REVIEW: Red Sonja Vol. 4 #12 (“Back Roads”)

After traveling through a dimensional portal in pursuit of Kulan Gath, Sonja and Wallace find themselves back in a familiar world – but something is amiss. As they escort a priest and his retinue into the desert, certain death is lurking beneath the sands…

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WARNING:  This review contains major spoilers. 


RED SONJA Vol. 4 #12
Story by Amy Chu & Eric Burnham
Script by Eric Burnham
Pencils by Carlos Gomez

Colors by Mohan
Cover Artists (Various, 5 Variant Covers)

Lettering by Simon Bowland

What You Need to Know:  

Red Sonja and the “wizard” Professor Wallace step through a dimensional portal in modern times pursuing the evil sorcerer Kulan Gath. Once on the other side, Sonja and Wallace awaken in a desert. Traveling to the nearest town, they do not find Kulan Gath but hire themselves out as escorts to a priest in need of adventurers. Where does this priest wish to go? And what is he seeking in the vast, empty sands?

What You’ll Find Out:
Kulan Gath is nowhere in sight, and Red Sonja and Professor Wallace don’t know where to find him. Sadly, he’s not in the middle of the desert, which would make their job much easier. Since Wallace can’t conjure a portal, the duo’s options appear to be limited. Wandering for a time, they stumble across a merchant. He’s rather snarky about information until Sonja shows him some steel – at which point he directs the pair to a town “in that direction.”
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Arriving in town, Sonja and Wallace go where any good adventurers go upon entering a new city – the tavern. As Sonja enjoys her brew (they don’t have any mead), a priest barges in, looking for mercenaries to escort him across the desert. The typical fare ensues – a man steps up with his own mercenary band – and Sonja, of course, is laughed off. Sonja knocks the offender out and is next seen leading the mercenaries and the priest out on his desert adventure.

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Heading out into the desert with her new band of mercenaries, Wallace and the priest who hired them, it’s only a matter of time before the dangers of the desert rise up from the ground to meet them. What will Red Sonja do next? And where in the world was this priest taking them? And where exactly are they?

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What Just Happened:

Sonja is in a strange place. Sonja finds an inn. Sonja is hired as a mercenary. Sonja fights bad guys. This issue is cliche after cliche of fantasy comics regurgitated since the  1970s. It’s also how virtually every Dungeons & Dragons game run by 12-year-olds begins, so there’s not a lot of originality here.

Watching Red Sonja have her moment with a tough guy who thinks she is “just a weak woman” is as cliche as the Geico gecko spouting a witty anecdote or watching Fred Flintstone yell “Yabba Dabba Doo!” It’s been done to death, and when I saw it again in this issue, I literally shook my head. In numerous panels, there is virtually no dialogue (note the three words in the page above.) This comic is sadly another case of splashy art and very little substance. And Sonja traipsing about in suggestive poses, there’s that too.

The art by Carlos Gomez is solid but not spectacular.

Admittedly, I have jumped into this Red Sonja series with little background. I’m going back to read the preceding issues so I am much better informed for my review of the next issue. I can’t help shake the feeling though that Red Sonja has declined substantially since the days of Roy Thomas and Frank Thorne. I hope future issues have more to offer. Truly, I’ve come to expect more from Dynamite Entertainment.

Perhaps, in retrospect, I am a bit of a dinosaur in the comics world and my expectations are old-fashioned. Red Sonja is a popular book; Amy Chu is a well-respected, educated and prolific writer. Yet I don’t see any of this translated into the writing or plot of this particular comic.

Rating: 4.2/10


Final Thoughts:
I hope to keep my eye on and continue reviewing Dynamite’s Red Sonja comics. It would be nice to see the storytelling improve and grow beyond predictable splash pages and battles while reducing Red Sonja to a pin-up piece. This particular character deserves much more than what I’ve seen here. Until things improve I’d heartily recommend the back issues of Marvel’s Red Sonja from 1977.

Also – there are obligatory variant covers for this comic too. There are a total of five: (A) by Ben Caldwell, (B) by Juan Doe, (C) by Pia Guerra, (D) is a Cosplay cover and (E, the subscription cover) is by Andre Lima Araujo.


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