Comic Review: Conan Chronicles – Epic Collection I: Out of the Darksome Hills

Published: February 19th, 2019
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza
Art by: Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates, Greg Ruth, Tom Mandrake
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Dark Horse Comics, Marvel (reprinted), 496 Pages

Review:

Few things in life are actually “epic as fuck”. This hefty collection of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run is one of those things.

This collects twenty comics worth of Conan stories and even throws a Fabian Nicieza one in for a little extra cherry on top of this badass sundae.

Every story in this collection is good. I’m not just saying that. Busiek understands the character of Conan, his world and really goes to great length at penning some fabulous story arcs.

This even gives us a good story featuring Thoth-Amon, one of Conan’s biggest villains over the years.

Kurt Busiek should be proud of his run here. He has written several stories that are good enough to stand alongside Robert E. Howard’s original work. Busiek gets Conan and the character’s audience.

Additionally, most of the art in this is perfect. There are a few single issues mixed in that have art that isn’t as good but those were mostly filler issues where the main artist was probably off working on another title.

All in all, this is a great Conan collection and the first part of one of the absolute best runs on the character in the comic book medium.

I have the second collection, which I will read and review in the near future.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Kurt Busiek’s Conan run, as well as other Conan comics from the Dark Horse era.

Film Review: Kull the Conqueror (1997)

Also known as: Conan the Conqueror (working title)
Release Date: August 29th, 1997
Directed by: John Nicolella
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue
Based on: Kull of Atlantis by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Joel Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Sorbo, Thomas Ian Griffith, Tia Carrere, Litefoot, Harvey Fierstein, Karina Lombard, Roy Brocksmith, Pat Roach

Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“[with corpses around the throne] My heirs challenged me for the throne. So I’ve spared all my children any future disappointment!” – King Borna

This was originally written to be the third Conan film but the De Laurentiis family couldn’t get Arnold Schwarzenegger to commit to it. So after several years, they locked up Kevin Sorbo, star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. However, Sorbo didn’t want to play a character that was already made famous by another actor, so the filmmakers retooled the Conan script and decided to use a different but similar Robert E. Howard barbarian character, Kull of Atlantis.

To be frank, I was really excited to see Kull get his own movie. While I love Conan, when I was a kid I read a few of the Kull stories and loved him as well. He was definitely a character worth exploring. Plus, his comics from Marvel were also in abundance in my collection.

For the most part, this is just an okay movie. It’s lighthearted, fun but it’s cheap and it shows. The story also isn’t very good but I guess it’s as good as the plot of Conan the Destroyer or other mid-tier sword and sorcery pictures.

What makes this film more enjoyable than it would otherwise be is the charisma of Kevin Sorbo and the vastly underappreciated Thomas Ian Griffith, who I have been a fan of since first seeing him in The Karate Kid, Part III. These two guys absolutely carry this movie on their backs. The opening scene between them is fantastic, as is every other scene that they share.

But in the end, I really wanted more from a Kull movie. Hopefully, someday, we can get a resurgence in sword and sorcery films and actually see Kull return to the big screen, preferably with a decent budget and stronger script.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other movies based on Robert E. Howard creations: the Conan films, Red Sonja and Solomon Kane, as well as the Beastmaster film series.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: She-Devil With a Sword, Vol. 1

Published: October 25th, 2006
Written by: Mike Carey, Michael Avon Oeming
Art by: Mel Rubi
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 211 Pages

Review:

I’ve been enjoying the current run of Red Sonja by Dynamite Entertainment, so I wanted to go back and read some of the older collections. While this doesn’t click for me in the same way as the classic ’70s and ’80s Marvel stuff, it’s still a really good read.

I definitely dig the art style of Mel Rubi and it fits the character, the world and the tone of the narrative.

This is a good reintroduction to the character and her personality is spot on. I even like that there is a little quip early on that justifies Red Sonja’s armor choice. Especially since it’s been a bone of contention with modern cultural busybodies that hate art and escapism.

Red Sonja is just a badass character. She doesn’t give a crap what her critics think about her and she’d probably just decapitate them if she deemed it worth breaking a sweat.

But all in all, this was a really cool start to this long running ongoing series. It doesn’t establish a whole lot apart from reminding us of who Sonja is. However, it leaves things open for a slew of grand adventures.

