Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review - Altered States Red Sonja #1


"Oh it's definitely metal...and it's beautiful."

If you're an accomplished warrior, then no setting frightens you. It could be a one-on-one fight with a worthy adversary or fighting against waves of opposition soldiers. For Red Sonja, the foe doesn't matter. In Altered States Red Sonja #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, if the foe is the unknown, then things get a little more interesting. The issue is written by Brandon Jerwa, illustrated by Juanan Ramirez, colored by Rohvel Yumul and lettered by Marshall Dillon.

Sonja Majeure is a curator of special exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Her daily routine is upended by the arrival of a mysterious series of artifacts, all of which have an uncanny ability to subvert reality. Before she knows it, Sonja finds herself fighting for survival in a dystopian-inspired Hyborian wasteland. Nothing makes sense and nothing is as it seems, forcing Sonja to make peace with a new reality.

Dynamite's Altered States line is predicated on putting their classic characters in unfamiliar settings and Altered States Red Sonja #1 does that in a very unexpected way. Jerwa brought the legend of Red Sonja into the present, lending a historic credibility to it that gives the book a plausible purpose. Sonja's incredulity at the turn of events is presented naturally, with Jerwa using her fear of what's going on as a catalyst for invoking fears in the foes of Red Sonja. He capitalizes on her aloofness as a means of guiding the reader along as well without force-feeding any unnecessary narration that dictates the story's direction. And since it's a one-shot, there's a very nice symmetry to the book in terms of beginning and end, with an appropriate climax in the middle for good measure.

The depiction of Red Sonja by Ramirez is one who's muscular and well-toned. She's such a recognizable character that there's really no room for artists to offer much in the way of their stamp on the character, but fortunately for Ramirez, illustrating Sonja Majeure gives him something of a different outlet. His depiction of Kulan Gath is pretty terrifying (even if there is one panel where he strongly resembles Skeletor) and he throws the characters of Sonja's world into Hyboria quite effortlessly. Sonja's facial expressions remind the reader that this isn't the "true" Red Sonja, as Sonja's look of simultaneous terror and curiosity help keep the reader up to speed on the action. Yumul's color palette is decidedly dark, which helps the red hair of the She-Devil with a Sword to stand out in every panel.

Altered States Red Sonja #1 is another in Dynamite's series of one-shots that does a great job throwing a character everyone knows into a situation that forces them to adapt beyond their typical skills. Red Sonja is a fear fighter who can get out of anything, but when she's not really "herself," it does make for a rather interesting read. Jerwa paces the issue perfectly and gives the reader a very satisfying story with a character such as Red Sonja still managing to have an impact, regardless of the era. The art by Ramirez is true to form and offers a pretty even presentation of Sonja in all her combat glory. Altered States Red Sonja #1 is another solid entry in Dynamite's Altered States line that offers a new spin on an old character.

Altered States Red Sonja #1 is in stores March 10 with interiors below.

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