I have come around to the character of Red Sonja lately, mostly thanks to Gail Simone’s run on the ongoing series, but also thanks to her inclusion in some pretty unique and fun limited series comics- like Swords of Sorrow and these Conan-crossover books. I read the first book, Conan/Red Sonja, and I really enjoyed those four issues. This book feels like a very close-knit follow-up to that past series, but was done by a totally different creative team (Gail Simone, Jim Zub and Dan Panosian). There are a lot of similarities between these two titles, and they even have some over-arcing connections- from the narration being a story told to as as-of-yet-unknown “prince”, to the main threat carrying over from the last story.
This was a book that I was really looking forward to, for several different reasons- the writer on this series, Victor Gishler, is someone whos work I enjoy (Deadpool Corps and Clown Fatale jump to mind) so to see him cover this type of story piqued my interest. He does have a bit of an irreverent and “blue” style of writing (Clown Fatale had a bit more NSFW than cheeky moments, but they still had a similar feel). I haven’t seen much of Roberto Castro’s art, but I looked him up on comicvine.com, and he has a lot of John Carter and Deja Thoris books under his belt, so the “sword and sorcery” books feel like they are right up his alley. I just saw that Castro drew on the Kiss: Solo series comic for The Catman from IDW; and as a devout and lifelong member of the Kiss Army, I have and read this book, and I remember it being a story set in that same style of “sword and sorcery” locations. I think these creators work quite well together, and they have begun to set up a book that has a bit more connectivity than the four different stories that made up Conan/Red Sonja.
As I said before, Victor Gishler has a style that fits into the “NSFW” category more often than not, and this book definitely flirts with that NSFW-line, with Conan being very bawdy. There was even the moment where **SPOILERS** Conan and Sonja lock lips, prior to their intended “sexy time”. But, as one would expect in the first act of a film, the romantic leads don’t have a chance for much one-on-one time until later. The humor is very prominent in this issue, and im hopeful that this carries on throughout the series, as these two characters are very serious hack-and-slash, stabby-types with plenty of solid one-liners.
Speaking of humor, or more to the point, things I find funny- this book’s villain is almost laughable. He is just an analogue to basically every Disney movie villain ever (heavy on the Jafar from “Aladdin”) and without anything even CLOSE to a redeeming quality. I do like that the bad guy does get his hands on the **SPOILERS** Blood Root Seeds from Conan/Red Sonja. The visuals that ended up coming about from the Blood Root were rather breathtaking, and I am hopeful for some more dynamic and grand-in-scale moments toward the end of this series (either with or without Blood Root- it could just be a Red Herring… heh. Red Herring, like Red Sonja- get it?!?!).
I am often suspicious of a book that seems to be carrying on a style that a creator that I have a deep admiration for (i.e.- Gail Simone) without that creator being attached to the book at all. Sometimes it comes off hollow, or just feeling like a bad parody of their past works- but this book seems to stand on it’s own quite well, with lots of potential for the future, and quite a bit of a change to the titular characters from their previous iterations that they do feel like they are being treated as their own, separate versions of themselves from those who have come before.
These two Red Sonja and Conan crossover books are fun books, that seem to have a pretty low accessibility hurdle, allowing pretty much anyone to jump in and read about these characters for the first time (or to give them a second chance at reading about these characters) and to let readers see there is a lot more to “swords and sorcery” books than swords and sorcery.
I would recommend Conan/Red Sonja AND Red Sonja/Conan to anyone looking for a fun and interesting fantasy comic book, or to anyone who wants a book that steps away from the superhero genre for a change of pace.