Review - Red Sonja: Sanctuary (One-Shot)

"Welcome to our sanctuary, Sonja. I'm pleased that you are here."

Fighting takes its toll on all fighters. Sometimes, it's good to take a break. That break doesn't work out so well though when it completely changes the personality of the one taking the break. Let's just say that Red Sonja doesn't like taking breaks, especially in Red Sonja: Sanctuary (One-Shot) from Dynamite Entertainment. The issue is written by Marc Mason, illustrated by Noah Salonga, colored by Salvatore Aiala Studios and lettered by Simon Bowland.
It took a distant, hidden forest, but Red Sonja finally came across Scathach's other chosen warrior in Raven. The Raven she finds is a far cry from the one she knew, as Raven has renounced violence in the name of friends, family and a life without the sword. It's an offer she makes to Sonja as well, but when a group of mercenaries determined to bring Raven to justice enter the mix, Sonja learns that an idyllic life may not be in the cards for her.

Red Sonja is best known for her combat prowess, so Red Sonja: Sanctuary (One-Shot) offers her in a much different light. The problem is that light is a little bland. Mason's story isn't bad per se, but it drags a little bit mainly because the story domesticates Red Sonja to some extent. Red Sonja does best when she puts her combat savvy and talents to use adventuring and that's something this book is really lacking. The burgeoning rivalry between Red Sonja and Raven feels a little forced at the end, but it does offer a pretty solid battle between the two of them. Mason also raises some pretty heady theories regarding Red Sonja's place in life that she's forced to evaluate, weighing her past against her potential.

As the book volleys between pastoral and savage country, Salonga handles the art duties very well. There are some scenes featuring Sonja in rural garb, while others have her donning her trademark armor and weapons. He's got a good handle on what makes her tick, including some rather scintillating poses where Sonja is changing between the two costumes (it's a little gratuitous at times). Character emotion comes through relatively cleanly and it's somewhat refreshing to see Sonja expressing something other than sheer rage. The coloring of the book makes the book feel a little lighter than you'd expect from a Red Sonja book, but it fits within the context of the story.

Red Sonja: Sanctuary (One-Shot) is a rather interesting "what if" in the world of Red Sonja. Most of the issue relays Sonja's struggles with her reputation through the prism of Raven's newfound peace. That peace is short-lived for both of them as old habits die hard, thrusting both characters into their pasts whether they like it or not. Mason writes a believable Sonja who never seems to be quite as comfortable with tranquility as Raven does. Salonga's illustrations manage to look and feel like a Red Sonja book, providing ample opportunity for the characters to get into some combat. Red Sonja: Sanctuary (One-Shot) fits in the Red Sonja mythos, even if it does feel like something of an aberration when looking at the character's history.

Red Sonja: Sanctuary (One-Shot) is in stores now.