RED SONJA: BIRTH OF THE SHE-DEVIL, available now from Dynamite, is about Red Sonja’s upbringing, the man who raised her, and the surrogate sister lost to a madman. Luke Lieberman’s story could just as easily be adapted into a Louis L’amour novel as well as Robert E. Howard’s crimson-haired warrior. Of all the Red Sonja comics published in recent years, this collection is probably the most introspective and emotional.
Collection Cover Art
Dynamite’s go-to cover artist, Lucio Parrillo, paints another beautiful cover that’s more in line with the books content than his typical covers. Red Sonja is standing in front of a burning inn, holding a liquor bottle to celebrate the building’s destruction. This exactly mirrors an early scene in the collection, and it adds a level of continuity to the collection that sometimes gets missed with Parrillo covers that are pure cheesecake. Outstanding work here by Parrillo.
Luke Lieberman’s story takes a different approach from the typical Red Sonja comics in recent years. We’re meeting Red Sonja when she’s a capable warrior but hasn’t yet learned the qualities of maturity and leadership that establish her as a legend. In short, she’s reckless.
Haunted by the kidnapping of her friend many years ago and holding a grudge against her adoptive father for allowing it to happen, Red Sonja goes on a quest to find her. The kidnapper turns out to be a raging lunatic that wants to lunge the world into chaos so that the natural order of predator and prey is reestablished.
It’s a fairly sophisticated story for the sword and sandal genre, and Lieberman writes it straight to give Red Sonja a richness and depth to her backstory. Red Sonja becomes more than the unstoppable warrior roaming the wilderness. She’s a fully realized person with familial connections, regrets, and room to grow. It’s a welcome change of pace.
Sergio Davila’s art paints Lieberman’s story with as much depth as the script itself. There’s plenty of swordplay action, and Red Sonja separates more than a few heads from necks, but it’s all done within the context of her need to set the wrong things right. Every panel that shows Red Sonja’s face is packed with emotion. She projects grim determination to get Shashana back in the heat of battle. She crumples in a heap of despair when the trail goes cold. She seethes with righteous anger when Ozzyus confronts her over her recklessness.
That’s the high point of Davila’s art in this collection. It’s an equal mix of action and drama that all come through in the art.
Ulises Arreola’s colors are particularly effective by alternating the background pallets of panels within a single sequence. In one of the earliest sequences starting on page 11, Red Sonja’s been “captured” and led to the bed chambers of an unsavory king. She escapes, of course, but the point is each panel’s background punctuates the actions of her escape. One panel is cool grey to express calm as she walks into the room, another panel is electric gold to emphasize a lightning fast slap, yet another is blood red as she delivers a deadly downward strike. This is a spectacular use of color that’s not on the focal point to emphasize the emotion of the action in the foreground.
Taylor Esposito’s lettering is tight, clean and efficient. Esposito makes great use of selective bolding to emphasize specific words in the dialog to simulate speaking rhythm. There’s get word balloon and action box placement that straddle separate panels and act as a transition point to keep the reader’s eye moving in the right direction. Really well done by Esposito.
RED SONJA: BIRTH OF THE SHE-DEVIL adds a layer of depth and emotion to Red Sonja’s origin story. The writing is mature, and the art is impactful. This is a great collection for any Red Sonja fan looking for a smart story.