Review: Red Sonja Holiday Special (Dynamite Comics, Jolly Jinglings Special)
Welcome back to The Splintering’s Jolly Jinglings holiday event! With Christmas now being imminent, we thought we’d review the Red Sonja: Holiday Special, because nothing gets the Yuletide cheer flowing like a busty redhead in a chainmail bikini.
Published in 1998 by Dynamite Comics, Red Sonja: Holiday Special is actually two stories in a single, five-dollar package. And yes, Sonja does actually wear her iconic chainmail armor in both stories, there’s no cover art bait & switch where her physique is hidden beneath cloaks or pants in the interior art. (Pants, Dynamite? Really?)
With that critical detail out of the way, let’s discuss the story (stories)…
A Very Merry Sonja
The first half of Red Sonja: Holiday Special is titled A Very Merry Sonja, which is the longer of the two parts (20 pages) and is co-written by Amy Chu and Erik Burnham and illustrated by Ricardo Jamie. The story is told by Sonja in flashback and takes place during her time in the modern day (see Red Sonja Volume 4). She is reminiscing with a lone traveler about spending Christmas in New York with her police officer friend, Max.
The string of events that follow are thematically tied together by Sonja’s discovery of the magic of the Christmas season. Charity, shopping, good will towards men, that kind of thing. The main “conflict” involves Sonja and Max helping a stranger find his lost dog while being chased by a group of armed thugs. Everything falls into place a bit too conveniently, with the resolution coming together after a remarkable series of coincidences. I suppose we can chalk it up to a Christmas miracle, eh?
Overall, this portion of the book reads very quickly, with heartwarming and humorous moments taking center stage over action. The “fish out of water” schtick wear a bit thin pretty fast, and Sonja’s naiveté is relied upon a bit too much for humor, at least for my taste, but its not a deal-breaker. Honestly, Ricardo Jamie’s artwork is the best reason to read. He action is well-paced, and he’s not bashful to draw the voluptuous Sonja in all her shapely glory. There are a few moments of wonky anatomy, and I feel the shading on faces goes overboard from time to time (particularly around noses), but it’s still a solidly drawn story.
Wizards of the Black Sun
The second half of Red Sonja: Holiday Special is a reprint of Wizards of the Black Sun, a shorter, 12-page tale which was originally published in black and white in issue 23 of The Savage Sword of Conan in 1977. This story is co-written by Roy Thomas and Claire Noto, and features illustrations by Frank Thorne. Unlike A Very Merry Sonja, Wizards of the Black Sun takes place during Sonja’s native Hyborian Age.
This second half has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, or even holidays for that matter, but it’s a much more solid story. In her travels, Sonja has arrived at an unfamiliar city. Thirsty and weary Sonja chooses to enter the city in search of rest and sustenance. However, just outside the city walls, she is given an ominous warning by a talking, three-legged goat: “Avoid the door of the black sun.”
Sonja ventures on into the city despite the goat’s warning, and is ultimately tricked and captured by a coven of evil wizards, where she uses the clues given to her by the goat to escape her captors.
It’s not a complicated story, but it’s a satisfying one. Thorne’s art matches the mythological tone particularly well as it gives the sense of an ancient myth come to life. If I have any complaints about this second story, I’d say that it never really feels as though Sonja is in real danger. She solves the wizards’ riddles rather quickly and escapes their clutches with relative ease.
Overall, Red Sonja: Holiday Special is a decent overall package, but not a stellar one. The $4.99 price point isn’t outrageous given the 32-page length, but in my opinion, the shorter, reprinted backup story is the more satisfying of the two tales. Even if you happen to own a copy of 1977’s The Savage Sword of Conan #23 and have already read Wizards of the Black Sun, this new edition is colorized, so there’s still some value there. There’s plenty of good artwork in both, but the first story, A Very Merry Sonja, was more hokey in its execution than it needed to be.
The digital version of the book is typically $2.99 for Kindle or Comixology via Amazon, and that’s not a bad deal if you’re inclined to read digital comics. In fact, at the time of this writing, the book is only $0.99, so click here if I’ve sold you.
Thanks for reading! To check out more of The Splintering’s Jolly Jinglings content, go here.