Kaching Comic Reviews

Published on December 8th, 2016 | by Steven Roman

Review: Red Sonja, Vol. 4 #0

Back in 1978, Marvel Comics—courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artists John Buscema and Ernie Chan—asked the question, “What if…Conan the Barbarian walked the Earth today?” (What If?, Vol. 1 #13.) Then, in 1984, apparently not satisfied with the team’s answer, Marvel turned to writer Peter Gillis and artist Bob Hall and asked, “What if…Conan the Barbarian were stranded in the 20th century?” (What If?, Vol. 1 #43.) The answer both times was pretty much the same: he’d be a warrior displaced in time by a nasty wizard, constantly confused by his new surroundings, unable to speak the local language, thinking that modern technology was magic (or a monster), be hunted by the New York Police Department (and the Avengers) for being a half-naked savage running around with a sword, and just generally having a miserable time.


Well, now his Robert E. Howard stablemate, Red Sonja, the redheaded She-Devil With a Sword, knows exactly how that feels. And she’s not having a good time, either.


The proof can be found right on the cover of Dynamite Entertainment’s Red Sonja, Vol. 4 #0: it’s Sonja, fighting monsters on subway tracks, directly in the path of New York’s #4 express train (the architecture framing the cover would place the location at the no-longer-in-use City Hall station in downtown Manhattan). And the 16-page story found behind that cover, by writer Amy Chu (Poison Ivy: Cycles of Life and Death) and artist Carlos Gomez (Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files), will seem quite familiar to anyone who’s read those old What If? issues.

When the story opens, Sonja is battling a fire-breathing monster controlled by her old nemesis, the wizard Kulan Gath (to be honest, neither Sonja nor Conan have ever really had what could be considered a rogues gallery). And just as Sonja is about to close in on Gath…she wakes up in a subway tunnel, then almost gets run over by a train that she thinks is a dragon. Making her way to street level, she finds herself surrounded by the NYPD, who are no doubt responding to a report of a half-naked savage running around with a sword. To be continued! It’s an extremely quick story that does what it sets out to do: move the action (and Sonja) from the Hyborian Age to the modern age.


The main point of interest for longtime Sonja fans is the return of the iconic “chain-mail bikini” designed by comic-art legend Esteban Maroto and made famous by Frank Thorne, the artist whose name became synonymous with Sonja. Over the past few years, Dynamite has made more than one attempt to create a Sonja whose clothing choices are more socially acceptable to comic readers—as they keep trying with another underdressed heroine, Vampirella—and each time it seems to bear out that the majority of the she-devil’s fans aren’t interested in supporting the changes. They want Classic Sonja—and so here she is, back in her standard garb. How long this situation remains in place, however, is a question to be resolved. I’d be surprised if Dynamite allowed a half-naked Sonja to go more than an issue or two before they try to modernize her for life in the 21st century.


Bottom line? The setup might be similar to those long-ago Conan issues of Marvel’s What If?, but at 25¢, you really can’t go wrong picking it up. And Sonja is back in her chain-mail bikini, so that should give readers of Comics for Sinners reason enough to check it out. The question, of course, will be whether those same readers are intrigued enough by Sonja’s predicament to follow her into her full-priced issues. For now, though, definitely give it a look.


As for what other adventures Sonja might have in the Big Apple…who knows? Maybe she’ll run into Conan on his way to work. He’s probably one of those notorious “manspreaders” who take up two seats on the train. If anyone could teach him to keep his knees together, it’d be Sonja.


Red Sonja, Vol. 4 #0

Written by Amy Chu

Art by Carlos Gomez

Main cover art by Nick Bradshaw

Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

16 pages • full color

25¢ U.S.

On sale December 14, 2016


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About the Author

Steven A. Roman is the author of the Saga of Pandora Zwieback novel series and the graphic novels Lorelei: Sects and the City and Sunn, and the bestselling author of the novels X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy and Final Destination: Dead Man’s Hand. Follow his adventures in publishing at StarWarp Concepts.

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