Legends of Red Sonja #1
By Gail Simone & Jack Jadson, Nancy A. Collins & Noah Salonga, Devin Kalile Grayson & Carla Speed McNeil and Salvatore Aiala Studios
The new Legends of Red Sonja mini-series takes a host of writers and artists and pits them all together against the famous She-Devil with a sword. Each writer/artist pair contributes a single section to each issue, and although this is the case, it was difficult to tell where one segment ended and the other began. This was not a bad thing, and in fact was quite an interesting way of doing this type of book. It was originally expected that there would be a collection of short stories in each issue which remained separate, but instead Legends of Red Sonja #1 follows a single stream of events which includes a number of stories being told about Sonja as the background events unfold.
This method worked well for most of the issue, despite such a relatively large number of contributors, while the tone of the dialogue seemed to change towards the end before slowly degenerating into a style that didn’t feel like it flowed very well. However, this was a somewhat minor issue; it was impressive to see such coherence between so many writers. Aside from the overall tone of the writing, the story itself was somewhat inconsistent. Most of it was passable and offered a glimpse at a solid Red Sonja tale, while other parts felt forced or lackluster. As a standalone story, it remained fairly enjoyable for most of the issue but didn’t end of a very strong point.
The artwork among each contributing artist was similarly well integrated, as the subtle shifts in style were barely perceptible at first glance. However, upon closer inspection there were some sections of the issue which were quite well executed, while others almost fell into parody at times. The first part of the book started off very strong in the visual department with excellent attention to detail, fully realized scenarios, and terrific use of color. The sudden shift which swiftly follows is rather abrupt, although the style is adequate and admittedly reminiscent of old school Red Sonja and Conan books. The colors in this portion of issue #1 were also quite robust and added a lot of depth to the fairly simple illustrations. Despite the overall enjoyable art in this portion, the illustrations were too inconsistent, bouncing between realism and minimalist simplicity too sporadically. The story then returns to the wonderfully deep attention to detail and excellent colors seen in the opening of the issue, before quickly changing lanes yet again. This time, the artwork often makes the story begin to feel a little silly. The illustrations are far too cartoony and “cute” for the story they are meant to portray, and at times have a hint of anime which is glaringly inconsistent with the rest of the book that had previously felt relatively cohesive.
Legends of Red Sonja #1 had a decent story as a standalone book, but the overwhelming inconsistencies throughout the issue became a bit much. To be fair there was a large number of contributing artists involved in this issue, but the overall sense by the end was one of ambivalence.