Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Review: Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil
Those too are gorgeous, but in a completely different style, making this a graphic novel particularly difficult to judge by its cover (Speaking of covers, when originally published as a miniseries, this one had a lot, and the collection includes them all, including a fine one by Joe Kubert—who Dark Horse should try and convince to do a whole story—and others by Mignola and John Cassaday).
The story stars Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s wandering Puritan warrior character, who resembles in appearance, attitude and capacity for violence the more popular Conan extremely closely, but has somehow never caught on in comics adaptations the way Conan has.
Dark Horse’s Conan editor Scott Allie has adapted this story from a fragment by Howard. The action is set in Germany’s Black Forest, where Kane meets bandits, a monstrous wolf and a traveler of questionable character before journeying to the titular structure.
It’s a castle built upon a ruined abbey, ruled over by a mysterious lord and his more mysterious Persian bride and full of some rather dark and terrible secrets, of a supernatural, or perhaps paranormal, variety.
I found the story took a little too much time to get going, and am glad I read it in trade rather than in its original serial format, as I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read the second issue after the first, let alone the rest of the series. There’s some extremely cool stuff in the book, but Allie doesn’t frontload it, so the folklore-meets-horror aspects (of a variety that should be familiar to Dark Horse’s many Hellboy readers) don’t appear until the second half of the story, or with much force until the climax.
It’s a very, very violent book, as befitting a Howard-derived comic, although it’s occasionally hilariously so, as when Kane stabs a foe and his organs start to seep out immediately, as if they were spring-loaded by a special effects guy.
In addition to the title story and all of the many covers, Castle of the Devil also contains an eight-page story entitled “The Nightcomers” from MySpace Dark Horse Presents (and collected in MySpace Dark Horse Presents Vol. 2, which I reviewed here) and 13 pages of concept art from Guevara (including a page full of neat, original weapon designs that weren’t used) and Guy Davis, who designed the angel monsters and the castle.