Legends of Red Sonja
written by Gail Simone et al
Dynamite Entertainment (2014)
Possibly the only thing more impressive than this book is the list of contributing artists and authors.
I hadn't read a Red Sonja graphic novel prior to this one, so I wasn't exactly well-versed in the history of the character beyond the few Robert E. Howard stories I've read. It took a moment to realize that this chainmail-bra-clad warrior was being presented this time around by an all-female assemblage of writers. Neat. After so many months of getting a chuckle at how ridiculous some comic book representations of female characters can be, I was keen to check this out.
It is an anthology of sorts, kind of a bloody epic fantasy version of Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man, as Red Sonja is being hunted by a motley crew of killers and scoundrels, each with their own reasons for wanting Sonja captured or killed. Gail Simone handles that main plot point, while the flashbacks and interludes that tell of her adventures and crossings with these men are each handles by different artists and writers. There's Mercedes Lackey, Nancy A. Collins, Meljean Brook, and on and on.
Maybe there are easter eggs and little winks-and-nods for dedicated readers, but I just don't know. What I do know is that despite the at-times-disparate tones of some of the stories, the sometimes jarring shifts in art style, the book as a whole is rollicking and boisterous in all the right ways. The guile and gruff of Sonja comes through quite well, both in her depictions and her dialogue. It's been suggested by fans that reading this book is best saved for after having read Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues, a more straight-forward story helmed solely by Gail Simone. Perhaps that's true, but newcomers to the character should have no trouble falling under her spell.
As far as Red Sonja's future is concerned, she has a strong allies in Gail Simone and Dynamite.