Writer: Mark Russell & Bryce Ingman
Illustrator: Craig Rousseau
Colorist: Dearbhla Kelly
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Available: March 25
Out next week and available to we the sequestered masses is the first issue of Dynamite’s Red Sonja offshoot miniseries, Killing Red Sonja. Penned by main series writer Mark Russell with an assist by Bryce Ingman and illustrated by Craig Rousseau and Dearbhla Kelly, the book explores the world around and in the wake of the titular heroine, in a tale promised to profoundly impact events in the main title for years to come.
Red Sonja has long been one of my favorite characters in comics for a host of reasons, but let’s face it: the woman leaves her mark on the world around her. Typically in blood. Like, rivers of it. You gotta figure that sooner or later, that’s going to add up to some retribution-seeking.
I just didn’t figure it’d come in the form of a 12-year-old kid.
A spinoff to Russell’s smash run on the main Red Sonja title (the events of this book take place directly after Red Sonja #12), Killing Red Sonja presents the revenge quest of boy-emperor Cyril of Zamora, adopted son of recently-slain evil tyrant Dragan the Magnificent. Made to promise to track his father’s absence, then seek vengeance if he were not to return, the boy, overwhelmed by guilt and duty despite full knowledge of his father’s despotism, heads out in manic chase.
And promptly brains himself on a branch, and heads back home.
Which is ok, because he forgot to pack his lunch, anyway.
Oh, and his witch-cursed talking boar Kump, chief military advisor and Captain of the Guard Josef and trusted tutor Nicodemo want to come, too.
Unfortunately, none of them planned for the giants.
Such is the way of things in the Hyborian Age.
I’ll tell you right now, I’m excited for this project. First, I love the idea of a series exploring the boundaries of Sonja’s world, and in particular, the ramifications of her actions. Like the Vulture’s tale in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the character and her actions do not exist in a vacuum, and this book explores some of those consequences in highly entertaining fashion.
Second, the methodology here is genius. The tale is told from the perspective of Cyril himself, with all the youthful enthusiasm—and naivete—of a pampered but well-meaning 12-y/o. He truly believes that his Captain of the Guard, who has just “interrogated” an informant senseless, is simply good at asking questions; that there is nothing amiss with having a sarcastic and would-be man-eating talking boar as a primary friend in life. There is more fantasy to this book than typical of Red Sonja properties. It reads like a deformed fairy tale—in fact, Christian Ward’s cover looks like a mix of a fairy tale frontispiece blended with a child’s drawing of his bloody target, complete with x’ed-out eyes.
At least, it reads like a fairy tale until, in true Hyborian manner, we discover that it very much is not.
Choosing an art team for KRS had to have been a tricky endeavor: you want someone decidedly apace from the style of the main title, but who could capture the fairy tale-esque flavor that Russell and Ingman had laid out for the series. Enter Craig Rousseau and Dearbhla Kelly.
Rousseau’s lines lend themselves to a pre-teen’s fantasy picture book much more than an adult-themed war and revenge quest, and Kelley’s bright, cheery colors accentuate the style perfectly: it almost looks like what I’d picture a 12-y/o from the middle ages doing as a pictorial travel journal. Both serve to lull the reader into a nice, happy, laconic complacency. Oh, and Otsmane-Elhaou’s letters follow suit—light and breezy, fun art-infused lettering and effects where appropriate. You know, right up until a key character gets their head ripped off by a monster.
These folks know how to deliver a punch.
And a really effective punch it is. ‘Cause you see, this isn’t a fairy tale, and it ain’t no little kid’s picture book. It’s a tale of revenge, and the consequences of war, and death, and savagery. Of family debt and honor and legacy. It just happens to have a 12-y/o boy and a talking boar (who’d really, really like to nosh on a human) at its center.
Interestingly—and effectively—Queen Sonja’s only appearance in this issue is one panel, in young Cyric’s fantasy: she hangs alongside traitor Minnas of Aquilonia, the boy emperor triumphant. Though I’m sure she’ll make an appearance in future issues (covers for issues 2 and 3 strongly suggest it), this one isn’t truly about Sonja…it’s about her wake.
And a helluva wake it’s looking to be.
Killing Red Sonja #1 will be available March 25 from Dynamite Entertainment, via their website, Amazon, comiXology or your Local Comic Book Store. Sit home during this time of (hopefully) quiet seclusion, and give it a read.
Review by Andy Patch
Contributing Editor, thePullbox.com