Out March 25 from Dynamite Comics, KILLING RED SONJA #1 by Mark Russell and Bryce Ingman has almost nothing to do with Red Sonja. Seriously. She’s not in it at all except as a background character. Does it hold up when the title character is nowhere to be found? Let’s find out.
Christian Ward’s cover perfectly captures the tone of the entire issue. The Prince (Cyril) is shown with vengeful malice that is both bloody and childishly naive. Ward’s rough style on the cover is also evocative of the art throughout the whole book, so the cover does a really nice job letting you know what you’re in for.
Russell and Bryce Ingman have taken on a daunting task. How do you write a ‘Red Sonja’ book that’s not really about ‘Red Sonja’? To Russell and Ingman’s credit, it works. They’ve written a strange tale of vengeance as told through the eyes of a boy. All the dialog and action is true, so you don’t feel like the Prince is an unreliable narrator. That said, the Prince does not seem to understand the seriousness of his quest. Russell and Bryce succeeded in having a child act like a child in extraordinary circumstances, which turns this book into a sort of bizarre fairytale. It’s different and entertaining.
Craig Rousseau made a creative choice to go with a sketchbook style, giving the reader the impression of a child’s coloring book. It works very well for the entirety of the book. There a few panels where the background characters are so lacking in detail that they’re little more than blobs, but that could be to reflect that a child would not draw to that level of detail anyway. It’s a novel approach here. I’m interested to see how it holds up in subsequent issues.
Favorite Panel/Page: The Prince imagines himself standing by Red Sonja as she’s hung from a tree in one panel. The Prince stands there with a broad smile, looking at the body, hands-on-hips in a triumphant pose. The image is so childlike in its depiction of heroism that you almost forget how disturbing the scene really is.
Dearbhla Kelly is tasked with coloring this book to match the storybook style of the issue. Kelly went with a watercolor approach that amplifies Craig Rousseau’s art choices. The coloring mostly works, but it’s very dull for several pages. Kelly only uses bright colors when depicting red blood, but a child would use bright, crayon-like colors liberally. Kelly’s toned-down coloring detracts from the artistic theme of the book.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering is spot on for this issue. In particular, the sound effect lettering is overly simplistic as it would be interpreted through the eyes (ears?) of a child. Excellent coordination here to match the lettering with the art style.
KILLING RED SONJA #1 tricks you into thinking you’re going to read a Red Sonja adventure before convincing you to stay for a bizarre (and bloody) fairy tale. It’s unique and interesting. We recommend picking it up.