Creative Team: Bill Willingham, Giuseppe Cafaro, Andrew Dalhouse, Taylor Esposito & Matt Idelson
Cover Artists: Joseph Michael Linsner, Jonathon Broxton, Cosplay
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Available: February 10 via the usual suspects
Out from Dynamite just in time for Cupid’s favorite day is a 2021 Valentine’s Day Special featuring everyone’s favorite blade-wielding redhead. And lemme tell you right off the bat, she’s not here to hand out flowers, character-themed cards and candy hearts.
That’s right folks: it’s time for the Red Sonja Valentine’s Day Special, 2021 edition!
Now, as I’ve previously mentioned, holiday special comics have a bit of a meandering history: everywhere from the Great Marvel Holiday Grab Bags of the ‘70’s (and essentially the same featuring Archie and Jughead and all them DC heroes for many years before) to the Hellboy Winter Special, and everywhere in between. Anything from complete ham with an extra side of cheese to gritty, gruesome ghost tales. Standalone stories, usually with a holiday flavor and typically well out of the character’s ongoing timeline, if not their universe altogether.
Not unlike some of Red Sonja’s history in comics. (We needed a crossover with Vampirella AND Betty & Veronica? Really? The whole Mars Attacks thing wasn’t enough?)
So, you can imagine my trepidation when I saw this offering in my inbox, seeking review.
But then I saw Bill Willingham, he of Fables and Lark’s Killer fame (among a glorious host of others), listed as writer, and a great sigh of relief issued forth. If there’s anyone who can successfully mash up sickly-sweet Hallmark holiday with mail bikini-clad warrior woman from hell and make it all remotely palatable, it’s our man, Bill.
So, we’ll give this one shot a shot.
Now THIS is what holiday special comics should be.
Starting as any good sword and sorcery tale should, a warrior on a quest to slay an evil wizard, we find the Hyrkanian Heroine set to plunge steel into the guts of a local soothsayer, accused of offering made-up and downright ridiculous fortunes to high paying suckers—er, townsfolk (and acknowledging practice of same). The family of one such local has paid Red to claim vengeance for their son, a dolt who was told he’d inherit a kingdom, only to perish in a bar fight a week later. A simple enough assignment.
Minor problem, though.
When out of her creepy fortune-telling, potion-making magic lady guise, she goes by the moniker of Baba Yaga.
Without giving too much away, ol’ Baba lets Red off the hook. Kindred fierce woman spirits, or something. At any rate, Red goes on her way, and Baba sets her sights on a new waystop on the time-space continuum. She’s responsible like that.
‘Cept it just so happens that on her way out of Hyrkania, Baba’s path crosses that of the dark wizard of dark wizards himself, Kulan Gath, out for a quick ride on his flying plesiosaur-elephant-dragon (you know, like we do).
Predictable (though rather humorous) chest thumping and buffoonery ensues.
You know who wins in a battle of magic…or wits…or anything else, with Baba Yaga though? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not anyone NOT NAMED Baba Yaga.
Even if your name IS Kulan Gath.
…and that’s when the real fun starts—which I’ll let you read all about when you get this here holiday special in your own grubby mitts.
It probably goes without saying, but for those of you unversed in the Willingham-verse, Bill Willingham is a hella good writer, and tends to particularly shine when he’s blending swords and sorcery with fairy tale elements and just the right dash of tongue-in-cheek humor, and this book is no different. Do NOT read this one if you’re looking for hard core, grit and blood Sonja, and need things to fit nice and neat into her (let’s face it) ridiculously meandering timeline. DO read this if you love the character and her universe (or even if you’d just consider yourself an occasional companion, or just want to have a cup of coffee with her), have a sense of humor, or just like watching an all-powerful manly-man completely stuffed with himself wizard get his comeuppance.
Or, if you like really, really good art—‘cause this one’s chock-full of it.
While they’re clearly having fun with this book, Giuseppe Cafaro and Andrew Dalhouse are not taking the holiday off. Cafaro’s lines are incredible throughout—and let’s just say his comedic timing is everywhere it needs to be. For all the goofiness of the story, it still needs to be drawn effectively to really sell it, and Cafaro does so with great aplomb…exquisitely aided by Dalhouse’s colors. Action is bright and bombastic, facial expressions—the bread and butter of a book like this—are eloquent and expressive and everything just looks like a Red Sonja book should.
Well, except the chicken-headed bard and the bard-headed chicken: they’re just freaky.
Esposito’s lettering, again necessarily semi-serious, is perfectly structured. And Esposito gets to play both straight and comedic: the straight-line dialogue setting up some fun and well-timed and -placed sound effects. Typically solid work.
Oh—and do NOT skip the mid-book Red Sonja dating advice spread. It may just save your life (should you find yourself dating an axe-wielding she-warrior with an itchy trigger finger, as a fer instance).
So, long and short: The Red Sonja Valentine’s Day Special is a complete hoot of a book, and one I’m predicting you’ll be happy to add to your library of the fiery red one’s exploits.
The Red Sonja Valentine’s Day Special, 2021 will be available at your local LCS or via comiXology or Amazon.com on February 10, and can be yours for the comically-low, one time only price of $4.99. Enjoy, and tell ‘em the Pullbox sent ya!
Review by Andy Patch