On a surface level, it doesn’t seem that the sword and sorcery adventures of Red Sonja could fit in a Victorian steampunk story. However, in Legenderry: Red Sonja #1, writer Marc Andreyko and artist Aneke combine witty dialogue (and voiceovers), plenty of action, and hook readers in with a mystery/conspiracy plotline along with an equally mysterious foil for Red Sonja. Andreyko may lay this doubling on a little too thickly with the hooded woman’s inner monologue being the inverse of Sonja, but she propels the plot forward and will play a huge role in the miniseries as a whole. Aneke has a good command over space and pacing and uses jagged panels during the fight scenes to make them seem especially brutal. She even makes Red Sonja’s chainmail bikini sometimes work in this setting with the addition of a pirate vest and steampunk goggles, but occasionally indulges in a gratuitous “butt shot” that doesn’t work with Andreyko’s characterization of Sonja as a woman with agency, who enjoys a casual roll in the hay and bar fight, but also has a compassionate heart.
Legenderry: Red Sonja #1 portrays the She-Devil with a Sword as a lot nicer than other incarnations of the character, like Gail Simone and Walter Geovani’s current run where she is currently cursed and unable to forgive anyone. Steampunk pirate Red Sonja rebuffs creepy men on the dock with a witty retort instead of threatening them with violence. But when strange, spooky creatures attack a poor, old man at her favorite drinking spot in the city, her savagery is unmatched. Aneke dedicates a full page while pouring on the speed lines to show how Red Sonja quickly switches from bar patron to warrior in a flash. This comes out out of her and Andreyko’s portrayal of Red Sonja as a character with confidence, whose head is held up high and has an easy back and forth with her crewmates and the bartender, Bitsy. This confidence is contrasted with the shady palette the colorists at Impacto Studios used to depict the dark alleys and corners of the city.
As shown by her previous work on Battlestar Galactica 1880, Aneke has a strong handle on the steampunk aesthetic using subtle touches like Sonja’s goggles which never leave her head, electric lights in the background with a strong yellow glow courtesy of Impacto, and the presence of a lot of corsets. She also varies her panel layouts depending on the type of scene using several wide panels to show Sonja’s arrival aboard her trusty ship and lots of little ones for the cramped back alleys of Big City. Aneke also shines in the fast-paced action scenes that pepper Legenderry: Red Sonja #1 as she utilizes jagged panels to show Sonja’s agility and the threat of her shadowy foes. Marc Andreyko makes sure this issue is exciting from the get-go as a backstabbing, reveal, or even just a funny joke is always around the corner. With the exception of a couple panels that seem staged to maximize its heroine’s “assets”, Legenderry: Red Sonja #1 is a fun ride for fans of both the fantasy and steampunk genres and sets its version of Sonja apart from others with her kind heart. But don’t fear, there is plenty of sword swinging and dismemberment along the way!