As the recent Red Sonja “fish out of water” series continues, recent issues have started to look at a couple of elements that have raised their heads; the main one being how does Max know so much about Hyrkania? Dynamite have decided to go back and give us a prequel to the prequel to the Red Sonja #0 and in doing so, sheds some, possibly not quite needed light on the Sonja’s current situation.
Ram of Shondakor rides with purpose, searching for the red-haired She-Devil known as Red Sonja, to enlist her aide in saving the land of Meru from the evils of Kulan Gath. Unfortunately, it is a trap in which Kulan Gath hopes to finally send his erstwhile enemy to the after life.
This one shot is written by Erik Burnham and pretty much covers the required checklist for a Sonja story: Tavern – check; ugly bloke wanting some attention/table – check; ride across country only stopping to take out some bandits – check. It’s all in here. There is nothing in here that you haven’t seen in a Sonja book before. Yet, the pull of the book is how it fits into the current run and this is answered in an almost off-hand manner that you may well miss it. It is good to see a Sonja on top of her game, mistress of her world, rather than the lamb lost in New York she currently is, albeit a lamb with a sharp sword.
If there is any debate over whether this is an old school story, there can be no doubt that the art by the timeless Tom Mandrake is anything but old school. Mandrake has an edgy feel to his pencils which is totally different to the curvaceous style of Carlos Gomez. The differences between the two are massive and each have their strong points and weak points. It could be said that Mandrake’s art looks tired in comparison. However, in my humble opinion, you would be mistaken. What Mandrake lacks in blatant suggestive posts, he more than makes up for with excellent panel design, strong male faces and flat-out excellent storytelling. Yes, I can see that some of the more action based poses of Sonja can seem a tad wooden in places, but this is only a minor quibble. Color by Mohan is equal to Mandrake’s at times heavy inks, painting Sonja’s world as dark place indeed.
It is safe to say, that in today’s event based books and multiple reboots/restarts/rehashes that the market is “enjoying” at the moment, this book is something akin to a throwback where one story was told in one issue, far the most part. If you want to take a break from all the chaos of the Big Two, you could do much worse than hang out in Hyrkania and its neighbouring lands for a while.
Writing – 3.5 Stars
Art – 5 Stars
Color – 4 Stars
STORY BY Erik Burnham
ART BY Tom Mandrake
COVER BY Moritat
PUBLISHER Dynamite Entertainment