Review: Red Sonja Volume 1 Queen of the Plagues

by GregFahlgren

Review of the first collected edition for Gail Simone's critically acclaimed Red Sonja run.

Hey everyone! Did any of you read my review for Legends of Red Sonja? If not, pop over to it for a minute if you like, but if not, welcome to my review for Gail Simone’s next story for the She-Devil with a Sword, entitled Queen of the Plagues!
While writing my profile on Miss Simone (link below and to the side), I asked her about her start on Sonja, to which she replied,
“Nick Barrucci, publisher of Dynamite Comics, had been asking me for years to write a book for them, but I was always exclusive with DC. When my exclusive ended and we had been butting heads at DC for a bit (water under the bridge), I had no idea if I was actually going to be asked to do work elsewhere, no idea at all.
Nick was THE first person to call. He knew I loved pulp characters, he said I could have any character I wanted to write. I asked him to give me a list. The first name on the list was Red Sonja, and I said, ‘Okay, stop right there.’
We never got to the rest of the list. I love sword and sorcery stories, I love badass women, and more importantly, my mother for some reason ADORES Red Sonja. She was calling me and texting me, ‘Are you going to take Red Sonja? You’re going to take Red Sonja, right?’
I agreed to do six issues but loved it so much that I ended up doing a lot more. One of my favorite assignments ever.”
Can't say much more than that, so let me tell you why this book is so awesome!

The Creators

First off, let’s get the credits out of the way:

Writer: Gail Simone

Illustrator: Walter Geovani

Colourer: Adriano Lucas

Letterer Simon Bowland

Cover Art: Jenny Frison.

Okay, credits given, let’s get to the story!!!

The Story

A Legend Retold

As is the case most times when a book gets a new writer, Gail Simone decided to delve into the history of our loveable drunk warrior woman, as well as give us a new adventure to sink our teeth into.

The book’s main story centres around Sonja attempting to save a city from an army intending to destroy it to contain a mysterious plague. Aided by her two able bodyguards Ayla and Nias, she trains what little of King Dimath’s people that are still alive in the art of combat in the hopes that they could defend their lands from what is coming. Once that army arrives, Sonja is faced with the one woman that could have ever matched her in battle: Dark Anissia, her sister from the slave pits! What follows is a deeply personal journey for Sonja as she combats illness, her past, countless enemies out for her blood, and her need for wine when the taverns are closed down.

This tale is beautifully crafted, using the events of the present to bring us back to the beginning of Sonja's life, detailing the night her parents were killed and she became Red Sonja. From there, we also get to see Sonja and Anissia in the Zamoran slave pits, giving us another window into the She-Devil's past, and the reason why Sonja had agreed to help King Dimath in the present. Sonja was showed more vulnerable than ever before, but also with more heart, caring, and courage than anyone you’ll ever encounter. Gail “gets” Sonja, understands why she is the way she is, and why she fights as she does. Yes, she likes her drinking and vulgarity, and perhaps is not the most ladylike of women, but she has a kind heart and noble spirit that refuses to give up no matter how bleak things are.

Along with our red-headed ass-kicker is a wonderful cast of supporting characters. Her proteges Ayla and Nias are funny, courageous, and altogether loveable as they try to help their ‘radiant mistress’ during her struggles. By the end of the work, they have become accomplished warriors in their own right, making even Red Sonja love them despite her being a little annoyed by their antics at times.

On the flip side, Dark Anissia is not your typical villain. Sonja's slave pit sister is a complicated, tragic, and sympathetic villain. While Sonja had retained her humanity after she and Anissia were freed from the pit, Anissia became haunted by the people she had killed, becoming a dark reflection of Sonja no matter how noble her intentions. The driving force behind the tale is the inevitable confrontation between the two warrior women, and the final reveal of what brought them here in the first place in the story's amazing finale.

In short, Queen of the Plagues is a wonderful story, and some of Gail SImone's best work. And if you know how good Gail is, that is say something.


Gorgeous Would Be One Word...

As mentioned above, the art for this work was illustrated by the incredibly talented Walter Geovani. Simply put, the art in this collection is absolutely fantastic! The characters, the scenery, EVERYTHING was sublime beyond description, putting me deep into the fantasy world with incredible clarity. The characters were depicted to match Gail Simone’s script near to perfection, every expression, action, and in action we see them performing fitting the scene and dialogue exactly.

Adriano Lucas’s colours were the cherry on top, bringing Geovani’s pencils to life in unbelievable ways, the combination some of the most striking I’ve seen in the medium. Every scene is laid out and depicted perfectly, keeping the reader moving forward in the story at a steady pace, while avoiding getting confused during the more complicated battle sequences. In addition to that, the covers by Jenny Frison were out of this world incredible, each one more gorgeous than the last. I would love to see more of her work in the future, and dare I say I’d even by a print of hers for these books if possible.

I’m still new at reviewing art, but Queen of the Plagues has some of the best I’ve seen in comics period, and that is just another reason why this book she be a must read for comic book fans (or everyone for that matter) everywhere.


A Great Start

Simply put, this collection is awesome!!! Simone and Geovani craft a great story here, easily making it one of the best collections I’ve read this year. It’s funny, heart-wrenching, exciting, and disgusting (good kind) in a way that makes it a unique find among comic books today. Simone is at her best here, and with some wonderful art to go along, it makes this an easy recommend.

That said, I’ll see you all next time. Until then as always, HAPPY READING!!!

Updated: 12/13/2015, GregFahlgren
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