Red Sonja Holiday Special 2021 Is a Thrilling, Yet Introspective Ride

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Red Sonja is no stranger to meaningful, character-driven arcs, and this year’s Red Sonja Holiday Special is no different, while also roping in the festive season as a festive background for its two short stories. However, these are not traditional tales of Christmas cheer and festive grace, but rather somber stories that look deeper into the themes of regret, remembrance and consequence and fit perfectly into the harsh landscape of Sonja’s world.

Written by Mirka Andolfo and Luca Blengino with artwork from Zulema Scotto Lavina and Carmelo Zagaria, Red Sonja Holiday Special 2021 drops just in time for this festive occasion. In the first tale, “Sonja’s Carol,” she faces a ghost conjured up by one of her dying victims, who proceeds to remind her of the consequences of all the death and destruction she’s wrought for so long. The second tale, “The Dance of Fire,” sees Sonja hunting down some bandits for a bounty. When she finds her final target in a strange village, she learns that the local populace is at the mercy of a far more dangerous threat.

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Mirka Andolfo and Luca Blengino manage to weave two standalone, yet interconnected stories together for the Holiday Special. Their style perfectly blends the harsh nature of Red Sonja’s existing universe with classic Christmas tropes, which work very organically in each tale. While both tales feature an almost . style of overcoming extreme hardship, each story is distinct enough in its themes.

“Sonja’s Carol” is a more direct homage to A Christmas Carol and sees Sonja confronting the past, present and future of her violent actions when faced with the dying spirit of one of her bounties. “The Dance of Fire,” however, warns more of the dangers of blindly following tradition and greed, and — in the end — forgetting what the true meaning of the Christmas season really means. Together, these two stories paint a subtle and quiet atmosphere. There may not be much mirth in Sonja’s world, but there are lessons worth learning.

Zulema Scotto Lavina and Carmelo Zagaria bring some great art to the first and second tale respectively. With incredibly detailed line work and kinetic energy, the art offers a good sense of the drama in line with the genre. Sonja, in particular, is drawn very distinctly here. The stories feature a unique approach to its character design, though it never feels like the dimensions and proportions are hyper-exaggerated at any point.

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Colorist Nicolo Laporini and Arancia Studio lend their skills to this book, using a wide array of colors. The only small shortcoming is the lack of bolder colors. Barring Sonja’s stunningly signature red hair, which stands out against the wintery hues, the rest of the book could have done with a bit more of a visual punch. Regardless, it’s still a fun feast for the eyes.

Red Sonja Holiday Special 2021 won’t exactly fill readers with festive cheer, but it does leave a lot to think about. For many, winter is often a season of beginnings and endings, where the old gives way to the new. Similarly, Sonja’s tale is also one of struggle and introspection, and this Special captures the spirit of the season. As always, readers can come for the gore and adventure, but they’ll be pleasantly surprised to find themselves staying for the holiday spirit.

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