Red Sonja and Cub (Comics Review)

Dynamite seems to be doing lots of Red Sonja stuff once again. A few months ago we had the anthology-style Legends of Red Sonja mini-series and then a couple weeks back we had the Red Sonja: Berserker one-shot. Dynamite has a strong history of putting out one-shots and mini-series concurrent with an ongoing series, and this is all a part of that. For the most part, I’ve loved all of Dynamite’s Red Sonja comics that I’ve read, and the current ongoing by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani is pretty damn excellent in all respects.

This past week we had another one-shot, Red Sonja and Cub by Jim Zub and Jonathan Lau, which is another side-adventure featuring the She-Devil with a Sword as she gets drawn into a tribal conflict and ends up as a bodyguard for a chieftain’s daughter who is working to end an ages-long enmity between tribes. Jim Zub seems to be getting a lot of mileage these days and its pretty good time. He’s doing the excellent Samurai Jack comics for IDW and he recently did an Amanda Waller one-shot for DC which was fairly decent as well. He also did a kids-friendly Li’l Sonja one-shot with Art Baltasar which was pretty fun! This one-shot tells a really cool story with lots of action and drama, with the art by Lau and colourist Stefani Renee and letterer Simon Bowland being top-notch as well.

Red Sonja and CubThe first thing to jump out at me for this one-shot is the cover, drawn by Jeffrey “Chamba” Cruz. It uses a very pale and largely white colour palette, with some contrasting darker colours here and there, but in general it reflects the fact that the story takes place in a very wintery land, with snow all around. Cruz’s Red Sonja here looks fierce and determined, and its pretty easy to see who the “Cub” mentioned in the title is.The cover, for me, is one of the more beautiful and well-done of Red Sonja covers, promising a lot of the action that can indeed be found in the pages inside.

As we find out in the story itself, the “Cub” is Kazuko of Clan Natsu, the grand-daughter of a general who is on her way to an arranged marriage to a boy of the Furu clan, to heal the rift between the two tribes. But her party is attacked by Fuyu clansmen who don’t want the rift healed and this is where Sonja steps in. Enjoying a fire all by lonesome, she hears the sounds of pursuit and intervenes, although she is too late to save Kazuko’s mother and her bodyguard both. From there on, we get no less than two superbly visceral action scenes that show of Sonja in a good light, and we get lots of character development for both Sonja and Kazuko as the two of them bond over their shared experience and even develop a friendship.

As a one-shot, Red Sonja and Cub doesn’t exactly offer something special but what it does is that it offers a very different perspective into Sonja’s character, something that won’t be readily seen in an ongoing since that main series is more concerned with long arcs and character development in small increments over the length of that arc. With this one-shot, Jim Zub front-loads a lot of character development and he shows a softer side of Sonja, which contrasts excellently with her bloodlust and her fighting skills when she gets into the thick of things.

With Sonja, we already know what she is like and Jim Zub does give her a lot of depth in this issue, but I think the real star here is Kazuko, who exemplifies the kind of character that I love reading about the most: those who can follow traditions, even if they are not good traditions, but who still have a core of inner strength and make their own decisions on how to go forward with their lives. The ending of this one-shot definitely makes Kazuko into that sort of a character and I loved her here.

Jonathan Lau provides the pencils here while Stefani Renee does the colours and Simon Bowland does the letters. Lau’s manga style was one of the most talked-about things for this issue, and it does have that whole vibe as far as I can tell. I can’t say that reliably since I don’t read manga and so lack that experience, but it is certainly different from all the previous Sonja styles I’ve seen. The only downside to Lau’s pencils is that his layouts aren’t perfect and his action scenes take some getting used to. They lack clarity, but still, they are pretty damn good visuals. And Renee’s colour palette lends itself to a nice wintery feel, contrasting with Adriano Lucas’ extensive palette on the ongoing Red Sonja series. And Simon Bowland gets a lot of mileage as well, helping complete the overall experience.

As a one-shot, I loved this story, and would really like to see Kazuko get some more screentime, either in another one-shot from the same creative team or in the main ongoing series.

Rating: 9/10

More Red Sonja: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8; (Legends of Red Sonja) #1; Li’l Sonja #1; Berserker.

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Posted on April 9, 2014, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

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