the She-Devil with a Sword still stands in the middle of a quest writer Brian Reed and artist Walter Geovani started over a year ago, which ends later this year in Dynamite's "Red Sonja" #50.
"As we've moved along, we defined who she is, we set her out into the world to have adventures, and now what we're seeing is that her adventure is consuming her," Reed told CBR. "When [Sonja] was brought back to life [at the beginning of my run], it maybe wasn't in the best way possible, and now all of the things that made her Red Sonja in the past aren't there for her now. You've got the warrior that is Red Sonja, but we haven't tempered the steel that is her blade. Before she was a child and had everything taken away from her until the goddess saved her and she was trained into this weapon. That wasn't there this time. This time around, Osin found the goddess and killed her before she had the chance to talk to Sonja. Sonja grew up, got married and was a noblewoman. She had a great life. And now all of the sudden, she's had this power in her unlocked. The knowledge is there, and you've got somebody who has all of these skills and weaponry, but they haven't been taught to use it. That's what I'm writing now."
The reincarnation twist on the classic character's origin brought with it a new expanded Sonja mythology as well as supporting cast. Besides her barbaric, claw-handed mentor Osin, Sonja's world now includes the villainous pirate lord Lucan who murdered this gentler lady's husband setting the flame-haired heroine back on the path to adventure and vengeance. Armed with her late husband's notes on the powerful crystal treasure known as the Blood Dynasty, Sonja's hunt for the fabled stone and its strange powers holds more significance than even she may know.
"There's an arc to all of it in that when I sat down and came up with my story for the Blood Dynasty, it was me figuring out that all of this wouldn't random," Reed said. "There is a lot of big picture going on."
Reed noted the biggest threads had started to hit recently, but shouldn't scare off new readers or fans who just want bloody good time. "You're getting a lot of the hacking and the slashing, but behind that there's the history of 'What is this thing they're fighting over? What is the power of it?'" Reed explained. "Also [back] in #41, you see that in the different eras Sonja's talking about, the person who's always involved with [the Blood Dynasty] is a red-haired woman. We're dropping little bread crumbs for you to say, 'There's a mystery here if you want to get into it. Otherwise, next issue she fights a sea monster. Come back.'"
In May's issue #44, Reed set out to give a different kind of done-in-one thrill with a story focusing on the series' conniving big bad and his plans for the Blood Dynasty's power. "We've got a bad guy in the book in Lucan, and he's after the same thing Sonja is, so what's he doing while Sonja's on her quest?" Reed said. "If we just get to the end and he's there and he's evil and he's been doing things but we don't know about it, that's not going to be as cool. With the structure of comics these days, I think you can take an issue and go, 'Hey look! This is the story of a guy who's not our main character!' I'm having fun with it."
Brian Reed learned a lot about breaking up his ongoing story thanks to an HBO binge from late last year. "It's not really writing for the trade. It's more thinking of the pacing of a TV show where I sat down and watched the entire run of 'The Wire' last year - and by no means am I as good as 'The Wire,' but it really taught me a lot about story structure and gave me a lot of things to experiment with," Reed said. "One of those things is this idea that Jimmy McNulty is the main character of that show, and he disappears for most of a season, but you needed to know this other part of the story before Jimmy came back or Jimmy coming back would be meaningless. That's what I meant to experiment with here."
Of course, the endgame for this particular chapter of the series will arrive late in the year when Sonja, Lucan and the Blood Dynasty all connect in an anniversary story that may hold the fate of the world in its outcome. Though Reed doesn't want to stop after the fireworks he's planned for issue #50. "All of this is plotted out right up to #50, but what helps is that I know what's coming after #50, and I've got to set that up. I'm aiming for that, and there's a really good Sonja roadmap for the next few months, and that's making writing it pretty easy."
Though keeping his new mythological expansions, Reed's arch foe's machinations and post-50 plans in play can prove hard especially when you're trying to create set pieces that match your artist's skills. "The more you work with your artists, the more you try to cater to what you see them doing well. One thing I really like with Walter is that I love his fight scenes, and it's 'Sonja' so he needs to do that. But I've got cavemen in a war, ninjas in a war -because I found out that not just fight scenes but armies are something he's spectacular at throwing at each other. I've been trying to work in the action and make it something bigger than I would normally use on my own."
"Red Sonja" #44 hits later this month from Dynamite Entertainment. And in July, readers can catch up with the tale of how the heroine returned from the grave in "Red Sonja Vol. 6: Death," and see her future battles in issue #48.