Ultimately, I look forward to reading more volumes in the She-Devil With a Sword series.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja comics by Dynamite, as well as the classic Marvel Red Sonja stories.

Film Review: Solomon Kane (2009)

Release Date: September 16th, 2009 (TIFF)
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Written by: Michael J. Bassett
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Cast: James Purefoy, Max von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Pete Postlethwaite, Mackenzie Crook, Alice Krige

Davis Films, Czech Anglo Productions , Wandering Star Pictures, Metropolitan Filmexport, Optimum Releasing, 104 Minutes

Review:

“If I kill you, I am bound for hell. It is a price I shall gladly pay.” – Solomon Kane

At times, this felt like two different films. I liked a lot of the stuff in this movie but it had issues with pacing and tonal shifts.

Still, this had some real badass moments and I loved the character design between Solomon Kane and the two big villains, Malachi and the Masked Rider.

The opening ten minutes or so of this film were great and got me excited for what was to come. However, after the intense and fantastic opening, things slowed to a crawl for quite awhile. The energy didn’t really pick back up until the Masked Rider appeared and started doing some evil shit. Man, he just looked sinister and cool as hell, almost like a powerful Sith thrown into a Robert E. Howard story.

Malachi also added a lot to the picture and was a nice antagonist for Solomon Kane, a hero that walks the line with one foot in Hell and the other on the side of God.

The ghouls were also pretty cool and provided a lot of intense moments, as did the ghosts in the mirrors and the big demon beast in the big finale.

I thought that the cinematography was good and the film is very well shot. It looks great, even in the moments were CGI is very prevalent.

I just wish that the film wasn’t bogged down by some of its inconsistencies.

Every part in the picture was well acted, though and that certainly boosted the overall quality of the film. James Purefoy was perfection as Solomon Kane and even if he’s not a widely known star, I can’t think of a bigger one that would’ve pulled off the character as well as he did. Frankly, I wish this had done better because I would’ve liked to have seen him return to the role for other movies. And maybe it’s not too late but it’s been almost a decade since this came out and I haven’t heard anything about a follow up. It’ll probably be rebooted sometime in the future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before watching this. On one hand I was pleasantly surprised and on the other, I was bored for half the film. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other films featuring Robert E. Howard heroes: all the Conan movies, Kull the ConquerorRed Sonja and other sword and sorcery films.

Comic Review: Red Sonja/Conan: Blood of a God

Published: February 3rd, 2016
Written by: Victor Gischler
Art by: Roberto Castro
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 138 Pages

Review:

A crossover between the characters of Red Sonja and Conan the Barbarian is kind of rare but usually, they are always fun. Plus, the comic book version of Red Sonja first debuted in the original Conan the Barbarian comic from Marvel back in the ’70s.

In this miniseries, things are pretty simple and straightforward. Conan and Red Sonja run into each other, they flirt, they kill shit and they band together to destroy an evil wizard warlord. There is a big twist in the story towards the end though, and one of Conan’s biggest enemies appears.

The action was great in this and the book is full of cool monsters, my favorite of which was a large three headed rat that looked like a rodent Cerberus.

Blood of a God also has several nods to older Conan and Red Sonja stories.

The way that the story comes together at the end and concludes was really cool.

I read through this pretty quickly. Actually, while sitting in a busy restaurant waiting too damn long for some Buffalo wings.

In the end, this was exciting, badass and hit the mark.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja and Conan comics from Dynamite Entertainment.

Comic Review: Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom

Published: November 1st, 2006
Written by: Peter David, Luke Lieberman
Art by: Will Conrad
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 129 Pages

Review:

Since both Red Sonja and Conan have had new comics series start over the last few months, I’ve been in a barbarian kind of mood. I especially love the characters that have come from or evolved out of the original stories of Robert E. Howard.

While the comic book version of Red Sonja was created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, she is partially based on Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino and has often times fought alongside Howard’s most famous hero, Conan the Barbarian.

In this story, we don’t see Red Sonja alongside Conan but we do get to see her face off with one of Conan’s villains, Thulsa Doom. And what I love about this version of Doom, is that he sometimes takes on the appearance of the James Earl Jones version of the character from the 1982 Conan movie but also disguises himself as a tall, brutish man. Yes, he also still transforms into a giant snake.

