Sunday, February 15, 2015

I Reads You Review: CONAN RED SONJA #1

DARK HORSE COMICS/DYNAMITE ENTERTAINMENT – @DarkHorseComics and @dynamitecomics

WRITER: Gail Simone and Jim Zub
ARTIST: Dan Panosian
COLORS: Dave Stewart
LETTERS: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
COVER: Dan Panosian
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (January 2015)

Part 1 of 4: The Age of Innocence

Conan the Cimmerian (also Conan the Barbarian) was born in the pulp fiction of Robert E. Howard, first appearing in magazine, Weird Tales (1932).  Marvel Comics brought Conan to comic books in 1970, with the long running series, Conan the Barbarian.  In Conan the Barbarian #23 (cover dated February 1973), writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith created a high fantasy sword and sorcery heroine.  She was named Red Sonja and was loosely based on “Red Sonya of Rogatino,” a female character that appeared in the 1934 short story, “The Shadow of the Vulture,” written by Robert E. Howard.

Conan and Red Sonja are reunited in comic books again in Dark Horse Comics' new four-issue miniseries, Conan Red Sonja.  This series is written by Gail Simone and Jim Zub, drawn by Dan Panosian, colored by Dave Stewart, and lettered by Richard Starkings & Comicraft.

Conan Red Sonja #1 (“The Age of Innocence”) opens when Manus Drath arrives on the Barachan Isles, off the coast of Zingara.  He has brought with him a container of mysterious seeds for an unwary farmer to plant.  Meanwhile, in the city of Enshophur, in the country of Koth, Conan and Red Sonja find themselves after the same prize.  Their quest will take each into royal chambers, where they will learn that not everything is what it is supposed to be.

I have not read very many comic books written by Gail Simone, but what I have read, I have enjoyed.  I only discovered the work of writer Jim Zub within the last two years and have found great pleasure in his recently launched creator-owned series, Wayward (Image Comics).  Thus, I am not surprised that the Simone-Zub union would create such a hugely enjoyable series as Conan Red Sonja.

Conan Red Sonja captures the spirit of a Conan adventure as well as any Conan comic book ever has.  It is brawny and pulpy and has a humorous streak that cuts across most of the first issue.  Red Sonja's sly wit is the perfect foil for Conan's murderous sense of humor.  What makes their union so special is the reality that these two cannot trust each other long enough for them to take on a long campaign together.  It will be interesting to see how this duo comes together at just the right time to take on the darkness that is ahead of them because of their actions in this first issue.

Dan Panosian's art tells a lean and mean story, and Panosian captures how quickly our barbarian heroes can change fate with the sharp edge of their swords.  Panosian sets the mood; this first issue is just the beginning – the introduction and set-up.  The real pain is yet to come, and the art portends in all the right places while offering up the Hyborian version of a heist story.

Conan Red Sonja #1 makes me want to keep reading.  I hope that the rest of this series lives up to my high expectations.

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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