Book Review: ‘The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard’

Well, I have reached the final book in this great looking Robert E. Howard collection by Del Ray. These Del Ray editions are my favorite Robert E. Howard collections, aesthetically, physically and in the way they’re organized and decorated with incredible art, giving the stories more life and some visual flourish that fits exceptionally well with Howard’s incredible and beautiful prose.

Since this book doesn’t focus on a specific character, a lot of the stories here are also in some of the other Del Ray volumes for Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane. Also, this shares a lot of stories with another similar book I reviewed about a year ago, The Cthulhu Stories of Robert E. Howard (see here), which tied many of Howard’s famous characters with the work of one of his best friends, horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft.

All in all, this is really f’n solid and it’s just a good collection of Howard’s more horror-centric tales.

The thing with this installment is that some of the stories are recycled from other Howard collections. However, even though I had already read much of what’s here, I was still captivated enough by it to read those stories again in an effort to really embrace this volume for what its theme is.

Honestly, more than anything else, these various Del Ray collections just showed me how easy it is to revisit and re-read Howard’s short stories.

If you want to get into the man’s work, this is one of the books that is a good starting point. That is, unless you want to jump into a specific character first like Conan, Solomon Kane or Kull.

Rating: 9/10

Comic Review: The Cimmerian, Vol. 2

Published: June 2nd, 2021
Written by: Robin Recht, Sylvain Runberg, Robert E. Howard
Art by: Jae Kwang Park, Robin Recht
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Ablaze, 168 Pages

Review:

This volume in Ablaze’s The Cimmerian series was more of a mixed bag than the first one.

Reason being, I thought the first story was slow, overloaded and a big step down from the previous two tales in the first volume, while I thought that the second story was really good and well adapted.

The two famous Robert E. Howard Conan stories that were adapted here are “The People of the Black Circle” and “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”.

The first one is a story I like in its original form but it was really wedged into the short space that it was allotted for this adaptation. It needed more room to breathe and because of that, I don’t necessarily blame the writer and artist as much as I do the publisher.

Due to that, the story featured pages with lots of dialogue and tiny panels that made this look more like an advent calendar than a comic book. It was hard to read, flowed poorly and was kind of exhausting. I wasn’t really put off by the art style, itself, just how it had to be whittled down and stuffed with too much.

Now the second story was pretty great and it salvaged this volume of The Cimmerian and my rating of it.

“The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” has always been one of my favorite Conan tales and with the style of art, here, it looked magnificent and mesmerizing. The atmosphere, visually, was perfect.

Additionally, the adaptation was solid. There’s really not a whole lot to say other than it was pretty close to perfect, top-to-bottom, and the best adaptation Ablaze has done yet, although I really, really liked “Red Nails”.

So with that, this volume is suffering from multiple personality disorder. At least it went out with a serious bang and I’ll most likely be picking up the third volume when it drops in a few months.

Rating: 7/10

Comic Review: The Cimmerian, Vol. 1

Published: December 23rd, 2020
Written by: Regis Hautiere, Jean-David Morvan, Robert E. Howard
Art by: Pierre Alary, Didier Cassegrain, Olivier Vatine
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Ablaze, 144 Pages

Review:

Now that Conan has fallen into public domain, at least the earliest stories, anyway, other publishers besides Marvel can now make Conan comics. Ablaze is the first company that I’m aware of that has taken their shot at adapting the iconic character.

In this collection, we get Ablaze’s adaptations of “Queen of the Black Coast” and “Red Nails”.

I like both of these stories a lot and always have because the first one features Bêlit, the swashbuckling pirate queen, and the other features Valeria, another female warrior that was great at Conan’s side.

Starting with the “Queen of the Black Coast” story, I thought the adaptation was pretty good but it also flew by rather quickly. I mostly liked the art, the dialogue was good and it felt pretty true to the story.

For me, though, “Red Nails” was the better half of this collection. I liked the art more, the story felt longer and more detailed and it had the right sort of vibe, matching Robert E. Howard’s source material.

All in all, this reminded me a lot of the old Savage Sword of Conan magazines that Marvel put out back in the day. These comics had a harder edge to them and didn’t pull any punches unlike the modern Marvel stuff that tries to appeal more to all ages.