This story was written by Peter David and Luke Lieberman. David was one of my favorite writers a decade and a half before this when he was working on one of the greatest runs on The Incredible Hulk and also wrote some of my favorite X-Factor stories.

Here, David does a superb job of bringing these characters together in a way that was pretty unique and creative. It’s easy to just make one character good, one character bad and then pit them against each other. David did a solid job of making Doom use his guile to get the upper hand over Sonja when her guard was down.

This is action packed and badass, through and through. The final showdown between Sonja and Doom is pretty satisfying and it leaves things open for Doom to slither back into her life, somewhere down the road.

Will Conrad’s art was enjoyable. I love his style and it fits the narrative tone very well.

I also liked a lot of the covers for this series. It had a lot of variants, which is typical of Dynamite Entertainment, but for the most part, they were all stunning to look at.

Red Sonja Vs. Thulsa Doom is a damn entertaining book for fans of the sword and sorcery genre, especially the fans of Robert E. Howard.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja comics from Dynamite Entertainment.

Film Review: Conan the Destroyer (1984)

Also known as: Conan II, Conan: King of Thieves (working titles)
Release Date: June 29th, 1984
Directed by: Richard Fleischer
Written by: Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Basil Poledouris
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones, Wilt Chamberlain, Mako, Tracey Walter, Olivia d’Abo, Sarah Douglas, Andre the Giant, Pat Roach

Dino De Laurentiis Corporation, Universal Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“How do you attract a man? What I mean is, suppose you set your heart on somebody. What would you do to get him?” – Princess Jehnna, “Grab him! And take him!” – Zula

I don’t think I’ve ever met a single person that prefers this film to its predecessor, Conan the Barbarian. That being said, this is still an enjoyable flick that’s pretty cool to revisit once or twice a decade.

The Conan character is cool and almost everything he’s been in has been good. This film fails to live up to the one before it but sequels rarely do. That doesn’t make it bad, it’s just a movie that was really lacking in overall quality and intensity because the studio realized that this character had young fans and thus, we got a PG movie instead of something with a solid R.

The special effects were a mixed bag. Some of it looked pretty bad but certain things, even if not spectacular, still had an enchanting allure about them. For instance, when the ghost-like dragon steals the princess, it’s a very dated looking effect but it has a real dreamlike quality to it that just works. Also, even though the mirror room sequence was shot under too many lights, it still felt otherworldly and mesmerizing.

The monster effects weren’t very good and I think having a bunch of bizarre creatures in this, sort of dragged down the rest of the movie. The picture tried to be more creative and ambitious than the first one, where the only real creature was a giant snake, but all the monsters looked rubbery, clunky and not very inspiring.

Also, the story is a mess. I’ve seen this film at least a half dozen times and I still don’t know what the hell is going on in half of the scenes. I feel like a lot of context and exposition was left on the cutting room floor.

What makes this film work for me though, is the cast. I pretty much like everyone in this film and the chemistry between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Grace Jones is stupendous. I wish they had done more movies together when they were both in the prime of their careers.

Tracey Walter was good in the film; he’s a character actor that popped up in a lot of stuff in the ’80s and ’90s. I also enjoyed Sarah Douglas, who I wish was in more movies back in the day. Olivia d’Abo did a decent job for this being her first movie. I think the only weak person in the main cast was basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, who was never much of an actor but at least he gave it a shot.

This is directed by Richard Fleischer, who would also helm Red Sonja, a year later. He had a really interesting career, as he directed so many different styles and genres of film. He also directed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Soylent Green, Fantastic Voyage, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Doctor Dolittle, Mandingo, Amityville 3-D, the 1980 version of The Jazz Singer and lots of classic film-noir pictures.

Basil Poledouris returned to score the movie but this one isn’t as memorable as the first film’s iconic music. This film’s theme isn’t as powerful and just lacks the extra oomph that Conan the Barbarian had.

If you enjoy the Conan franchise, you’ll probably enjoy this movie. I still feel compelled to revisit it from time to time and I’m always glad when I do.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Conan the Barbarian, the Conan the Barbarian remake, Red Sonja and the first Beastmaster.