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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Chronicles of Solomon Kane. Dark Horse Books (2009)

This volumes collects the six issues of The Sword of Solomon Kane (1985/1986) and two issues of Marvel Premiere (1976) originally published by Marvel Comics. The Marvel Premiere issues were written by Roy Thomas, all six of The Sword of Solomon Kane were written by Ralph Macchio.
One of the enduring pleasures of comics is seeing the different approaches creative teams take to the same story. The two Marvel Premiere issue and the first issue of The Sword of Solomon Kane adapt the Robert E. Howard story, "Red Shadows" in strikingly different ways while sticking to the same central story. Roy Thomas writes a two part story, with art from Howard Chaykin, colours by Dan Jackson and letters by Jom Novak, neatly splits the story into its two halves. Howard Ckaykin's art is sharp and angular, carefully paced with panel layouts driving the pacing. The writing is lush and overgrown, a delight to read and matching the drama of the art.
Ralph Machhio with art from Steve Carr & Bret Blevins, colours by Dan Jackson and letters by Steve Dutro compresses the story to a single issue and the art has softer edges and greater depth. Solomon Kane is a more human figure, Howard Chaykin delivers him as stripped down to the fierce drives that push him on, Steve Carr & Bret Blevins, show a deeply focused and committed man. Both capture the driven action and the determined pursuit of the story, weave in the supernatural elements with skill and deliver the conclusion with the savage judgement and force it needs.
The stand out story from the rest of The Sword of Solomon Kane issues is an original story , "the Prophet" with art by Mike Mignola & Al Williamson, letters by Steve Dutro and colours by Dan Jackson. Solomon Kane, a Christian fundamentalist with an unshakable belief that he is doing his god's business encounters a Muslim who has the same sense of divine mission. The encounter is superbly staged, with trails of treachery coiling around both. The conclusion is grimly satisfying, if it tilts to Solomon Kane it does not play down the price that is paid by those implementing a divine project.
The other stories "And Faith, Undying..." is another original story with art by Bret Blevins, colours by Dan Jackson and letters by Steve Dutro is a sharp story of faith, friendship and werewolves. "Blades of the Brotherhood" art by Bret Blevins and Al Williamson, colours by Dan Jackson, letters by Steve Dutro sees Solomon Kane back in England and entangled with ruthless pirates. Both "Hills of Blood" art by John Bogdanove and Al Williamson and "Wing in the Night" with art by John Ridgway and Al Williamson, colours on both by Steve Dutro and letters by Dan Jackson, are set in Africa. This is the mystical Africa of the pulp stories of Robert E. Howard and the stories make the most of it. This is an excellent collection of highly enjoyable stories, that do justice to the original Howard stories and critically to the wonderful character of Solomon Kane himself.

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