Story: Gail Simone & Jim Zub
Art: Dan Panosian
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
What They Say:
Conan and Red Sonja unite to stop a sorcerer-priest from creating a new age in Hyborian warfare! Exposed to a deadly toxin, barbarian and she-devil race against time to save themselves!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Years ago Sonja and Conan met in less-than-ideal circumstances, trying to steal what they thought was a jewel from a prince. It turned out that the jewel was a seed containing a magical plague called the bloodroot. They destroyed the root before it could be used by an evil sorcerer and then parted ways. However, as the comic states, these are two people destined to write their own story in the Hyborian Age, and as like calls to like, legend calls to legend.
Now Conan sails with his beloved Bêlit, pirate queen of the Black Coast. They spy a vessel and proceed to board it, only to face Red Sonja and her sister-in-arms Dark Annisia, who were hired to stop slavers operating in the area. In typical comic book form, they fight—Conan against Annisia and Sonja against Bêlit, but once they learn who their respective foes are, and that Bêlit is not a slaver, they stop.
After a night of feasting and catching up, they come to an island overrun with something both Conan and Sonja know very well: the bloodroot. Knowing the danger it poses to every living thing, they go ashore to destroy it, and in the process discover the architect behind this madness.
Simone and Zub craft a strong second issue in this miniseries. The pacing is excellent, the characters are true to themselves, and the themes they play with are interesting. This issue revolves in many ways around how Conan and Sonja are special—“legendary” as they are called—and they seem to be drawn to each other like magnets. The comic constantly questions their affection and ease with each other, typically in text boxes juxtaposed with panels of the two delighting in each other’s company. And the point is further brought home by Annisia and Bêlit, who often stand to the side, cognizant of their roles as second bananas to larger-than-life people:
Annisia: “Hmph. Well. Don’t they seem ever so chummy.”
Bêlit: “Don’t ask me. I’m just the fat hog to be slaughtered, it seems.”
I really enjoyed seeing Bêlit and Annisia as they both played large roles in Conan and Red Sonja recently. In some ways, their presence helps bridge these two series even more than Conan and Sonja because they are so tied with those recent runs on the Dark Horse and Dynamite titles. Sonja and Conan have bounced around from company to company, but Annisia—as far as I know—was created specifically for Simone’s first story arc, and while Bêlit was a Howard creation, this version of her is very much the one in Brian Wood’s run on Conan.
Another interesting aspect is that even though Conan does make sexual remarks to Sonja, it comes off as more playful than serious. Partially this is because he’s with Bêlit, who was and will always be the love of his life, but it’s also because it feels like theirs is a relationship that will never be consummated. There exists an attraction between them, but it’s almost like the attraction between geniuses or Gods: based more on their status as outsiders who stand above and beyond mortal ken, and less on physical attraction.
Although there is plenty to be attracted to. I mentioned in my review of issue one that Panosian’s Conan looked a bit off-model at times. This time he looks spot on, and while the character has never been a looker, he always possessed a raw, animal magnetism that drew in people. And Sonja just looks amazing. Unlike in the current Red Sonja title where she wears different outfits appropriate to her situation and environment, in this mini we get pure old school Red Sonja rocking the scale mail bikini. Dead people would be attracted to Sonja the way Panosian draws her.
Issue two of Conan Red Sonja is better than the first. Now that it’s gotten over the somewhat bumpy first issue syndrome, it’s firing on all cylinders and looks to be shaping up as a meditation on their relationship as much as it is telling a story about a series of connected encounters they have over the course of their lives. It will be interesting to see how it plays out—perhaps an aged Sonja will visit King Conan in the final issue and they drink and reminisce. Only time will tell, and in the meantime, I’m looking forward to the next issue, as this series just keeps getting better.
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Dark Horse
Release Date: February 11th, 2015