Sunday, March 2, 2014

Legends of Red Sonja #4 - A Review

As Legends of Red Sonja enters into its penultimate chapter, it shows no signs of losing momentum.  Indeed, the frame story by Gail Simone - detailing a mercenary band that is hunting Red Sonja even as she herself is hounding them - is the strongest section of the book this time around. 

Surprisingly, the weakest of the stories in this anthology is by veteran fantasy author Mercedes Lackey.  Her tale - Jenny's Story: Parallax - relates the adventure of a girl who claims to have had a chance encounter with Red Sonja and whose words speak of a great hero.  But are her words the truth?  It is unclear if the alternate tale we see side-by-side with Jenny's story is the truth of matters or the truth as imagined by the evil men hearing the tale.  In the end, it matters little, for the tale has little meaning either way if Lackey's purpose is to paint a negative portrait of Sonja.

The final chapter, She Lives Still, is a far stronger tale in my humble opinion.  Written by Marjorie M. Liu, the Sonja we see in this story is undoubtedly a hero.  I am reluctant to say much beyond that, save that the base plot is reminiscent of some of the works of Lovecraft as well as Howard.  Suffice it to say those who are fond of Simone's work on the monthly Red Sonja title and some of the changes made therein to Sonja's character will enjoy this tale and what it signifies. 

The artwork is universally strong throughout.  Veteran Red Sonja artist Jack Jadson does his usual stellar job on the framing sequences.  Nei Ruffino offers a childish simplicity to his artwork while retaining amazing detail, creating a final product that is not unlike a medieval woodcut.  Phil Noto's art is intriguing, with individual characters being lightly inked and most of the shadows and definitions being applied to the background, creating an effect that makes it look as if the torchlight on the page is radiating like a true flame.


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