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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Published: January 24th, 2007
Written by: John Layman
Art by: Andy Smith, Jim Lee (cover)
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, Claw the Unconquered by David Michelinie, Ernie Chan
Wildstorm, Dynamite Entertainment, 112 Pages
Yeesh! This was bad.
I thought a story that brought together Red Sonja and Claw the Unconquered would be pretty damn badass. Well, it should have been but this certainly wasn’t.
The Jim Lee cover was really damn cool, though.
I also thought that Andy Smith’s art throughout the comic was pretty good. There were a few spots in the action sequences that I had to examine, though, as the transition from one panel to the next seemed to be off.
As far as the story, it was pretty schlocky. While I like schlock of a certain caliber, this was just lowest common denominator crossover bait, which is something that companies like Dynamite and IDW have become famous for over the last several years. Granted, this is about fifteen years old now but this is also where I noticed IP crossovers really starting to become far more common.
At least this didn’t bring the characters together through magic portals, which has been a bad trope in stories like these.
Anyway, you can totally skip over this unless you’re a Red Sonja completist. But if you are, maybe read this last after all the other stuff.
Out of all the Robert E. Howard collections that I’ve now read and reviewed, I’d have to say that this one was my least favorite, overall.
It’s certainly not bad and I liked that this featured the first non-comic book Dark Agnes story that I ever read. However, the overall quality of these stories lacked when compared to Howard’s best work.
This is a collection of what feels like random short stories that were thrown together because there was nowhere else to put them. They don’t specifically follow any sort of unified theme.
I think a lot of this stuff was unfinished work or, at least, work that Howard moved on from before actually reworking it to be at his normal level of quality.
This was also one of the more beefy collections and with that, it did feel like it was dragging in parts. Although, the best stuff in here was still rather good.
Ultimately, if I were going to recommend a Robert E. Howard book to a new reader, it wouldn’t be this one. This is something that’s more for the completist that wants to obtain all of the legendary author’s published works.
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.