“Red Sonja: Unchained” #1 from Peter V. Brett and Jack Jadsen is a comic split in two directions. It spends over a quarter of the book rehashing what came before in the “Red Sonja: Blue” one-shot. When the action finally heats up and Red Sonja is just about to get to the next step, it’s suddenly the last page and things are “To be continued…” There are some good moments in this book, but they are matched in quantity by narrative flotsam and jetsam.
Jack Jadsen is given the heavy lifting duties on this book and much like the book as a whole he delivers in some areas while dropping the ball in others. There is a fair degree of action in this issue and Jadsen works to make it feel exciting and kinetic. His panel layouts mix things up, his angles of view are dynamic, though a little too often showing people tilted up and away from the reader. He brings a lot of Red Sonja doing what she arguably does best, but isn’t able to master the basics of what bring a character to life: their face. The faces in “Red Sonja: Unchained” #1 are most often bland and lifeless, especially on the females.
The tale starts with Red Sonja dealing with the murder she committed in the previous one-shot. This action haunts her for nearly half an issue and then she spends the rest of the issue slicing and dicing a group of marauders because they appear to pose a threat, though it is she who lunged out with her blade drawn upon them. This deep character moment loses all edge when Sonja instantly betrays her vulnerable feelings to simply quest once more, which feels like inconsistent character plotting.
The actual scenes of action are well put together and genuinely exciting, leading to the new quest which Sonja very quickly picks up. The problem is that the issue is half dealing with the events of the previous issue while also setting everything up for the next issue. As one might imagine, it doesn’t leave much room for anything else. It’s basically just recap, sob, firm chin, slice, talk and then wait for next month.
“Red Sonja: Unchained” #1 is an unsatisfying first issue because it doesn’t establish the entire parameters of this story arc in a meaty way. It deals with the old, makes violence in the present, and hints at the future. The issue should have given a more consistent arc to Red Sonja’s actions and more validation to the reader as to why they should stick around for the entire miniseries. At present, this book is a tease and not exactly enticing enough to lure you back for more.