Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review: 'The Saga of Solomon Kane'


 5 / 5 Stars

While Marvel has been reprinting its comic book back-catalogue  in black and white format as part of the 'Marvel Essentials' series, the licensing rights to reprint the content of the Marvel / Curtis imprint magazines- such as 'Savage Sword of Conan', 'Kull and the Barbarians', 'Dracula Lives !', and 'Monsters Unleashed' - has been purchased by Dark Horse.

'The Saga of Solomon Kane' (Dark Horse Books, 2009) reprints 27 comics that originally appeared in black and white in Marvel magazines- mainly 'Savage Sword' -  from 1973 to 1994. At over 400 pp. in length, it's a real bargain (cover price is $19.95).

Among the artists represented are Neal Adams, David Wenzel, Sonny Trinidad, Howard Chaykin, and Steve Carr and Al Williamson. The pen-and-ink draftsmanship  in the assembled comics is outstanding, particularly the work from the early 70s when many artists were excited at the ability to present their work on the larger page size of the magazine format, without adhering to the content restrictions of the Comics Code. 

[And, very importantly,  they got better, and more timely, pay than they did with their submissions to the Warren b & w magazines.]

The book's only real drawback is that at 8 1/2 x 11 inches, it does not mimic the larger dimensions of the Curtis magazines; thus,  the pages have a rather cramped aspect due to the reduction in page size. The other peculiarity  - if one could call it that - in the collection has to do with the historical accuracy of the clothing and appearance of Solomon Kane. According to this blog, men of Kane's era did not usually wear the drab clothing sported by our Puritan hero.

I've posted some panels from the stories in the anthology in order to give some idea of the variety of illustrative styles used in the Kane adventures.

Among the best of the assembled comics are the opening adventure, 'Skulls in the Stars', with distinctive artwork from Ralph Reese:

'Castle of the Undead', with great artwork by Neal Adams and a plot featuring Count Dracula:

'The Hills of the Dead' features some intricate draftsmanship from Alan Weiss and Neal Adams:

One of the best entries in 'Saga' is the adaptation of Howard's tale 'Wings of the Night', in which Solomon comes upon an African village beset by the Harpies of mythology. This is one of Howard's more grisly and unrelenting Kane tales, and it gets great treatment by artist David Wenzel:

'The One Black Stain', a poem dealing with historical events, is also illustrated by David Wenzel; with this comic, however, Wenzel makes a conscious effort to evoke the intricate penmanship of late 19th century illustration, as might be done by an affiliate of Howard Pyle's Brandywine School of art: 

Steve Gan, in his illustration of ‘The Right Hand of Doom’, another classic tale, aptly captures the brooding countenance of Kane at his most dour and puritanical:

Along with the comics, the book features several brief text entries providing the details of the Kane saga. This one features an illustration by Fred Blosser:

In summary, anyone who appreciates great graphic art, and stories about an offbeat hero placed in memorable settings against a variety of earthly and unearthly adversaries, should put 'The Saga of Solomon Kane' on their Christmas list.

1 comment:

pbw said...

These Solomon Kane illustrations by Alan Weiss recently surfaced, and I thought you might enjoy seeing them.