Despite the increasing diversity of the modern comics world, in terms of genre coverage, fantasy and historical comics are both still relatively small niche markets. And in spite of the fact that the vast majority of comic books back in The Golden Age were anthology series, comics which collect a number of different stories by different creative teams based around a common theme are quite rare today.
Hither come Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword – an anthology of comics based upon or inspired by the works of Robert E. Howard. The vast majority of the material is new, though Savage Sword has reprinted classic tales from earlier comics on occasion. And despite Howard’s status of the father of sword-and-sorcery and the wild title, this series has also hosted comics based upon Howard’s many works of historical fiction.
This issue boasts a wide variety of stories by an all-star team of writers and artists. Every issue of Savage Sword usually has at least one Conan story and this issue is no exception. Night of the Wolves sees Cimmeria’s favorite son harried by wolf-men under the control of a weak and sickly sorcerer, who “hunts” through the eyes of the creatures he commands. The artwork by Andy Kuhn is crude and too heavily inked. The dark palette Nick Filardi does little to help matters and much of the action of the comic is obscured. Still, the story by John Ostrander is enjoyable enough and if nothing else Ostrander deserves praise for his subtle satire of gamer culture, with the evil wizard in question wearing an Occulus Rift headset as designed by H.R. Giger.
The next comic – The Gods of Bal-Sagoth – is based on one of Howard’s original stories. This tale is an eclectic one, even by the diverse standards of Howard’s oeuvre. At first the tale seems a strong but standard historical tale, with the Irish hero Turlogh Dubh O’Brien (AKA Black Turlogh) escaping his captivity aboard a Viking ship at the height of a storm. Black Turlogh and one of his captors survive to reach the shore, but any thoughts of settling their feud are put aside as a beautiful woman runs past them and it becomes clear the island is full of Lovecraftian monsters.
The script by Alex De Campi proves a masterful and exciting adaptation of the original Howard tale. And the artwork by Marc Laming and Warren Wucinich proves an equal to that script in quality.
The Sea Dog’s Tale by Ron Marz spins an original tale of Howard’s Puritan Paladin – Solomon Kane. A story within a story, the titular Tale is told to an innkeeper’s son by an old salt between servings of rum and details Kane’s adventures fighting a wicked witch-doctor. The painted artwork by Richard Clark serves well enough but what will truly stand out for readers is the twist ending where we find that Marz has paid tribute to another master of genre fiction with this tale.
The book’s final chapter – Demon In A Silvered Glass – was originally produced for Marvel Comics’ black-and-white comic magazine Bizarre Adventures. Based upon the classic King Kull story, The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune, many fans cite this particular comic as one of the finest adaptions of Howard’s work in history.
Reading this colorized reprint, it’s hard to deny that claim. The script by Doug Moench perfectly captures the spirit of the original tale while editing the text only slightly. And the artwork by John Bolton proves vivid and amazingly detailed. The only fault lies in the colorization by Jim Campbell which occasionally utilizes colors that conflict with the narrative. For instance, the topaz throne of Atlantis is rendered in a muted bronze hue. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between and the colors truly enhance the original artwork more often than not.
This series may not hold much crossover appeal for comics readers who aren’t already fans of Robert E. Howard. And the quality level can vary wildly from issue to issue. But for those who are bold and appreciate good value for your comics-buying dollar, Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword is well worth the purchase.
Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #10 will be available for purchase on April 1,2015.