Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Graphic Novel Review: Solomon Kane

“It has fallen upon me, now and again in my sojourns through the world, to ease various evil men of their lives.”

– Solomon Kane

In the world of graphic novels, Dark Horse Comics has for the last few years been spearheading a Robert E. Howard revival. Best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Howard, in his all-too-brief career as a writer (he died at the age of 30), left an undeniable imprint on American adventure fiction. Howard’s characters were so primal and iconic that even his lesser-known heroes need little introduction or explanation for a reader to instantly understand who they are.

One such character was the 16th century Puritan avenger Solomon Kane. Featured in seven stories that appeared in the pulp magazine Weird Tales between 1928 and 1932, as well as two others published long after Howard’s death, Kane was a grim, wandering adventurer with an unshakeable moral code who traveled the world destroying evil (whether mortal or supernatural) wherever he found it.

Following the success of their Conan graphic novels, Dark Horse has published a new Solomon Kane story, The Castle of the Devil, written by Scott Allie and illustrated by Mario Guevara, based on an unfinished story fragment by Howard himself. Traveling through the dark forests of Germany, Kane and his highway companion John Silent discover a young boy dying on a gallows. After rescuing the child, Kane is directed to the supposedly-cursed castle of the Baron Von Staler to seek out those responsible. What he discovers there is a terror more ancient and hideous than even he, after all his earthly travels, had expected.

Reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy but in a more serious vein, The Castle of the Devil is a horror-adventure story worthy of Howard himself, with echoes of Howard’s fellow writer and friend H.P. Lovecraft. Guevara’s elegant artwork captures the brooding menace of Germany’s Black Forest as well as any classic horror movie, and he does not shy away from the horror itself when it finally descends. Be warned: this is not a graphic novel for the timid or squeamish. Robert E. Howard did not write for children, and neither does Dark Horse’s Scott Allie.

In modern pop culture, Solomon Kane was the stylistic inspiration behind Stephen Sommers’ film Van Helsing (and not the Bram Stoker character it was supposedly based on). With a highly anticipated film of his own due out next year, Solomon Kane may finally battle his way out of the darkness of obscurity and find his place in the sun.

Reserve a copy today:
The Castle of the Devil by Scott Allie and Mario Guevara
The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard

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