Red Sonja vol. 5 #15
The epic continues. Sonja The Red can save her kingdom...by abdicating her throne. If she agrees to lead a man's army, and kill indiscriminately, then her people will be fed. By MARK RUSSELL (DC's Year Of The Villain) and BOB Q (Captain America).
From the start, Red Sonja has been a thrilling action-fantasy comic about making hard choices and how even the clever options come with heavy costs. Along with that theming, flashbacks illuminate key parts of each issue’s narrative. Each of the fifteen issues so far has followed this particular formula, allowing the book to have enough single-issue storytelling to make it feel distinct, but with enough happening in the larger story to keep it moving. Nothing crazy, and something that feels rare in comics at the moment.
In the hands of a less talented writer, this formal structure would grow repetitive and stale, but not here. Over and over again, writer Mark Russell has used this narrative framing to great effect, adding context, character, and history to an already well-done story about war, honor, sacrifice, and power. In this issue, Red Sonja makes a deal to be the Kingdom of Khitai’s Master of War, in exchange for food delivered to Hyrkania, where she rules. In Hyrkania, the threat of starvation bears down harder and harder on the people, forcing more hard choices. Sonja’s introduction into the King’s court is marred by an assassination attempt, thwarted by Sonja herself and a figure from her past she assumed dead.
The hard questions posed by the narrative are enhanced by the art, by Bob Q with colors by Dearbhla Kelly. Bob’s art is expressive and emotive, and punctuated by shocking violence. And, as always, lettering is at its best when it works within the art and announces itself as necessary, and Hassan Otsmane-Elahaou’s work fits that criteria perfectly.
Each issue’s cliffhanger ending keeps pushing for another issue, and the breathless end this issue is no exception. But it’s not simply the propulsive scripting that makes this book great. It’s a weighty story—the first year centered on what it takes (and costs) to win a war, and this year, while dealing with the less action-focused topic of surviving in the wake of a devastating war, is no less thrilling to read.
Telling a sweeping story while retaining the complexity and emotion a story like this requires isn’t easy, but as Russell and company have shown, it can be done. And when done well, it’s hard to put down.
Red Sonja continues its strong run with another beautifully illustrated issue centered around the difficult choices that must me made in times of war.
Red Sonja #15: Harder and Harder Choices
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 9.5/109.5/10
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