This post of Red Sonja by author Gail Simone has been adapted from two previous posts. First is the spoiler free review followed by the spoiler full review and summary.
Spoiler Free Review
Red Sonja is a barbarian warrior who is as badass as she is half naked. She rides a horse in a chain-mail bikini and doesn’t care that you think it’s impractical.
She drinks, she kills, she desperately wants to get laid (and is apparently pansexual which is pretty neat), but she doesn’t bathe so that last one has been more challenging than she expected.
Red Sonja is an unapologetic female protagonist. She does not need to fit into your mold of what modern feminism looks like, she’s just who she is. And I like her all the more for that.
This large collection of Gail Simone’s run of Red Sonja follows three main arcs. Each is an exciting adventure story that puts Red Sonja in a predictable path of action with a couple deviations to be thought provoking of what it means to maintain humanity in a dark and violent world.
Adventure fantasy is not my favorite genre, nor is medieval period violence. If these are your thing then you’ll probably like Red Sonja even more than I did. I just get tired of the whole random pieces of magic popping up when it’s convenient.
Overall though Red Sonja is a fun, coherent collection that serves as a great introduction to the character. I had never read anything of hers before and did not need to in order to understand and follow this one.
I really like being able to pick up a single run of comic books and be able to read it alone. There is no mandatory previous reading here and the book has an actual conclusion to the plot lines so you do not need to read 100 issues afterwards either. An absolute rarity in comics.
I definitely recommend this one to anyone looking for a new hero to follow. She is badass, strong, beautiful, and at times very funny. She also never slows down, even is she’s sick or dead or asleep or injured. She’s always fighting.
Gail Simone’s Red Sonja Summary
Red Sonja is a hardcore action comic that does not shy away from violence or sexuality. Red Sonja is both extremely brutal and in dire need of getting laid. She typically gets drunk in between bedroom or battle field activities.
She’s your basic action hero who also wears a chain-mail bikini and does not see anything wrong with that.
The series begins with showing how she was rescued from being a slave, forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of an awful king.
The opposing king who rescues her then finds her again and asks her to help train an army of women and children to fight against the army lead by the woman who was enslaved alongside Red Sonja, Annisia.
Annisia leads a charge against them and banishes Red Sonja, declaring that she has the plague and must be left to die in isolation.
Sick and beaten down Red Sonja has a flashback of seeing her entire family murdered when she was 12 years old. At 12 years old she hunted and killed all of the marauders responsible, save one.
Two young women find Red Sonja in the snow and declare themselves her new bodyguards. On their way back to town Red Sonja discovers she’s gone blind but is still able to ward off a bunch of attackers, like a boss.
She is brought to the son of the good king, who has been slain and he cures her with some newfangled medicine. He says he is not a warrior and is unable to avenge his father, asks her to do it for him. He gives her some more appropriate and practical armor to wear.
She attacks Annisia and the man who enslaved them both shows up to watch the bloodbath. He admits that the plague is actually a poison that he put forth and Annisia snaps from the instant guilt of having destroyed plague ridden towns, killing hundreds of innocent people including children for no reason.
Red Sonja and Annisia team up to kill the king but discover that his sex slave beat them to it and already poisoned him with the very same plague poison. The son of the good king then kills Annisia to avenge his father and Red Sonja kills him to avenge Annisia.
After all of this excitement she leaves everyone behind to go get wasted.
Her next mission is to gather six of the finest artisans in the land for a special funeral. This king (so many damn kings) has promised to release all of his slaves if she can provide them. She must find a chef, a beastmaster, a courtesan, a swordsman, a dancer, and a stargazer. All the tops of their fields.
Red Sonja finds the chef after being captured by a tribe of cannibals. They escape together.
Her sexual advances toward the chef are rejected and so begins a subplot of Red Sonja getting increasingly horny and confused about how everyone thinks she should bathe once in a while.
She then finds the beastmaster, a child slave of a man who forces animals to fight to the death for entertainment. The animals hate him and love the child who treats them well.
Her next stop is a world famous brothel to find the courtesan. This world class love maker gives Red Sonja a makeover and then they’re attacked. Unfortunately for them they underestimate the two pretty ladies and get their asses handed to them.
I absolutely love this. That beauty becomes an asset because the men can’t see past it to see their strength.
She then finds the swordsman who agrees to go with them if she can beat him in a duel. She loses and realizes it’s because the risk isn’t high enough. She challenges him to the death and then wins.
She then tries to sleep with him and is rejected again. Poor thing.
In order to get the stargazer she must go to the church at which he is being tortured. He foolishly declared the earth to be round instead of flat and is paying for it.
The church makes Red Sonja cover up her exposed body and she deeply resents them for making her feel ashamed. If she wants to wear a chain-mail bikini that’s her right as a woman!
She confronts the coward high priest and he doesn’t call any bluffs so the stargazer is free to go.
Finally she gets the dancer who is a well treated gay man who comes along without a conflict.
They go to the king who is having this lavish funeral party and of course he changes his mind about his deal to release slaves in exchange for these performers so they all kill him.
Red Sonja gets a bath and a bunch of gold and then heads back to the brothel. She orders “one of everything.” Once again, like a boss.
Red Sonja may not be what a lot of people consider to be an ideal role model but feminism takes many forms and I appreciate that she knows what she wants and who she is and owns it completely.
For her final adventure she heads to a new town where she kills a wizard but not before he curses her to not be able to forgive.
She sees the final marauder that was part of the hoard that killed her family and is determined to finally see him dead.
After an incident in a bar in which an innocent man accidentally spills her beer and she almost murders him because she can’t forgive him for it she realizes the curse is real.
She summons all of her strength and burns her hands over an open flame badly enough so that she can no longer hold her sword. This breaks the curse but she also dies.
Yeah, she’s dead.
She meets death, who is personified to look like herself. She fights death and wins. Her first mission as back alive is to find the marauder one last time.
She hunts him down and then forgives him for murdering her family. Finally allowing her to move on.
She is then tasked by local nuns with helping to defend their library. She is illiterate and doesn’t understand the importance of books but is quickly won over by these women with a great fondness for education. Here she shall stay until the next journey.
Overall I enjoyed reading Red Sonja and really enjoyed reading an unapologetically badass female warrior. She’s maybe too crass for some audiences and very sexy regardless of her purported odor but I like her.
For me, I do not read a lot of adventure and fantasy books so the genre itself isn’t something that gets me excited. I am also just not a huge fan of medieval period pieces but if you like any of those things you’ll love instead of just like this one.
Definitely check it out, it’s a great introduction to the character and requires no previous reading in order to enjoy it.
4/5 swords 🗡🗡🗡🗡
If you like Red Sonja you might like Bloodstone.
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Buy it here: The Complete Gail Simone Red Sonja Oversized Ed. HC