Having spent three years as a gladiatrix slave in the arenas of Zamora, Sonja The Red has little use for slavers and slave owners—but she does have use for their gold, so long as the task she’s hired for does not require her to rob others of their freedom. For that reason alone, she agrees to meet with the Stygian Emperor Samala when he summons her to answer his call for a hunter.
The offer Samala makes is tempting indeed, for the emperor is dying of an incurable condition and wishes to celebrate his passing with the grandest party ever. To that end, he makes a bargain with Sonja: retrieve six artisans—the world’s greatest chef, courtesan, dancer, stargazer, swordsman and beast-master—within a month’s time and he will free every slave that he owns. Fail and over one thousand slaves will be buried alive with their master!
So begins the noblest quest Sonja has ever begun. She must span the length and breadth of Hyboria, facing crazed cannibals, wild beasts, cunning bandits, corrupt priests, and fearsome warriors to retrieve her quarry. But even if she succeeds in this near-impossible feat, can she count on Emperor Samala to keep his word?
Writer Gail Simone is renowned for her skills as a writer of high-adventure and her sense of humor and both are strongly evident in this second collection of Simone’s run on Red Sonja. There are many thrilling action sequences, but what truly sets this volume apart from other fantasy series is the comedy. There is a wit to Simone’s Sonja, ribald and caustic, and a fair bit of metatextual humor for long-time fans of the character, especially in cases like when Sonja learns the reason why the swordsman she was sent to track down is known as Osric The Untouched.
The artwork by Walter Geovani is of equally high quality. It is worth noting that Geovani is one of the few fantasy artists who can draw a Sonja that looks beautiful, yet powerful—more like a female athlete than a fashion model. He even manages to make the infamous chain mail bikini look credible as a garment, if not as armor. To Geovani’s credit, he depicts Sonja in more practical garments depending upon the environment (full leather armor for a swamp, a chain shirt and leather breeches for a duel, etc.) and her most famous costume is reserved for formal meetings and/or bar-hopping.
This volume is rated T+ for audiences 16 and up. This is, in my estimation, a fair rating. There is nothing that would be out of place on the nightly news, but this book is definitely not one for the kids. Blood is spilled, but there’s nothing excessively violent—no severed limbs or heads. There is no nudity in this volume and the violence is consistent with that of a PG-13 rated movie. There is, however, a fair amount of adult situations, with references to sexual slavery, prostitution, and Sonja’s own rather lusty appetites being a centerpiece of the series’ humor.
Red Sonja: The Art Of Blood And Fire, vol. 2
by Gail Simone
Art by Walter Geovani
Dynamite Entertainment, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: T+ (16 And Up)