This is it, folks! Simone and Geovani’s excellent “Queen of Plagues” arc reaches its exciting conclusion as Sonja and Annisia look to finally prove who the better swordswoman is. It’s been a long ride, one filled with blood and plague and legendary drinking; does the finale survive the curse of Hyrkania?
Issue #6 picks up immediately after #5 left off, with Sonja and Annisia at the mercy of the not-so-dead King Bazrat. It seems Bazrat, the slimy sumbitch who enslaved the two women in the first place, has been sitting on the sidelines, working behind the scenes as the dreaded sick cripples the land and those who would oppose him. With Sonja and Annisia locked in their epic clash, Bazrat is able to again place himself in power, the death of the two “sisters” his first priority. He also takes credit for some of the more sinister machinations that have plagued the last few issues, proving yet again that anyone with a skeevy mustache is not to be trusted. Of course, this is Red flippin’ Sonja we’re talking about, and she doesn’t take too kindly to Bazrat’s sudden reemergence.
In terms of finales, this one is a doozy. Simone’s story really sings as Sonja is faced with the unenviable position of having an enemy both at her rear and at her throat. The face-off between her and Annisia has been a long time coming, yet Simone scripts the scene with a surprising amount of layers that dispels any chance of a cookie cutter good/bad melee. Simone argues that while the two women survived the pits, they never quite left them, the scars they carry on the inside far more altering than any marred flesh. The inevitable fracas is exhilarating, but the outcome is even better. We’ve seen Sonja slash, slice, and skewer her way through many an opponent, but never with such personal investment. Thankfully Simone has a few tricks up her sleeve, and suffice it to say the final pages are very, very satisfying.
That said, some may take issue with Simone’s decision to off an ancillary character, especially when she does such a great job of making said character interesting and developed. I was a bit surprised by the choice, but given the context of the move and the impact it has I’m not too put off by it. What I really like about this series thus far is the continued theme of inner strength. We’ve seen Sonja in countless perilous situations – outnumbered, dying, seemingly doomed – only for the she-devil to yet again steel her resolve (and swing said steel) in order to overcome. Simone does more than write strong female characters; she writes strong characters in general, some of which happen to be female. It’s this distinction that elevates the series as everyone, man, woman, or merperson, has a place and a purpose in her world. A story featuring a warrior in a metal bikini could have been horrendous in a lesser writer’s hands, yet Simone proves remarkably in tune with her flame haired compatriot, the series as a whole bettered by her involvement.
Much like Simone, artist Walter Geovani brings his A-game here as the finale is a richly detailed and blood soaked affair. His characterization of Sonja is phenomenal, her emotions changing from panel to panel as her fate, and that of those around her, unfolds. Geovani gives Sonja a presence that’s unmatched, and despite her comely physique she’s never once depicted in a salacious or objective manner. In Geovani’s hands Sonja has never looked better, and her opponents have never seemed more dismayed. Really, the artwork has been consistent all along, so if you’ve been reading the series you know what kind of goodness to expect.
As the Queen of Plagues saga winds down and Simone gears towards the next arc, it’s an exciting time to be a Red Sonja fan. Simone has again cemented herself as the go-to for strong, fully formed female characters, particularly redheads (seriously, Simone is one Jessica Rabbit one-shot away from total red headed dominion). Red Sonja #6 proves a fitting end to an emotional arc, and with Simone and Geovani at the wheel, Sonja’s future is looking very bright indeed.