We spend the run of this issue finally catching up with how Sonja ended up being thrown through time. These sequences are a lot of fun, combining the heady dialogue and sly humor of classic Red Sonja tales into some much-needed backstory.
We also get to see more of Red Sonja’s compassion in this tale. She is a leader of men and a force to be reckoned with, but she has a sense of right and wrong. She would know her enemy before she took them down. The contemplative nature of this issue was quite a surprise, following the action-packed events and cliffhanger ending of last issue. Still, it was a pleasant surprise. We’ve seen the majority of this series from Vampirella’s point of view, so it’s great to finally get a feel for where Sonja is at this point in her life.
The dialogue in this issue is simple, but elegant. We learn so much about Sonja and the life she was leading when she first came upon the gemstone that changed everything. We also are introduced to several new mysteries, but luckily, it never feels like the truth is being purposefully obfuscated. The humor works, even when it’s tinged with darkness.
There’s a tricky balance at play here, because introducing mystery for mystery’s sake is never quite fulfilling. Considering this is a book that has already introduced time travel and complicated government conspiracies within the space of three issues, it’s kind of amazing that it doesn’t feel like overload. A lot of this has to do with the way our lead characters have been portrayed as being ready at all times to do what must be done for the greater good.
Becca Carey’s lettering in this issue is very interesting, particularly when it comes to the witch who plays such a large role in this growing tale. The lack of punctuation in her dialogue is such a small detail, but one the stuck out and made her seem like she was even more out of step with the rest of the world (and, it seems, time).
Meanwhile, Drew Moss’ artwork and Rebecca Nalty’s colors go a long way toward making this issue’s timeline feel distinct from what we’ve seen so far. After the snowy drifts of the first three issues, it was nice to see a classic fairytale forest, complete with scraggly trees and indistinct shadows in the distance. This is a bloody issue, but the violence isn’t the focus of the panels; much of the worst of it happens just out of sight, or far in the distance. There’s a wonderful restraint shown here, particularly when we know how gory this book has gotten in the past. This makes the violence feel more like a sad reality, rather than a fun bloodbath like in previous issues’ fight scenes.
With this issue, even when not focusing on half of the titular duo, Jordie Bellaire tells an impactful and emotional story, yet still finds time for humorous character interactions and world-building. This issue builds beautifully off of what longtime fans will know of Red Sonja as a character, but also nicely develops her for readers who have come to the character through this series.