Gail Simone (w)
Walter Geovanni (a), Jenny Frisson (c)
March 25, 2015
In issue #14, Red Sonja was cursed with the inability to forgive. In this issue, we find out what the implications of this are for Red Sonja.
Jenny Frisson is still on cover duty with a variant cover by Emma Vieceli, a subscription cover by Stephanie Buscema, and another cover by the Red Sonja cover contest winner Matt Brooks. When Simone first took over Red Sonja, many female artists came forward to confess their desire to draw Red Sonja. Considering how Red Sonja has been drawn and depicted, it comes as no surprise that women might feel uncomfortable admitting that they want to draw the red-tressed swordswoman. Consequently, I find it especially imperative when reading Simone’s Red Sonja to look at the covers.
Frisson’s covers fascinate me. When the covers started pouring out for Red Sonja #1, I was a little bummed that Frisson was to be the main artist. I found Nicola Scott’s and Fiona Staples’ ferocious covers the most befitting to my idea of the She-Devil with a Sword:
These covers clearly emphasis Red Sonja as a warrior, and a brutal one at that. She is not there to be gazed upon. But Frisson’s art has grown on me because I think her covers do invite a gaze, but not a heterosexual male gaze. I didn’t originally like Frisson’s covers because they were so soft and pretty. Red Sonja is harsh, barbaric. But the more I see Frisson’s covers, I see them as a part of a character oeuvre. I see them deliberately challenging how we engage with our perceptions of the character.
It was actually the cover for #14 that did it for me.
Red Sonja in a field of poppies, droopy-eyed, yet staring directly back at the viewer. Frisson’s covers make me think of Red Sonja differently. I begin to see her as a more complicated character. It allows me to invite vulnerability to this character I have always enjoyed, in particular, for her lack of vulnerability. But invulnerability does not, in truth, a good character make, and Simone continues to write Red Sonja in a way that humanizes her. That includes big adventures, but also character development, and I think that is important to re-appropriating Red Sonja from a mere barbarian babe to a compelling and readable character.
But enough about that, let’s talk about the other covers. I am loving the drama of Vieceli’s cover.
Anissa looming over Red Sonja with the minimalist background that blends with Red Sonja’s character. It’s compelling and makes me want to know more about Red Sonja and Anissa, who didn’t show up in this issue; I am wondering when we will get more of this dynamic.
And of course, Buscema’s covers are brimming with cheekiness.
It’s her vintage approach with chibi-esque characters that make the following scene laughable as opposed to uncomfortable. I feel like it invites the viewer to share in on the joke, yes, yes, we know, Red Sonja is hot, and that she can easily kill you. I can see all of Buscema’s influences in her Red Sonja covers: old monster movies, Halloween, vintage Golden books, and circus sideshows. Being these are all things I like, I want Buscema to be my best friend and draw all the things.
And finally, apparently Dynamite liked contest winner Matt Brooks’ first cover so much that they brought him back for another.
Like his first cover, Brooks’ work is distinct in style, pretty and lush, but also including symbols of darkness that mire mere oohing and aahing. However, my eye keeps getting drawn down to where her arm is against her hip. The coloring makes her arm and hip run together, and it looks, on first inspection, like a deformed hip, but then I realize it is her arm at her side. I still like the cover, but I find that distracting, the white veining only makes it more apparent by emphasizing the area.
Things are bleaker than usual in this issue as Red Sonja labors under the curse, going so far as to…well you should read the issue to find out. It truly demonstrates the type of character that Simone has created for Red Sonja: one that still echoes the red-headed barbarian warrior woman, but with far more complexity. Now Red Sonja is having to rely on others to protect her, and this is a position we have yet to see her in. As the battle drags on outside, she drifts in and out of restless slumber while a maid tends to her. Seeing others having to defend and protect Red Sonja is an interesting change. I think this is one of the most compelling things Simone is doing with her run on Red Sonja. The sword and sorcery genre, like the western genre, emphasizes and glorifies the lone wolf. Simone continues to challenge this ideology by placing Red Sonja in situations that force her to rely on and trust others. I find this to be a particularly compelling and feminist move on her part.
Geovani’s art continues to delight me, and considering how dark this issue is, his game is even more on point. But one thing stood out for me. Notably, Red Sonja was not wearing the chainmail bikini in this issue, but a pair of pants and vest-style top that she has worn before. I kept thinking she looked longer and leaner than usual while Geovani usually draws her bulkier in the chainmail bikini. Or it may be the lines of the costume. I am on the fence about it. Regardless, Geovani and Simone make a hell of a team. Geovani brings the feeling out of Simone’s dialogue.
The issue ended, unsurprisingly, on a very dramatic note. Next time, Red Sonja will explore “other realms entirely.” Will one of these realms be death?