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A Road With No Signposts
Solomon Kane: The Castle of The Devil by Scott Allie
© 2013 James LaFond
I have been taking loans of comic books—excuse me, graphic novels—in hopes that I can enjoy them. For all of the reservations I have about the medium, and the fact that I am not a superhero fan, I have noticed much more diversity in comic fantasy than in fantasy fiction. My favorite character in fiction is Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane. Having recently viewed Solomon Kane the movie, and being disappointed by a film that was certainly derived more from superhero comic tropes than anything in Howard’s work, I was reluctant…
Solomon Kane
Volume 1
The Castle of the Devil
Scott Allie & Mario Guevara with Dave Stewart
2009, Dark Horse Books, Milwaukie, OR, 142 pages
I was glad to discover Kane had been done by Dark Horse, as I had enjoyed their Conan series immensely. As Kurt Busiak states in a cover blub, Kane is Howard’s most difficult character to translate to comics. I agree, and the fine job done by this team is all the more impressive because of it.
Kane is not made into a superhero with ‘powers’ but just a pious vengeful and judgmental justice-seeker who has an iron will and is heavily dependent upon his weapons and martial skill set. He is a man, not some gay superhero.
I like the fact that a fragment of Howard’s was used to build this story which keeps it focused. The narrative boxes work very well for me, used in the right density to evoke mood as much as chart the course of the story. I have a hard time absorbing pictures and text together. Fortunately the austere nature of the subject encouraged the writer to dumb his medium down to my level.
The story line is not obvious, but is also not cluttered with needless plot twists. Kane the character is explored through worldly temptations—such as a luscious frustrated Persian noble woman who attempts to seduce him. If Kane has a superpower it is his ability to not get it on with some primordial comic book babe in silk.
The story runs to 114 pages and took me as much time to enjoy as it does for me to read a novelette, which is 2 hours, a convenient length. The balance of the book contains three additional features: a gallery of prototype illustrations by the artist; a gallery of covers from the series; and a short comic called the The Nightcomers.
Dark Horse Books has done such a good job preserving classic pulp sword and sorcery in this volume that I felt more like I had read an actual old time pulp magazine and enjoyed the lurid art, than I have reading Howard’s preserved literature. The violence is over the top, but not gratuitous or pervasive, and anchors the story as much in the realm of horror as adventure, the two genres that Howard’s best character straddled: Solomon Kane, part austere accusatory minister; part adventurer; and utterly without mercy, yet still plagued with guilt.
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