Though best known for her work on DC Comics’ Birds of Prey, Batgirl and Wonder Woman, writer Gail Simone has become equally famous for her work in the sword and sorcery genre in recent years. She first found glory with a revamp of Red Sonja that proved popular enough that it was quickly expanded from a 12 issue engagement to 18 issues. She co-authored the first team-up of Red Sonja and Conan The Barbarian in decades and later teamed Cimmeria’s favorite son with Wonder Woman in a six-issue miniseries. She also edited Swords of Sorrow – a major event for Dynamite Comics that saw Red Sonja leading a team of pulp fictions’s greatest heroines.
Red Sonja/Tarzan follows after this final story, but the connection is little more than an Easter Egg that should appeal to fans of Swords of Sorrow without confusing those readers who pick this book up on a whim. While the fact that the witch who facilitates the meeting of our two heroes is The Traveler from Swords of Sorrow is a nice nod to continuity, the exact means to the end is ultimately immaterial.
This first issue is largely devoted to set-up, with brief introductions of Sonja and Tarzan’s characters and showcases of their awesomeness. In Sonja’s case, this involves her treating her own wounds with strong liquor and a heated dagger. In the case of Tarzan, the involves his showing restraint when dealing with a nobleman whose personal zoo is horrible even by the standards of the 1920’s. The issue also introduces our villain, Eson Duul – a trophy hunter who somehow exists both within the realms of Hyboria and Interwar Era Britain.
One interesting note about Simone’s script is her depiction of Tarzan, who spends the entire issue in England rather than Africa. It’s a safe bet that most readers think of Tarzan as a chest-pounding warrior who wrestles with rabid lions and commands the animals of the jungle with a shout. The Tarzan we see here is an older lord Greystoke, taken from the original Edgar Rice Burroughs stories, where Tarzan had learned the ways of civilization and proved as capable of navigating the savagery of aristocratic society as the wild. The Tarzan sequences of the book also establish Tarzan’s sense of compassion – a trait not often considered in most pastiche works involving the character – which makes for another interesting contrast given the Sonja scenes’ focus on her skill as a fighter and her sense of endurance.
Simone is joined in this crossover by Walter Geovani – her artistic co-creator on her original Red Sonja run. Unsurprisingly, Geovani proves as skilled in depicting the forests of Australia and the estates of Enlgand as he does the world of Hyboria. Geovani possess a remarkable gift for depicting vivid details yet keeping his art smooth and streamlined. He’s also a wonderful choreographer and the action of the story flows easily from panel to panel under his direction. The color art by Adriano Augusto is also worthy of praise.
For those who are unfamiliar with Tarzan or Red Sonja, this series will prove a perfect introduction to both characters. Those who have already traveled alongside them through the wastes of Hyrkania or the jungles of the Congo in will also find this story to their liking. This unique merger of two of pulp fiction’s greatest heroes is certain to stand the test of time as a true classic.
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.