Story by Amy Chu & Erik Burnham
Script by Erik Burnham
Illustrated by Daniel HDR
Colored by Natalia Marques
Lettered by Tom Napolitano
Cover Art by Mike McKone (Cover A), Tula Lotay (Cover B), Jordan Gunderson (Cover C), Anthony Marques, J. Bone, and Chris O'Halloran (Cover E)
"I saw no tavern in this town, so I'm willing to listen..."
Did you miss out on the last sixteen issues of RED SONJA? If you did, you missed out on a crazy ride with the She Devil as she traveled to the present-day New York and back to her own time period, and battled Kulan Gath, and... well, you should just read it. This issue nods to those issues and stands as the beginning of a new arc for Sonja as she learns about the sword she has come to wield, who once owned it, and the decision on if she should give the blade back to it's original owner.
There are difficult issues to tell people to pick up if they've never read a series before or have been away from it for a long time. RED SONJA #17 isn't one of those issues. It actually acts in the opposite and provides a small nod to the massive story arc that has come before it, and then steps forward to tell a new tale. As a fan of this series, I've been curious on how Amy Chu and Erik Burnham were going to transition out of their epic 16-issue opening arc for this series and into some more traditional Red Sonja stories. This issue answered that question and only drew me in more into wondering what's going to happen next.
This issue tells the story of a warrior who may have previous owned the sword that Sonja has come to call her own. The blacksmith who is helping Sonja re-balance the sword notices markings on the blade and lets her know that the sword is the legendary Blade of Skath. He then goes on to tell her about Lord Skath and some of his adventures with his sword and how he came to lose it. Chu and Burnham could easily spin Skath out into his own miniseries to provide more backstory. There definitely seems to be some rich stories to tell. There is a nice balance to the storytelling throughout the issue as readers are taking in and out of the Skath story and Sonja's own. This issue serves as background and setup, but it doesn't come across as formulaic.
The art throughout this issue is very nice. There is a nice contrast to what readers have been seeing with Carlos Gomez's work on the series. Readers are shown that RED SONJA can be a series where the art style can change from story arc to story arc and the core design of the world remains the same. This allows for a wide range of artists to provide their own take on the world of Red Sonja and provide readers with some exposure to some very talented artists.
Daniel HDR, Natalia Marques, and Tom Napolitano are a talented group. HDR's linework in this issue feels more of a traditional sword and sorcery style found in classic CONAN and RED SONJA comics but with his own take. HDR's action sequences solid. There is a nice sense of movement that the reader can easily follow. The coloring in this issue is great. A larger part of this issue has Sonja in a blacksmith's workshop that is only lit by a forge, and Natalia Marques plays with the flicker flames nicely. HDR and Marques work together very well throughout the issue providing opportunities for one another to bring out the best in the other. The lettering by Tom Napolitano is strong from cover to cover. There were some challenges with the narration boxes with the coloring choice of black text on a brown text box making it hard to read at times. Beyond that everything flowed smoothly and worked very well together.
RED SONJA #17 is a good book that serves as an epilogue of sorts for the previous arc and a starting point for the next arc. It provides new readers, and returning readers, a landing spot to get into the series with a story that hooks you with the potential of what's to come.