Red Sonja #2
By Amy Chu, Carlos Gomez and Mohan
Red Sonja #2 picks up right where the first issue ended…with Red Sonja herself standing in Central Park, New York contemplating dinner. You heard right, after being mysteriously transported across dimensions, Sonja has ended up in modern-day New York City. But this isn’t just a random gimmick employed for a lack of more original ideas. This story, while outlandish, isn’t all that unbelievable when you consider the absurd nature of the barbarian woman fighting dragons and sorcerers in what you’d consider her more traditional and “normal” storylines. Let go of the fact that nothing related to Red Sonja is in fact normal and you’ll be able to grasp the out of the ordinary premise, that writer Amy Chu has developed. This story doesn’t just ask, what if Red Sonja traveled through time and space to modern-day NYC? Instead this story shows us what happens when Red Sonja adapts to city life within a matter of hours and actually seems to like it. Sonja thrives wherever she may be, because she’s just that tough. She may have a code of honor, but at the end of the day she will never back down from even the slightest challenge. So, although she’s out of her element, she is fearlessly rolling with it.
Amy Chu has crafted a quick, fast-paced story as if she wont allow the reader even one page to stop and contemplate just how different this series is compared to what’s come to pass. Not that Chu needs to worry about that, as she writes sharp, witty dialogue and situations that are so fun to watch you wont bother to criticize the fact that things happen to be slightly more unusual than normal. Red Sonja appreciates quality and comfort in the same way she craves battle and triumph. It’s a unique take on the character that goes beyond a strange setting, because here we get to see how similar those worlds actually are. There’s more than meets the eye and the mystery unfolds a little at a time in this second issue, but not by giving too much away. Admit it, you want to see Sonja drink craft beer, and get into bar fights. There’s an undeniable appeal to seeing her sit on the back of a motorcycle, or watching TV, especially because it appeals to her. She can’t avoid action, and she knows what to do in the face of any threat imaginable, so figuring out the remote control is as easy as anything else. It would be silly to spend time watching her painfully figure technology out, so be glad that Chu has written a capable character that seems to be able to master anything and everything thrown at her.
Artist Carlos Gomez can draw a classic fantasy scene as well as a present day urban setting. No matter where Sonja is, Gomez renders her with the same courage and presence she always carries around with her. Yes, she’s out of place, but no she is not out of sorts. It comes through in the art as she walks around without any concern for others. Between catcalls and arm wrestling meatheads, Sonja is clearly unaffected by the things that would wear on us average folks’ nerves. She partakes when it suits her, of course, but that’s the characters very nature.
Gomez has a traditional comic art style that works well in a story where groundbreaking techniques would contradict the point of it all. He draws everything with confidence in a way that allows us to keep moving with the story no matter how swift the pace. He goes big when the script calls for it, otherwise he illustrates a book that feels totally natural. Gomez, thankfully, doesn’t try too hard and he doesn’t need to. He creates just the right amount of excitement to keep us interested as the story continues to build. His work is dialed, and as a result everything is right where it should be, even if Sonja isn’t. Gomez is a big part of the fun factor here, and he and Chu make a superb team.
With expert coloring by Mohan, the sense of realism remains intact, but not without losing site of the fact that this is still a comic book. Mohan takes his job seriously, but keeps things light enough that readers will happily go along for the ride. Funny how the concept here is keeping it normal so that it feels skewed. Again, nothing in Red Sonja needs to be too over the top because the simple fact that Sonja is in Manhattan is crazy enough. So it’s a solid move by Gomez and Mohan in keeping everything grounded and authentic to a world we really do know.
Maybe you wish this arc had Red Sonja back in her own universe, but how long before that gets old and why can’t a writer switch it up? This might as well be a science fiction spin on a fantasy story, which makes it more unique than it already was and certainly not less so. You’ll want to get in on this one whether you’re an existing fan or not. In comics, characters don’t usually age or evolve beyond a year or two before a disruptive reboot, so to see Red Sonja show up in NYC is a welcome change that you might not get otherwise. How can a comic stay fresh without turning the premise on its ear occasionally? This is a brave, but smart move by Dynamite, letting the creative team go for it in this manner. Hopefully it stays credible as the series progresses, but so far there’s no reason to think it won’t.