Rating: 7.5/10

Book Review: ‘The Best of Robert E. Howard, Vol. 2: Grim Lands’

I found this volume out of the two Best of Robert E. Howard anthologies to be the better one. I figured they’d blow their load in the first one but they really saved some good stories for this volume and there was more diversity in these tales from Howard’s most famous characters and the different genres he dabbled in.

This had great sword and sorcery tales, some swashbuckling, horror and a whole lot of action and adventure!

This book features solid stories with Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane. Each of those characters have a hefty amount of good material to pull from, though.

And sure, my preferences are subjective but the stories here are just ones that resonate with me more.

Also, these can be found elsewhere in other collections and even free online but if you really want to hold a thick, beefy book in your hand and enjoy some of Howard’s best work, this is certainly a good place to start.

Granted, I’d start with volume one but I’m OCD like that.

Rating: 8/10

Book Review: ‘The Best of Robert E. Howard, Vol. 1: Crimson Shadows’

This is the first of the final three Robert E. Howard books I have to review in this specific collection.

These final three books are anthologies of various stories featuring various characters. With that, many of these stories were already collected in other volumes. Still, I wanted to get this entire collection because I didn’t want to miss anything and well, they look damn good on the bookshelf. 

I’d say that this is actually a good starting point for those who might be new to Robert E. Howard, as it features a good variety of stories, genres and some of Howard’s most famous characters like Conan and Solomon Kane.

Like the other books, this is thick and packed full of tales. Also, it features a lot of art that helps tell the stories with some stylish, cool visual reference.

This is a solid collection, through and through. As a long-time Howard reader, I personally prefer the character specific collections but I would’ve really loved having this when I was just starting out reading his literary work.

Rating: 7/10

Video Game Review: Conan: Exiles – Isle of Siptah (PlayStation 4)

Conan: Exiles – Isle of Siptah is probably the DLC that I have anticipated more than any other in the history of my gaming life.

That being said, this came with extreme disappointment as the game on PlayStation 4 appears to be broken.

Sure, the game starts and you can run around doing your thing in this neat, deadly world. However, graphics keep switching back and forth from high res to low res and then NPCs and enemies either have a delay in loading or don’t load at all.

Furthermore, the game gets really f’n choppy to the point of absolute madness.

Every time I try to conquer a dungeon, before I get to the end, enemies just stop spawning and I get stuck, unable to progress and beat the dungeon.

I attempted to fix these issues, as I thought that maybe my files were f’d up due to building so much shit in the regular game. So I deleted all of my save files and even deleted the game files and DLC files. I then redownloaded and reinstalled everything and the problems were still there.

So I stopped playing this after a few days and didn’t even start on a new fortress build because what’s the point?

If they fix these issues, I’ll gladly give this a go again and update this review.

All that being said, the new map looks amazing. I just wish I could play the damn game without massive issues.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other open world survival RPG-type games.

Book Review: ‘The Conquering Sword of Conan (Book 3)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the third and final installment of Robert E. Howard’s Conan collections in this series. It’s been a fun ride reading his Conan stuff in its entirety and this book didn’t disappoint.

After reading all three books, the quality between all these stories is pretty damn consistent and the ratings on these reviews only really reflect my own personal preferences of the stories collected in each one.

Out of the three, this one fits in the middle for me. It’s not full of just short stories and poems like the first volume or just collects a few novellas like the second, this book collects a handful of stories that fit somewhere in the middle.

The stories collected here are The Servants of Bit-Yakin, Beyond the Black River, The Black Stranger, The Man-Eaters of Zamboula and one of my favorites, Red Nails. There are some other miscellaneous things tacked on at the end.

With these stories you pretty much get what you’d expect. Conan kicks the crap out of monsters, goes on epic adventures, hunts treasure and wins over the women. Most of these, if not all of them, have been adapted into comic book stories. While I love both versions of these tales, there’s just something really cool reading them as Robert E. Howard originally wrote them.

Reading through all the Howard stories was a great experience and I’m glad that it’s a mountain I decided to finally climb in its entirety over the last few months.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.