There’s nothing worse than the son of a warlord hellbent on revenge. Sonja’s life is on the line in the upcoming miniseries Killing Red Sonja as the flame-haired warrior faces a new villain—Dragan the Magnificent’s son Cyril. With his birthright in pieces, Cyril is ready to take on the person responsible for his family’s demise.

Written by Mark Russell and Bryce Ingman, the series features art by Craig Rousseau. The team chatted with The Beat about the new tale.

Deanna Destito: Why did you choose to expand on this one piece from the ongoing?

Mark Russell: A big theme of the main series is the ripple effect of power and its mistakes, so I’d always wanted to show more of the consequences of this war on the family, and particularly the son, of the man who started it.

Bryce Ingman: Mark and I sat down over steak sandwiches, and he shared the germs of several ideas for Red Sonja spinoffs that he thought might be a good fit for us to collaborate on. One of his concepts was about Prince Cyril’s attempt to avenge his father’s death by killing Red Sonja. I was instantly taken with the idea of a 12-year-old boy trying to murder the greatest warrior of the Hyborian Age. How could a pampered, sheltered child even hope to accomplish this? Sure, Cyril is emperor now, but if his father couldn’t end Sonja, how is he expected to? Answering those questions seemed like an opportunity to craft a thrilling, unique story. I think we made the right choice.

Destito: You also worked together on a Humble Bundle exclusive one-shot. Is there any connection between these two stories, and why is everyone from the creative team a good fit on this new story?

Russell: Yeah, there are some characters from the Humble Bundle piece that show up in this series. I’ll let Bryce elaborate or not as he sees fit. I think this series needed to have a different flavor than the main series so I really liked Bryce’s ideas in making it more fantasy-heavy than the main series and also Craig’s clean lines which lend themselves to that flavor.

Ingman: The Humble Bundle exclusive does have a definite connection to Killing Red Sonja. We were already planning the spin-off when the Humble Bundle opportunity arose, and Nate Cosby suggested we tie the one-shot to Killing Red Sonja if we saw an opportunity. We definitely saw such an opportunity. So, if you read Petitioning the Queen, our Humble Bundle one-shot, you’ll be reacquainted with a pair of colorful characters in Killing Red Sonja. However, if you haven’t read the one-shot, don’t worry; it’s not necessary to your understanding or enjoyment of Killing Red Sonja.  It’s just extra flavoring.

Ingman (cont.): As for “getting the band back together,” when we began work on Petitioning the Queen, we were still in the planning stage on Killing Red Sonja and hadn’t chosen an artist yet. When Mark and I saw Craig’s work on the Humble Bundle story, we immediately knew he was the right person for the job. We’re really lucky he agreed to sign on. Killing Red Sonja is going to be one of the best looking books out there when it hits the shelves this March.

Destito: How much or how little will this influence the ongoing, and will fans need the first arc to follow the plot?

Russell: Fans won’t need to read this series to get what’s happening in the ongoing, or vice versa, but the events of this series are very closely tied to those of the main series. In fact, it sets up the final arc of Year Two.

Ingman: I’m one of the few lucky humans on the planet who knows Mark Russell’s plans for the next year of Red Sonja. And yes, the events of Killing Red Sonja are going to have a major impact on the main book. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Ingman (cont.): That said, you don’t need to have read Mark’s first Red Sonja arc to understand and enjoy Killing Red Sonja.  Everything you need to know is explained in the first issue. However, reading both books is way more fun. I’m thinking people who like to have fun will probably want to read both.

Destito: The tone of this limited series seems much darker, and even the cover art gives off that impression. Did you approach the storytelling and art differently to fit that vibe?

Russell: The story of Killing Red Sonja is one of disillusionment. Of a young boy having a very naive view of the world and how the world disabuses him of that innocence. So yes, the series gets darker as it goes.

Craig Rousseau: To be honest, I came into this story not knowing much about the regular arc and just took it as a fun storytelling challenge. The script called for all sorts of wild, fantasy elements, and I wanted to incorporate that into a looser, more expressive style than slick superhero fare.

Ingman: Tales of vengeance tend to get dark, and this one is no exception. But we weren’t setting out to make an entirely “dark and gritty” book. Both Mark and I enjoy a good laugh, so there’s plenty of humor in the story, too. Although, admittedly, some of the jokes are pretty dark…

Destito:  Can you give any teasers about your next arc in the ongoing?

Russell: The next arc of the main series has Hyrkania on the brink of starvation because of their scorched earth strategy to win the war. So Sonja is forced to go to Khitai to ask for aid from the very king who murdered her mentor and had tried to kill her. The things you have to do as Queen!

Killing Red Sonja #1 hits stores in March 2020. The issue will also be available digitally at Comixology, Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, Dynamite Digital, ComicsPlus, and more. Head over to Dynamite’s website for more info or to order online.

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