Writer’s Commentary: Dan Abnett On ‘Red Sonja: The Superpowers’ #2 From Dynamite

[+++ NOTE: Potential spoilers! Buy and read the book, and then return here for a crisp commentary! +++]

Sonja’s Superpowers story is all about clashes — literal ones and cultural ones. The action, and the humor — for, lo, there is some — comes entirely out of those clashes. Last issue began as a ‘straight’ and traditional Sonja story, deep in the Hyborean world, and the arrival of the very ‘superhero’ Project members changed the tone entirely, and drove the action. The conflict is triggered not from misunderstanding, but from actual NOT understanding. Sonja and the Project are worlds apart, and language is not the only barrier.

Page one

Jonathan’s art throughout is superb, and so is Andrew’s colors and Hassan’s lettering (which has to be quite ingenious). We start with a bang. Clashing with the Project, Sonja’s just done a terrible thing… she’s cut Captain Future in half.

Pages two to four

The Project are understandably shocked, but it gets worse, and Sonja — convinced they are the demons she’s been sent to destroy — comes for them. And their superpowers, which seem like magic to her, aren’t helping convince her otherwise.  Only the intervention of Captain Future (not dead, just temporarily damaged in his cosmic state) stops the mayhem.

Pages five to eight

With Sonja a prisoner, the Project discuss what to do (and also admires her prowess). The Sword, her biggest fan, comes across as a bit of a letch, which is deliberate… some of these Project heroes are old-fashioned, and come from times and eras where attitudes are different. I specifically wanted him to feel out of date and out of touch. The Sword is a ‘lady’s man’ and just can’t stop himself. He truly thinks he’s being charming. Vana, from the actual future, is less impressed. Culture clash comes to the fore here, and in particular in Sonja’s language. She actually has ‘three’ voices, a very calculated move on my part. In her regular speech, she talks as we would expect Red Sonja to talk, the way we’ve seen her in her own comics. She also has a narrative voice, which is similar, but more personal and intimate. But when she’s being translated by the Project tech (she’s not speaking their language at all), her voice becomes a much more broken, ’accented’  thing, which is pretty funny, and gives her added character, AND demonstrates the cultural gap between her and the heroes. I also really love the way Hassan has been able to run her rantings BEHIND the Project dialogue, showing it’s an unstinting background noise.

Page 5

Pages nine to eleven 

Again, we’re playing with speech here — see how we suddenly can’t hear Sonja once she’s trapped inside Vana’s forcefield? Her balloons, raging though they are, are empty, and ‘wedged’ against the confinement of the force field. Lettering is the great, unsung art of comics.

Pages twelve to fourteen

Meanwhile, the Project arrives at their target location. They are confident, in charge, and acting by the book, like an ‘away team’ on a mission. But they are about to have a culture clash of their own. By this stage, I wanted the Project to come across as powerful and very capable (despite their awkward run-in with Sonja). There is nothing they can’t handle, and they have understandably supreme confidence in their tech and powers.

Pages fifteen to nineteen

The Project has left Sonja ‘safe’ inside the decaying force field, not realizing that the local wildlife will take an interest, and she won’t have her sword when the bubble finally collapses. It’s all about visual story-telling here, no dialogue. The threat is clear, as is the nature of the danger, the ‘trap’. Sound returns once the bubble pops — and at that point, we ‘hear’ Sonja again, and also hear her narrative voice, both returning to ‘normal’ because it’s no longer filtered by the Project’s translators. Awesome and dynamic action from Jonathan here, really powerful old school barbarian violence.

Page 15

Pages twenty to twenty two

Resolved, Sonja resumes her quest, and we discover — at her side — that the evil sorceror she’s after is terrifyingly powerful. Having thoroughly set up the abilities of the Project, we (and she) are astonished to see them rendered helpless… by the one thing they didn’t expect. Actual magic. 

And if there’s one thing that Sonja hates…

Structurally, the whole issue, so gloriously dynamic in its visuals, is a series of twists — Sonja shocks the Project, the Project shows they can easily contain her, the sorceror shocks the Project, and Sonja — now established as the ‘weakest’ player of the three… is the only one in play. She has to defeat the thing that defeated the things that defeated her.  See?

Can she do it? Well, a) come back next issue, obviously and b) she’s Red Sonja. So… probably. But it ain’t going to be easy and it ain’t going to be pretty.

Red Sonja: The Superpowers #2 is out now from Dynamite

[+++ NOTE: Potential spoilers! Buy and read the book, and then return here for a crisp commentary! +++] Sonja’s SuperpowersCOMICONRead More

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: