Years ago, there used to be this little animated series called Defenders of the Earth. To a young kid growing up in the 90s, the show was one of the most memorable ones at the time, in part because it featured The Phantom, a comics character from my childhood that I had a ton of fun reading about in the Hindi-version comics that were released in India. I don’t remember the show all that much, but I do remember that Phantom, Flash Gordon and Mandrake pretty much kicked ass every time and that Ming the Merciless was utterly despicable, a true villain.
Fast forward to now, when Dynamite has begun releasing Kings Watch, a mini-series that focuses on the adventures of this trio and goes to some new places. The original animated series was set in 2015. It is now 2014 (the series started in September last year). Funny how that works out, huh? Reconnecting with these characters after all this time has been quite a thrill, and this first issue has been very entertaining. The story isn’t quite as put together as I would like it to be, but the art is pretty top notch and this is definitely a really good issue. One that makes me want to pick up the others immediately.
Gail Simone and Walter Geovani’s Red Sonja, launched last year in July, has proven to be one of the best new comics of recent months. It even made my “Top 5 New Comics of 2013” list. For a fan of the character and the setting, Gail and Walter have done some incredible work with the series and their first arc of six issues was always fun and enjoyable without fail. Now, they are launching into their second arc after a 2-month break and it looks like they have both upped their game significantly. Which is all that I wanted really.
As said, this issue starts off a new arc. After defeating Dark Anisia in the previous arc and freeing the populace of an usurper king, now Sonja is headed all over Hyrkania and beyond to round-up the six greatest artisans of the age for an immense banquet being held in a month’s time by Samala, the Emperor of a pseudo-Egyptian kingdom. Gail’s writing is as top-notch as ever this time around and even the art clicks together very well. This might just be my favourite issue of the series thus far.
Not as busy a week as the last but fairly busy nonetheless. The new creative teams on various ongoing titles continue to go strong, particularly Justice League Dark and Witchblade while some of the newer titles like Black Science continue to be exception, so that’s one thing that I really liked about this past week. January in particular has been a really excellent month of comics what with Marvel’s full-on All-New Marvel NOW! launch and some really good issues for DC’s Forever Evil event.
Just one graphic novel again this week, the Lee/Buscema magnificence that is Silver Surfer: Judgement. I was meaning to read at least one more, but time wasn’t on my side and I missed out. Hopefully the new month gets off to a good start.
As you might well know from the reviews I’ve been posting in the last few months, Red Sonja is one of my favourite female characters in comics and with Gail Simone on writing duties for her with Dynamite’s latest relaunch, things are on the up and up for her. She’s always been a character that I enjoy reading about, and this past week Dynamite released a one-shot called Li’l Sonja which reimagines the fiery redhead as an all-ages kids character, very much in the same vein as, say, Powerpuff Girls or Li’l Gotham or Itty Bitty Hellboy.
I just read the issue a few minutes ago and I got to say that it was a lot of fun. Knowing that it is all-ages and being a little familiar with Jim Zub’s writing style from his Samurai Jack comics with Andy Suriano and Josh Burcham for IDW, I knew that I would be in for a treat here and I wasn’t disappointed. Honestly, if Li’l Sonja was a cartoon being aired in the mid-90s, I would have totally been watching it. Honest truth! Jim’s writing is great and the art team has done a great job as well.
And so we come to it, the final issue of Gail Simone and Walter Geovani’s first arc on the new Red Sonja series. When the first issue came out in July, it seemed as if the road to the end of the first arc would be long. But here we are, and the journey to this issue has been a really fun and exciting one. The last issue promised one hell of a one-on-one clash between Dark Annisia and Red Sonja, but there was a gut-wrenching twist at the end, something that did leave me quite shocked. It was a cliffhanger which made me really anxious to get to this issue, and I’m quite elated that the finale lives up to its promise.
The final issue of the arc this may be, but it is still just as great an issue as any of the others. The Red Sonja who we saw in the first issue has grown quite a bit and the one we see at the end of this issue is a different person. Not too different, mind you, but the character has definitely been changed by her experiences fighting against her sister-from-the-pit and almost dying in the wilderness. If you were waiting for Red Sonja to truly be the hero of this story, then this is the issue that you have to read for that.
One thing that I love about Gail Simone’s story arcs is that she writes strong, consistent stories regardless at what point they are set. Be it the beginning, or the middle, or the end, her writing always entertains in all sorts of different way. The Movement, Batgirl, Birds of Prey, she’s been excellent in all of them, and her revival of Red Sonja in collaboration with artist Walter Geovani is further proof that she is one of the best writers in the industry, no doubts about that.
As a fan of the character, I was immediately on board with this series even before the first issue had been released. After that, it was only a matter of form since Gail and Walter gave me a story and a character that I could really latch on to. They’ve put Sonja through some really tough moments in the previous four issues, and now she is on the mend, and spoiling for a fight, which she does get by the end, except for a slight unforeseen complication which was perfect.
Red Sonja is on a pretty damn good kick right now. She has her own monthly comic that was recently relaunched and has been doing really well. It also helps that it follows a fairly successful and long run that continues to be collected in trade paperbacks. There is an upcoming crossover series involving her and Brian Wood’s Conan. And then there’s Legends of Red Sonja a new mini-series that started this week and furthers the, well, legend of the She-Devil with a sword.
When Gail Simone and Walter Geovani launched the new series a few months ago, the first issue had a number of cover variants that were all drawn by some of the industry’s top female artists, including the original cover. With Legends Gail has turned that thing around and the stories in this anthology-style series are all written by some of the best and biggest female prose and comics writers. But this is not a typical anthology series, it is quite different, and that is something that works to the advantage of this series quite well, going by the first issue.
Every now and then, its fun to get lost in a setting and a character to the degree that all that matters is the fun you have while reading (or watching, as may apply). This is one of the things that draws me to sword and sorcery stuff so much. There are some really fun tropes in the genre that otherwise would seem odd and out of place, but here, they are perfect. And nothing exemplifies sword and sorcery like Red Sonja and Conan do, characters who are the poster characters of the genre and have been around for decades.
With her fourth issue, Gail Simone proves once again why she is such a good fit for this rebooted series. The new issue continues a tradition of action-packed stories with some really fantastic art. And the same goes for artist Walter Geovani. I’ve always loved his work, and he continues to impress.