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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kull. The Shadow Kingdom. Arvid Nelson (Writer), Will Conrad (Artist), Jose Villarrubria (Colours), Richard Starkings (Letters) Drark Horse Books (2009)

A very satisfying sword & sorcery story with a great cast and forceful action. Kull has taken the crown in Valusia and is seeking to consolidate his power, trying to establish himself firmly and safely on the throne. He finds that the biggest threat to his life and reign is not from his reluctant subjects but from ancient and evil forces who have plans of their own. The snake cult is a very powerful force in Valusia  and it has very dangerous secrets. Kull has to trust Brule The spear Slayer, Pict and the long time enemies of Kull's people, to  step into the snake pit and survive the process. The reveals are very well staged, the action is exciting and the the story is told with pace and energy.
Arvid Nelson takes full advantage of the possibilities of the story and uses them in interesting and very engaging ways. As a king Kull has his scope for action both expanded and reduced, his natural instinct is physical action, to survive as a king he needs to use his sharp mind as well. Navigating the whirlpools of the court and trying to establish his legitimacy is hard, the struggle with the sinister snake men is much more to his taste, a direct and bloody confrontation. The writing gives scope to both the worlds that Kull moves in and quietly and effectively shows how they overlap and intertwine. Kull is a great character, with enough doubt and anxiety to be dramatic while demonstrating the will and force that made him king in the first place. This is a story with a great deal going on, the balance between the elements is superbly maintained.
Will Conrad's art is a joy, it gives a physical weight and depth to the cast and context that is absolutely vital to the success of a sword & sorcery story. The story needs the action to be vivid and forceful, at the same tome the political currents have to be given depth and life to provide the context for the action. The cast are full of movement, they move through their context with confidence at the same time the subtle body language is never left behind.
Jose Villarrubia's colours are a pleasure to read, they give an extra dimension to the story and bring out the details and texture of the art. The story needs the force and momentum of the action underscored by the quieter menace that surrounds Kull, the colours made the context lush and real, Valusia looks wonderful, worth fighting for.  Richard Starkings letters are subtle, the sound effects are loud and visceral without ever drawing attention to themselves. A great comic.

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