The game heats up
One of the biggest criticisms about this series so far is that the big bad, Kulan Gath AKA Hank Gault, has been kept in the shadows too much and we haven’t been given any motivation to boo him.
This issue, or at least the first half of it, remedies that and focuses on Gath, as well as Red Sonja’s cop sidekick Max Mendoza, confirming his origin. The She-Devil herself is pretty much a piece of scenery in the first half of the comic, bar a failed attack on Gath (and an awesome panel showing her springing into action). Once Gath summons reinforcements, though, the tone of the comic changes big time, and we’ve got Sonja and Max leading Gath’s demonic guard dog in a running battle through the Met Museum. In contrast to previous issues, the only diversions from the main story are brief snippets of Max’ partner Jay worrying about his whereabouts and flashbacks to the destruction of Meru and Max’ childhood.
The format of the story in this issue is much more straightforward than in past issues, especially #3, and we’ve basically only got a single setting so it’s easier to get it right. Amy Chu’s interpretation of Gath is a triumph … he’s camp and preening, cracking wise but is totally terrifying and unpredictable at the same time: by far the best depiction of Gath I’ve ever seen, and beautifully illustrated by Carlos Gomez, contrasting his ancient, craggy features with his flamboyant and flowing clothes. Max’ revelation of his true power inspires awe not only in Gath but even in Sonja, who’s usually hard to impress. The brawl with the demon through the museum is bombastic, with Max pitching in and a great panel of Sonja shattering a glass display case to grab herself new weapons when the monster knocks her blade out of her hand. We get another clear indication that Sonja’s not quite human herself when she launches herself 15 feet into the air to slash her enemy. Once again, Carlos and Mohan’s artwork on the museum is first rate.
Amy Chu makes it easy for any new readers to catch up quickly with what’s happening. This series is still missing a REALLY good Sonja fight scene, the kind that Mel Rubi used to scatter throughout his run 10 years ago. That aside, and while IMO this issue fails to hit the heights of #2, it’s definitely a big improvement on the last ish and Chu continues to show she’s absolutely perfect for this fish-out-of-water story. Time will tell whether she can handle a story set in the Hyborian Age with the same gusto and wit.