I will easily admit that I am not a Conan reader. I may have read a few issues of the early Marvel run, but that’s really about it. OK, I do have a few recent issues of Conan, but that series also contained a certain adventurer named Groo, so I cannot say that I truly know the character. Red Sonja, though, I started to read with the recent run by Gail Simone, making me take a liking to the character. Because of that, and because this series are being written by some great writers (one of whom is a personal favourite), I had to give the series a try. And I was definitely glad that I did.
The majority of the books that I read are superhero ones from Marvel and DC. To see something a little more fantasy than superhero takes me back to the days of when I used to play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends in high school. A little humour, a lot of action, and basically just a fun adventure in a more fantastical setting. What makes this story so much fun as well is that it showcases a first meeting between these characters, especially since the rights to each sit with a different publisher. It says a lot that there is a collaboration between these two publishers to make this story a reality, as it seems to lean towards showcasing the two characters growing with one another – especially with a subtitle such as “The Age of Innocence” for this issue and “The Age of Adventure” for the followup.
Regular Red Sonja writer Gail Simone (better known for many of her DC books, including Batgirl and Birds of Prey) pairs up with Jim Zub (Skullkickers, Wayward) in order to put a story together. And these two do a fantastic job. Simone has the history writing Sonja for Dynamite, but also has (and currently) writes for Dark Horse on the current Tomb Raider series. I’m not exactly sure how the two writers were able to pitch the title to the publishers, but I am definitely glad they did. I can see the elements that Simone brings to the table based on my familiarity with her Sonja title, but I can also see elements of Zub’s influence, having focused on the more comedic elements of fantasy in Skullkickers, but also the more mystical and magical in Wayward (and if you aren’t reading that title, you really should). It is really hard to tell who wrote which bit as the influences that I like about both writers are present just about everywhere. This kind of collaboration reminds me of the Palmiotti/Gray partnerships where it’s hard to differentiate, and that always (at least for me) means that there has been a great collaboration.
The artwork on this series is done by Dan Panosian with colours by Dave Stewart. This is probably one of the best drawn books that I have read in a long time. The art style of Panosian is perfectly complemented by Stewart’s colours, having the right tones in the right spots. From the action scenes to the stealthy ones; from the daytime to the nighttime. These two do an amazing job at turning the story from Simone and Zub into an incredible visual story. I am doing my best to try and remember the last time I read a Panosian book (it was probably on X-Factor) but after this issue I hope I can find more – and based on this issue I hope that he does something more with either of these writers as it was that great of an issue. The letters by Richard Starkings finally make the story complete, especially with the different types of word bubbles for Conan from everyone else, giving the impression of an accent representing his Cimmerian background (at least, that is how I took it).
I am not sure what else I can really say about this book that I haven’t already. I picked it up on impulse, as I had not reserved it with my LCS, and it actually became one of my favourite reads of the last few weeks. The Big Two have event lead-in going on, but this issue seemed to be greater than any of those. It is, quite simply, a fun read and has a little bit of everything. I am looking forward to the rest of this series, and am hopeful that this creative team will get together for another book at some time soon.
Writers: Gail Simone and Jim Zub
Artist: Dan Panosian
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse and Dynamite
Publication Date: January 2015