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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Kull. The Cat and The Skull. David Lapham (Writer), Gabriel Guzman (Art), Garry Henderson (Colours), Richard Starkings (Letters). Dark Horse Books (2012)

Very engaging and enjoyable sword and sorcery story that very effectively uses the story framework of the Kull adventures. When a young woman, Delcardes, arrives at Kull's court with a member of an ancient race, a cat called Sartemes she creates a stir. For Kull the news that the cat can see the future makes Saremes a very valuable advisor. As he is trying to rule Valusia in spite of the rumbling opposition of a large section of the population who despise him as a barbarian usurper, any advantage is very welcome. At the same time the snake cult , lead by a wizard who claims a direct connection to the snake god, is reasserting itself as a dangerous force. The story unfolds at a great pace, the reveals are very well staged, the action is superb and the climax is a nice piece of door opening to new story possibilities.
The most enjoyable aspect to this story is the smart way David Lapham uses two of the basic threads of any Kull story, the precarious position he is in as the King of Valusia and the fact that Kull is a barbarian with the fierce uncluttered will to win that comes with being one. There is a delicate balance that needs to be established and maintained between the problems that Kull has coming from his position and the solutions coming from his being a barbarian.In the story the balance is struck very well with a excellent use of two critical supporting cast members that can pick up the weight of the formula without it being unduly mechanical. Kull's wife, Igraine, daughter of the king Kull killed to take the throne, was born to the court and understands the intrigue and need for cermony. Wholly civilised and Valusian she brings that aspect of the story with her with a natural grace and sharp insight. On the other side the Pict, Brule The Spear Slayer is an unfettered barbarian, a companion for Kull when spilling blood is the way forward. Between they two they create the room for Kull to fill both his roles without falling too far into one or the other. Kull has the opportunity to be a king and a barbarian as required in a very satisfactory ways and his encounter with one of his major enemies in a confrontation creates a great set of possibilities for future stories.
Gabriel Guzman's art is lush and detailed, moving effectively across the multiple scenes above water and under it. The action is fluid and forceful, matched by the acute body language and expressive faces that underscore the dangerous quiet of the court and the constant movements of plots around the throne. Garry Henderson's bold colours are perfect for the full tilt storytelling called for by the genre. They bring out the details of the art and decoration that give Valusian a strong physical presence. Richard Starkings' subtle letters are so unobtrusively full of craft that they are heard as much as read. A great read.

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