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.
For this new seasonal list of the best SFF characters I’ve read this year, my twelfth and final pick is actually a tie. Its no secret to anyone reading my blog and reviews that there are two series that have come out this year that have had a great impression on me and have really taken me on a bit of a nostalgia trip, one of them more than the other. The first is Red Sonja from Gail Simone and Walter Geovani’s excellent new Red Sonja series from Dynamite and the second is Samurai Jack Jim Zub and Andy Suriano’s brand-new series Samurai Jack from IDW Publishing, based on the Cartoon Network series of the same name from the early 2000s.
Hit the break to see why I picked these characters.
A few days ago I did my best of 2013 list for the books I had read in the second half of the year. In a departure from previous such lists I divided the books and the comics into separate posts so that I didn’t have one massive post up. Massive posts are a bit tough to handle, especially when you are promoting them on social media. And with the split posts, the directions are different and there’s no unnecessary crossover.
So, with the books already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite graphic novels of the year. A post with the best single issues will follow on later.
You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
Looks like its going to be the month of busy weeks. The last two weeks I’ve read two graphic novels each along with all my regular monthlies and this past week proved to be no different. Both Detective Comics Volume 4 and The Flash Volume 4 proved to be exceedingly good and now I have two more series that I need to catch up on for the New 52. Tall order, but doable. And as regards the usual monthlies, there were comics across the board, in all sorts of ways: genres, publishers, characters, etc, etc. The year has slowly transformed over the months into a really solid year for comics overall.
I still haven’t made any dent in the pile of graphic novels I have to read, but I’m not too worried about any of it, to be honest. Already used to that phenomenon from my novel reading.
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.
The sixth book cover that I pick for the “12 Days of Best Covers of 2013” list is Jon Sullivan’s superb illustration for Ari Marmell’s In Thunder Forged, the first Fall of Llael novel from Pyr Books, set in the Iron Kingdoms setting. I read the novel a few weeks ago and while its not among the best novels I’ve read this year, its certainly been one of the better ones and I definitely loved the setting and the characters book. It makes me wish that I knew more about Iron Kingdoms and that the next book in the series was already out. Now that would truly be amazing, especially if Jon draws the cover once again.
The sixth comic cover that I pick is the cover for writer Gail Simone and artist Walter Geovani’s first issue of the rebooted Red Sonja series from Dynamite Entertainment. The cover itself is courtesy of Nicola Scott, who is one of my absolute favourite comics artists. The first issue was rather remarkable in that Gail put together a team of seriously awesomely talented female artists and got them to do the cover and several variants, one each. The result was pretty fantastic, as was the rest of the issue itself. Gail and Walter have definitely put Red Sonja on the map for me, a dilettante with the character’s comics, and now I’m a full fan.
Without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
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.
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.
My love for everything that Gail writes is no longer a surprise. Or it shouldn’t be at any rate. She is one of the best writers working in the industry right now and a good part of it is because she is able to portray her characters so well. And her scripts are always exciting, no matter what. I’ve been following her from series to series, whether that be her original run on Birds of Prey, or the second, or Batgirl, or The Movemehernt, or even Red Sonja. And I can’t wait to read her Tomb Raider comic when it comes out.
With Red Sonja, for two issues now, Gail has presented a very nuanced and personal take on the titular character and this is something that she continues in the new issue. But this time, she takes things a step further and presents a much more modern and ass-kicking back-story for the character, something that has been in Sonja’s lore since her very inception. And it rocks.
Last week I posted a book survey, in response to a similar post by a blogger friend. I had a lot of fun writing that post and I immediately wanted to do a comics version of the same. In addition, I’ve talked two other friends, fellow The Founding Fields reviewer Bane of Kings and blogger Stefan at Civilian Reader, into contributing to this survey.
My post goes up today. Bane’s post will go up tomorrow (For those interested, you can check out Bane’s own A-to-Z Book Survey on his blog). And Stefan’s post will follow the day after. Do keep an eye on them!
Hope you enjoy! And even if not, do share your thoughts in the comments! And remember, all my comics reviews can be found here.
Quite unintentionally, sort of, last week was a full-on comics week for the blog. And it seems that it was also a week where Gail Simone was 2/2 for her releases, Batgirl #23 (review) and this one, the second installment of her Red Sonja reboot for Dynamite Entertainment. Her first issue (review) was an absolutely amazing issue and everything that I expected from the second one, I got, and then some.
Currently, the only other writers who are hitting the same kind of heights for me right now are Scott Snyder with Batman, Geoff Johns with Aquaman/Justice League/Justice League of America and Jason Aaron with Thor: God of Thunder.
Its also great to see that two incredibly awesome female characters in comics are being written by one of the best in the industry. Its heartening. I love it. And I want more.