I wanted to celebrate the release of the new Conan the Barbarian film on August 19 by reviewing some of the Conan related material I have. While we’ll get to the strapping angry man in a few posts, I first wanted to touch on his female counterpart; Red Sonja. Now I follow up last week’s review of the crimson haired swordstress’ first issue with my very beat up copy of RED SONJA #2 by Marvel Comics.

The cover to my copy of RED SONJA #2 by Marvel Comics.

We pick up roughly where we left off; Lord Daquius’ ship is finally coming out of the storm that has savagely beaten it, but the Summer Star is still seaworthy…barely. Few are happier about this turn of events than Daquius’ young daughter, Merina, and soon the ship finds a port not reportedly haunted and docks for needed repairs. However, since the repairs will take longer than bald diplomat cares to wait he arranges for a caravan to take him and his party to the city of Aghrapur.

Meanwhile, Captain Kirkos – yes, Kirkos – is questioned by his crew as to why he withdrew them from the battle in the last issue. The captain is evasive and orders that the ship sail to – dundundun – Aghrapur. They anchor the ship in a hidden inlet and Kirkos travels the rest of the way by foot. He forces the men to stay behind, even though they are concerned he will be recognized in the city and be captured – which of course, he is.

Back with Red Sonja the caravan has stopped for the night. Daquius talks with the barbarienne a little about his diplomatic mission and requests Sonja and Zora  – who Sonja again insists is not her sister – accompany him beyond Aghrapur for his other missions. Sonja apparently has nothing better to do so she agrees.

During their conversation Daquius has been coddling some sort of packaged statue that looks like the Maltese Falcon before it was unwrapped. The diplomat requests Sonja protect it for him, claiming that it is one of Merina’s toys. The red haired woman sees right through the lie and calls him on it. Daquius compliments her perception and says it is a gift from one king to another, but questions the true goodwill intended by it. Sonja accepts the package and mission to protect it.

Arriving at the border of Aghrapur – which is a pain in the ass to type, by the way – Sonja and Daquius enter the city while Zora stays behind with Merina and teaches her archery.

Things don’t go well in Aghr…in the royal court. The package Daquius unwraps and delivers is an idol celebrating a god of death and vengeance whose cult has been outlawed in the land, with an accompanying superstition that looking upon its visage means death. The king knocks it aside and when Sonja picks it up she realizes it is a male version of the sexless god/ess that ushered in her life as a warrior all those years ago. As Sonja and Daquius leave to return to Zora and Merina they see Kirkos ushered through the streets in shackles, humiliated and stoned by the townsfolk. A guard announces he will be hanged in the morning.

Back in Daquius’ quarters Sonja confronts the diplomat, saying she has figured out that Daquius and Kirkos have some sort of shared past, based mostly on how they looked at each other on the street. Daquius admits that the pirate captain is his brother, who was banished from their lands after being falsely accused of treason. The barbarienne comes up with a plan to rescue Kirkos, and she and Daquius one again leave Merina with Zora.

While Sonja successfully frees the captured captain Zora has been slowly unwrapping the statuette, despite direct orders to leave it alone. Amidst this Merina awakes and walks in on the short-haired red head, who has opted to leave the last layer of covering on the statue to honor Sonja’s wishes. Merina has no such reservation and unwraps it. When Zora realizes that it is a male version of the goddess her lost tribe worshiped she passes out from the shock. A gang of Kirkos’ pirates, acting on their own, take the opportunity to kidnap the little girl, and a quickly recovered Zora chases after them.

Reaching the pirate camp Sonja’s “sister” is about to attack the lecherous men when she falls into a pit trap they had created.

And then things go to hell. Literally.

Kirkos, not understanding why Sonja freed him, knocks her out and has her dropped into the same pit Zora is in. The male persona of the red goddess takes on a demonic form and attacks Sonja, claiming vengeance for the destruction of Zora’s tribe (clearly there’s an issue I have to go find). Sonja tricks the being into shattering the idol, and the dark god is defeated. As the cavern starts to collapse from the battle the pirates lower a rope and pull the warriors to safety.

The red heads’ salvation comes from Kirkos having learned that his men kidnapped his niece. Putting the pieces together he realized the barbariennes work for his brother and had them rescued.

Zora is at first elated that, with the destruction of her deity, she is finally free from her past. But in the morning she is less enthusiastic, doubting her place in the world and even her sisterhood with Sonja. The master swordstress tries to assure Zora that together they will make their way, but the conversation is interrupted by the arrival of city guards.

Sonja and her times-in-need allies race back to Kirkos’ ship, pursued by the guards. Once in the water the guards of Aghrapur pursue in another – and faster – ship. Eventually Kirko’s ship is boarded, with Daquius among the invaders. The distraught father initially accuses his brother and lovely body guard of kidnapping, but Sonja and Kirkos quickly explain the confusion. Before the diplomat can call off the attack one of his own men assumes he has betrayed them and skewers him. An arrow immediately punctures the killer’s helmet and brings its own death; Merina has climbed the rigging and is sniping people from the crow’s nest, thanks to Zora’s training and a bow and quiver she plucked from a fallen pirate.

The hail of arrows turns the tide, and just as the day seems won Zora senses another attacker in the crow’s nest of the other ship, armed with a crossbow. The last member of the red goddess’ tribe pushes Sonja out of the way, only to find herself pierced through the heart and flung overboard by the force of the bolt.

Sonja, furious, makes one last prayer to the red goddess for vengeance and flings her sword at the crossbow wielder – and the blade finds its mark right through the man’s chest, pinning him to the mast.

As the story winds down memorials are made and Merina requests to stay with her uncle as a pirate. Kirkos offers Sonja safe passage to wherever she likes, and the barbarienne requests “Anywhere — so long as it is near a road leading west!” Kirkos honors his word, and as the issue comes to a close Sonja departs for another adventure and we find out that Merina takes on a new name and grows up to be Valeria of the Red Brotherhood.

THE FINAL VERDICT: Recommended, if you own Issue #1

Although I didn’t feel as caught up in this part of the story as I did the first, it was still an entertaining read. Once again things were packed with plenty of additional character exchanges and moments that I left out of my summary to save space. I like to think of this issue like the sequel to a good movie; most of the character development has already been handled so this story is about bringing things to conclusion. Although there is one panel that has a word balloon misdirected, I found far fewer printing errors in Issue #2 than the previous one had. I also didn’t find any ads that seemed terribly interesting.

And I will certainly miss Zora.

So, while it is entertaining on its own much of the impact of the events would be lost if you haven’t already read Issue #1 – but if you own Issue #1 it is a must buy so as to finish off this particular storyline.

Part of me laments that I have not been able to find Issue #3, because the tease for the next story is that Sonja “meets the man of her dreams — who proves to be the deadliest foe she has ever faced!!” Two exclamation points? Even if I wasn’t enjoying the series so much, how could I not search for a tale worthy of double exclamation? We’ll have to see if I can turn one up…