Legends of RED SONJA by Gail Simone Vol. 1

I have no idea who Red Sonja is, to be honest, and that means I had to go online to research about the character's origin and publication history as a comic book series. From what I understand overall, she was a character created by Marvel Comics around 1973 when she first appeared in a Conan the Barbarian issue. There was also a movie about her at some point. She's the quintessential pin-up fantasy heroine from comics. What made me want to read this more recent Dynamite comics title is because Gail Simone (from DC's Batgirl) is the writer of this particular line-up. Also, there is something nostalgic about warrior women for me. I did after all grow up to Xena: the Warrior Princess (but I was nine and I don’t remember specific things about that show except that Lucy Lawless rocked and kicked ass). And so reading Red Sonja definitely gave me that kind of nostalgia.

The first volume of this revamped version from 2010 to 2012 entitled Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues reads more of an anthology with a sideline linear narrative. According to what I researched, this Red Sonja is a distant relative for the original She-Devil with a sword. Knowing this premise actually helped demystify some elements for this volume that seemed shaky and suspicious. Nevertheless, reading this collection had been enjoyable because of its action-packed moments and interesting blend of tall tales, feminist insight and sometimes clever subversion of tropes.

A group of warriors named Grey Riders are the 'protagonists' of this story as they are on a quest to capture or slay Red Sonja whose reputation and deeds make her very larger-than-life if not almost mythical. For every issue, the Grey Riders have to interrogate an array of colorful side characters who have a tale or two to spare about the legendary She-Devil with a Sword. And that's how this volume reads and develops as an anthology because of the interwoven separate an standalone stories that the Grey Riders have to hear and often have to figure out whether or not these tales are authentic. A lot of the stories emphasize the badassery and cunning of Red Sonja. Some are exaggerated to the point of absurd while a few are designed to inspire paranoia or discourage the Grey Riders on their quest to seek out the infamous fire-kissed warrior who seems to keep eluding them throughout the journey.

Simone has worked with many fantastic artists for this volume and the variety and quality of the artworks and illustrations are truly a feast for the eyes and a feat of the imagination. What stands out easily when it comes to the depiction of Red Sonja is her iconic bikini-style armor. It is so utterly gorgeous and in one issue Simone even had a self-aware flashback that acknowledges the deadly allure of a formidable fighter who happens to be a scantily dressed woman--and what that can do to unsuspecting fiends and rivals.

I had a great fucking time reading this volume. It's ridiculous yet witty, infectiously daring and unafraid in its exploits and small doses of dark humor, and visually interesting with the multiple collaborations of artists working together. The first volume included a script for one of the issues as well as gallery for the concept art. This is something that can be consumed by novice and veteran comics readers alike. So if you like your women fierce and written by a female writer, you can’t go wrong with Gail Simone and her work for the Legend of Red Sonja.



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