Grim_Noir Freeboots with Conan & Red Sonja #1

Conan Red Sonja 1 cover

Title: Conan/Red Sonja #1 (The Age Of Innocence)

Writers: Gail Simone & Jim Zub

Art: Dan Panosian

Colors: Dave Stewart

Letterer: Richard Starkings & Comicraft

Published by Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

When I heard that Jim Zub and Gail Simone were teaming up for a Conan/Red Sonja crossover, my eyebrow shot up quizzically. “This could be a project that’s doomed from the outset,” I thought to myself. While Jim Zub is rapidly becoming one of my favorite comics writers, I (personally) have found Gail Simone’s writing to be wildly uneven. Also, the recent Conan The Barbarian movie reboot had not done that well in the theaters. AND, the licenses for Conan and Red Sonja were currently owned by two different comic book companies (Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment).

Thankfully, Dark Horse and Dynamite were not opposed to a corporate crossover and the Silver-age days of a Conan/Red Sonja crossover live again:

Conan Red Sonja 1 page 8

Long, long ago in a polyester galaxy called “The 70s,” writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith created the first crossover between Conan The Barbarian and Red Sonja (“She-Devil With A Sword”) for Marvel Comics. They played it fast and loose with Robert E. Howard’s mythology: The prose “Red Sonya of Rogatino” was originally a pistol- and sword-wielding Renaissance pirate, while Conan was firmly rooted in the sword-and-sorcery Hyborian Age. Kids didn’t care. The famous paperback novel covers of Frank Franzetta fueled the imagination of many who had never read a Conan story before the Thomas/Smith comic series.

Clearly Zub and Simone fondly remember those halcyon Hyborian days. The universe of their crossover is filled with regal oppression, mysterious barely-controlled magic and megalomaniacal wizards. The overall idea is that this epic story carries over four different time periods in the lives of our heroes. This first issue is titled The Age Of Innocence because it takes place very early in the careers of Conan and Red Sonja. They have been hired (separately) by a shady character to steal a very rare jewel. A lot of caper notes and Treasure of the Sierra Madre mini-moves ensue.

I would also wager Zub is writing all of Conan’s speech and Simone is handling Sonja’s dialogue. This sounds like a simple idea, but (if it is true) it really adds to the authenticity and electricity of our protagonists trust/lust/distrust dynamic. While both of these characters are fun to read individually, it is the uncertainty of their “relationship” that makes this story impossible to stop reading.

Conan Red Sonja 1 page 10

Well, that AND Dan Panosian’s terrific artwork. Panosian, a veteran of most of Marvel’s and DC’s flagship titles, really nails the youthfulness of Conan and Red Sonja in this story. There is a gangliness to Sonja’s musculature that we don’t often see, but he also gives her a litheness that makes young Red an ideal thief. Conan isn’t the hulking brute who wants to hear “the laminations of their wimmin.” Youthful Conan looks more like a shirtless Bruce Wayne; an attainable, but deadly body type. Everything in this crumbling pre-medieval world feels fresh.

Trouble is, as both a one-shot and as the beginning of an epic miniseries, not enough happens. We have some great character moments and some minor action bits, however they don’t really add up to a story, yet. But the potential IS there.

For fans of Conan, Red Sonja or Dan Panosian’s artwork, this is going to be a must-buy. For the rest of us, the jury cannot deliver a verdict without more evidence. Trade-waiting might be the best course of action.

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Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or “Friend” on Facebook or Good Reads to end his self-delusions.

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