Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of Plagues is one of those throwback comics that succeeds in reinventing a character by not taking itself too seriously. Indeed, though I would never have thought it possible, Gail Simone has taken Red Sonja, embraced the image of the chainmail bikini wearing, red haired woman warrior and produced a really fun, old school sword and sorcery graphic novel.
With that being said, I want everyone to understand that Red Sonja is not written as a slapstick comedy or anything of the sort, though there are a few characters that provide plenty of comic relief. No, in Queen of Plagues, there are bloody fights, serious personal tragedies, and emotional reveals. Turmoil that not only explains why Red Sonja is who she is but also alludes to how she was before fate intervened in her life. But Gail Simone meshes those adult-like topics seamlessly with the adolescent fantasy of a red haired beauty in a chainmail bikini slashing it up with armored warriors. So seamlessly, in fact, that when Sonja lays waste her more appropriately armored opponents, it seems perfectly reasonable and totally expected in this fantasy world.
Helping Simone pull this transformation of Red Sonja off so deftly is a team of artists who have turned this new series into a visual stunner. This group brings the world to life before a reader’s eyes, showing not only crowd filled battle pages but tense, emotional scenes; panels where the only expression of the characters’ deep emotions are just the images themselves. Where this creative team weaves its greatest magic, however, is in their rendition of Sonja herself. For our sword wielding goddess appears not only beautiful but strong and lethal, totally capable of leaving a trail of slain foes in her wake. And the fact these artists could make me believe that a chainmail bikini clad beauty could stand upon a field of battle wearing nothing but her metal undies and not look out of place was amazing.
As for the story, Queen of Plagues focuses on Sonja returning to a small city-state in Corinthia to repay a debt owed to a king who had rescued her from a horrible fate without any thought of repayment in return. With his kingdom in jeopardy and his army destroyed, this king asks the red haired she-devil to come lead his city in its impossible fight for survival. And of course, Sonja comes. But the battle soon turns into more than what she expected as a person from her past returns. The remainder of the tale is normal sword and sorcery fare, filled with fierce and vividly drawn combat, numerous flashbacks, and evil sorcery from unexpected places.
To sum up, Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues is a re-imagination done right. It takes everything good about Sonja, mixes in a few adult themes and produces pure fun. So go pick this one up and live out your chainmail bikini fantasy. You won’t regret it.
Netgalley provided this book to me for free in return for an honest review. The review above was not paid for or influenced in any way by any person, entity or organization, but is my own personal opinions.