Red Sonja attempts to assassinate a clan leader on behalf of another, but she finds her progress impeded by an immovable object that has the audacity to be far more agile than it should. Yup, it’s Red Sonja versus Stone Giant. You may wish to take out your D&D manual for a moment. A writer unafraid to let the artist speak, Trautmann sets up the first act of the book as a pure visceral chase, as orchestrated by Noah Solanga.
When facing a Stone Giant, whether you bear a sword or not, your best option is to run like the dickens. As Sonja runs, leaps and vaults out of the Stone Giant’s path Solanga acts as tour director for the Manse of the Bloody Tusk Clan. The setting’s almost as interesting as Sonja’s martial ducking. We’ve inured to the idea of evil overlords living in cesspools or castles reflecting their grim miens. The Manse is a pretty comfortable, elegant looking beast. I mean, the battle concludes at an ornate fountain, and the colors are so bright that they add to the construction’s loveliness.
More than mere facade, the architecture builds on idea that we don’t know which clan represents the good and which serves as an agent of evil. You see, the head of the clan tells a different story in the hopes of gaining Sonja’s trust, but can a sorcerer be trusted? In a way, I’m reminded of the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. In that movie, Topol portrays a pistachio smuggler who has been given the reputation of a heroin dealer by Kristatos, the heroin dealer, himself a trusted ally of the British government who even scored a medal from the Queen. Bond must discern who is telling the truth, just like Sonja, but Sonja’s reasoning is much more pragmatic. She is, after all, a mercenary, and the job is a means to an end. Sonja however isn’t willing to kill just anybody. She has a sense of honor, and that’s what distinguishes the Robert E. Howard protagonists from just any lunks with swords.
If you picture Sonja as a chain-mail bikini pin-up, you’re going to be sorely disappointed in Solanga’s Sonja. While artistically, Sonja traditionally was a chain-mail bikini pin-up, her characterization usually offered the reader something deeper. Solanga makes the clothes reflect the warrior. She wears a chain-mail shirt, a Xena skirt and armor beneath her leather gloves. Sonja also sports shoulders that can take down most football teams’ defenses.
The latest issue of Red Sonja benefits from Trautmann’s mimicry of Robert E. Howard’s narrative style, a massively action packed opening act, a superb setting and the scarlet-haired Solanga/Pettier Sonja discarding sensuality for practicality and fierceness.
Ray Tate’s first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, “Spider Without a Web,” published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he’s young at heart. Of course, we all know better.