Conan and Red Sonja have met before. The Cimmerian Barbarian and the She-Devil with a Sword were created by Robert E. Howard at the height of pulp adventure stories in the 1930s. It was years later before the two met in the pages of “Conan the Barbarian” #23 published by Marvel Comics in 1973.
After several years apart Conan and Red Sonja meet again for the first time, thanks to a publishing crossover between Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment, writers Gail Simone and Jim Zub along with artist Dan Panosian reunite in a four-issue miniseries, “Conan Red Sonja.” But history between the two sword wielders is thrown out the window as this story starts their relationship off from scratch as they meet while doing what they love – fighting and stealing.
“Conan Red Sonja” #1 is the beginning of the new epic that finds young versions of Conan and Red Sonja after the same prize, a treasure box held by a spoiled prince. It is through cunning, deceit and a heavy left cross that Red Sonja reaches the prize. It is through power, savagery, and humor that Conan reaches the same prize, but it is only together that these two can mount their escape.
Despite the similarities in the two characters, Simone and Zub show how different they are in their tactics and the way they handle each other as well as their victims. Together these two action-seeking thieves make a formidable team but their differences and youthful stubbornness keep them apart. Each, in the single issue, is given a distinct voice that showcases their individual traits.
Bringing it all together is the exquisite artwork of Panosian. His art sets a good pace for the issue that builds the introductions of the characters wonderfully. Glances from Sonja hide her attempt at trickery from the prey she stalks as she manipulates her way into the gates. As she lowers the boom, her strength and prowess are on display. Panosian draws Red Sonja in her iconic chainmail bikini, but the art does not glorify the sex appeal of the look but rather shows it as her fighting attire.
Likewise Conan is shown as the powerfully agile barbarian who uses a guard’s head to catapult himself behind the gates of a kingdom. Panosian uses the style with which Conan dispatches, i.e. kills, those who get in his way or simply annoy him as another difference between the two stars of the book.
Panosian’s artwork is embellished by the stunning colors of Dave Stewart. The color palette serves to illuminate the dark and somewhat cavernous confines of the castle the duo invade. It fits the time of the story’s setting. It works hand and hand with the art to set the tone of the comic.
Over the four issues of “Conan Red Sonja,” Simone and Zub plan to reunite Conan and Red Sonja at different points in their lives. The premiere issue makes the story of each adventurer accessible for those who know little to nothing of the history of the characters and just want to get in on the beginning of a large scale story. Panosian and Stewart have given the book a distinct look that is appealing and eye-catching. “Conan Red Sonja” #1 is a solid introduction to the world these characters inhabit with a growing threat that makes the next meeting between the two that much more exciting.
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