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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil

Title:
Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil







ISBN:
9781595822826


Price:
$15.95


Publisher/Year:
Dark
Horse
, 2009


Artist: Mario Guevara


Writer:
Scott Allie


Collects:
Solomon Kane #1-5, “The Nightcomers” from MySpace Dark Horse
Presents
June 2008





Rating:
3/5





Mike
Mignola provides a fine cover for the collection of Scott Allie and Mario Guevara’s
Solomon Kane miniseries, which is designed to resemble an old movie poster or
trashy paperback cover. It’s a fine cover, but somewhat unfortunate in how
poorly it reflects the contents.





Those
too are gorgeous, but in a completely different style, making this a graphic
novel particularly difficult to judge by its cover (Speaking of covers, when
originally published as a miniseries, this one had a lot, and the collection
includes them all, including a fine one by Joe Kubert—who Dark Horse should try
and convince to do a whole story—and others by Mignola and John Cassaday).





The
story stars Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s wandering Puritan warrior
character, who resembles in appearance, attitude and capacity for violence the
more popular Conan extremely closely, but has somehow never caught on in comics
adaptations the way Conan has.





Dark
Horse’s Conan editor Scott Allie has adapted this story from a fragment by
Howard. The action is set in Germany’s Black Forest, where Kane meets bandits,
a monstrous wolf and a traveler of questionable character before journeying to
the titular structure.





It’s
a castle built upon a ruined abbey, ruled over by a mysterious lord and his
more mysterious Persian bride and full of some rather dark and terrible
secrets, of a supernatural, or perhaps paranormal, variety.





I
found the story took a little too much time to get going, and am glad I read it
in trade rather than in its original serial format, as I probably wouldn’t have
wanted to read the second issue after the first, let alone the rest of the
series. There’s some extremely cool stuff in the book, but Allie doesn’t
frontload it, so the folklore-meets-horror aspects (of a variety that should be
familiar to Dark Horse’s many Hellboy readers) don’t appear until the second
half of the story, or with much force until the climax.




Guevara’s
a fine artist, but Dave Stewart’s painterly color art gives the images a milky,
gauzy, almost blurry appearance that took me some getting used to. It looks
comparable to the publisher’s earlier Conan comics, but I found it rather
jarring after turning from the Mignola cover, and I generally prefer harder,
darker lines and flatter, more comic book-y coloring.





It’s
a very, very violent book, as befitting a Howard-derived comic, although it’s
occasionally hilariously so, as when Kane stabs a foe and his organs start to
seep out immediately, as if they were spring-loaded by a special effects guy.





At
one point, Kane cuts a guy’s face off with a sword, which is something I don’t
think I’ve ever seen in a comic or movie, despite all of the comics and movies
I’ve seen involving dudes fighting with swords.




Among
the foes Kane turns his sword on in this story are a werewolf and monstrous,
man-eating “angels.” The former changes shape from image to image, fluctuating
between a huge wolf and a more humanoid wolf, which is an interesting take,
and, incidentally, the first dramatization I’ve ever seen of the legend of an
aristocrat who could turn into a wolf by using a special garment with knowledge
learned from the devil. The latter bear many wings and many mouths, and they
use all of their mouths when devouring victims, leading to still more rather
gory scenes.

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