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The Saga Of Solomon Kane Paperback – August 4, 2009
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Now, first and foremost, I should disclose that this is a collection of all the classic Roy Thomas and Don Glut Solomon Kane stories from "Savage Sword of Conan" and "Kull and the Barbarians", not a collection of literal translations of the Robert E. Howard stories, but seeing as a good chunk of the Howard tales were unfinished fragments, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many of the stories contained in this volume try to finish the stories that Kane's original scribe left in limbo at the time of his death.
It's also worth noting, just for the record, that due to the fact that many of the stories are completely written for the comics, it includes some adventures that Solomon purists might eschew for the sake of them falling out of the Howard canon; it even has some tales that in the traditional 70's crossover writing style of the time might be seen as silly in concept (Solomon Kane faces off against Dracula, Solomon Kane teams up with Conan in a timeless alternate dimension, etc).
So, in short, if you're a stickler for the Kane Canon, it's possible that The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane would be a better choice for you.
If, however, you love Roy Thomas stories, High Adventure, Supernatural Adversaries, the Tragic Hero, or just plain awesome 70's Horror Comics, this book is a must!
The stories are all (yes, even the Dracula ones) fantastically written and true to the character that Howard created, and illustrated by some of the best artists of the time (Neal Adams, Rudy Nebres, and Howard Chaykin, for example).
It's a joy to read, and I've found myself rereading some of my favorite tales over and over again!
I highly recommend it. *****
Kane was a 16th century Puritan who, in the Howard stories, grimly wandered the known world seeking to right wrongs and avenge cruelties wherever he found them. He was one of Howard's darker, more psychologically complex action figures, and certainly worth more than the handful of stories Howard produced before moving on to other characters like Conan.
Say this for "The Saga Of Solomon Kane," you get a lot of Kane for the price. More than 20 stories are here in all, including several multi-parters. But the quality of the writing and the art varies noticeably, even within single stories. B-stories written to fill out issues of "The Savage Sword Of Conan" and other adult-oriented graphic-fiction mags, they appeared from 1973-1994 and usually ran just a dozen pages each, less than a color comic of the same period. There's little consistency from story to story, especially in the art. Fans of the Howard version of Kane won't find anything that objectionable here; there's just nothing that inspiring, either.
The best are adaptations of specific Howard stories like "The Hills Of The Dead" scripted by Conan writer Roy Thomas featuring African vampires and Kane's strange, wondrous ally N'Longa. I was very impressed by Steve Gan's art on the otherwise pedestrian revenge tale "The Right Hand Of Doom," which really captures a feeling of Elizabethian England even if the story sticks Kane in a largely bystander role.
The weakest stories are the ones written specifically by Marvel staffers like Thomas and Don Glut. There are too many monsters. Two co-star Dracula. Others involve werewolves and likewise-possessed creatures. Howard used such ideas sparingly; their overuse here creates a sameness that gets dull. Whenever Kane stumbles upon another innocent-looking villager, you get to waiting for those fangs to come out.
Though the back cover frontlines Thomas and legendary artist John Buscema as key contributors, Buscema only has one illustration in the entire book which appears at the back in a synopsis of Kane's career. More prominent is the flatter and fuzzier art of illustrators like David Wenzel, Steve Gan, and a bizarre R. Crumb-style treatment by Ralph Reese. With Conan such a focus of the Marvel stable, it makes sense Kane never got the star treatment that might have launched him as more of a stand-alone.
The biggest story here demonstrates this problem. "Death's Dark Riders" thrusts Kane backwards in time to meet Conan himself, in an adventure that serves as a sequel of sorts to the Howard-penned Kane story "Moon Of Skulls." With more room, Kane gets a chance to verbalize his stern religious mindset as it clashes with Conan's pagan impiety. But even as fantasy, there's something too outlandish in this time-crossing mash-up for it to click.
Kane simply doesn't come alive on his own terms anywhere in this book. Some nice art, a couple of diverting adaptations, and plenty of splendid gore and PG nudity don't add up to a must-buy for anyone other than the fantasy-comic completist.
Tails of a kick butt christain puritan who takes on demons, and evil men. Hard pressed to fine such hero's in this godless, government loving time.