Title: Red Sonja: She-Devil With a Sword (Volume 1)
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writers: Michael Avon Oeming and Mike Carey
Artist: Mel Rubi
Colorists: Caesar Rodriguez and Richard Isanove, et al
Letterer: Richard Starkings
Pages: 150 pp
Price: $19.99 US
The character of Red Sonja originally appeared in Robert E. Howard’s short story “The Shadow of the Vulture” in 1934, there named Red Sonya of Rogatino. The Red Sonya of the short story was quite different from the Red Sonja that later appeared as a character in Marvel‘s Conan the Barbarian comic books; the story was set in the early 1500s, and the Red Sonya of that original short story fought her battles with pistols as well as a blade. (For those who are interested, it can be found here).
The character of Red Sonja was adapted into comic book format by Marvel in 1974, and Marvel published works with Red Sonja, on and off, from 1974 through 1996. Dynamite Entertainment, owned by Paradox Entertainment (which owns the rights to a great many licensed characters from many artists, such as Alice in Wonderland, the Evil Dead main character Ash, Buck Rogers, Dracula, Flash Gordon, Xena, Vampirella, the Lone Ranger, the Phantom, the Shadow, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein, the Bionic Woman, and John Carter of Mars) claimed the rights to Red Sonja in 2005 and began printing her new adventures in comic form immediately.
The story presented here shows Sonja rescuing a messenger from the King of Gathia, who is attacked by the warriors of the tribe of Zedda when he brings them a message from his King. Sonja intervenes in the attack and slaughters all his foes, then chooses to accompany him on his return home to Gathia. The next day, however, he is killed when he drinks from a pool in the desert near his home and inadvertently swallows the seed from a swiftly-growing vine. He kills himself to escape the pain, and Sonja beheads him to kill the plant and keep it from attacking her. She then bundles the body up and takes it the rest of the way to Gathia.
In the walled city of Gathia, she attempts to return the messenger’s body, but instead is recognized by the soldiers there and attacked; Captain Dulithain of the palace guard claims that it is impossible that any evils or demons such as the vine that killed the messenger could still remain in the country after their King and his God, the Borat-Na Fori, had purified the land. Fa, the high priest of Gathia’s King — who is known as the Celestial One — has her dumped into a pit through a trap door that opens at her feet; she defeats the ogre that lives in the pit, but then collapses unconscious from her wounds.
Fa retrieves Sonja from the pit that she might be a gift and sacrifice to the Celestial One; she is taken, her wounds dressed, and she is bathed and prepared. Sonja regains consciousness during her bath, but is bound too well to escape as she is taken and tied to a pillar. The high priest Fa stabs her in the heart and breaks the dagger’s blade off in her chest — at which point she appears to die ….
Red Sonja: She-Devil With a Sword is well-written, and, as with many of the stories based on Howard’s works, shows the danger inherent in too much religion of any kind. The art is gorgeous, and the end of the book contains a gallery of reprints of the covers of the original issues (Red Sonja #1-6) that this book collects. An entertaining read, and a wonderful way to while away a couple hours.