Comic Review: The Saga of Solomon Kane

Published: August 18th, 2009
Written by: Roy Thomas, Doug Moench, various
Art by: various
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard, characters by Bram Stoker

Marvel Comics (original printing), Dark Horse (reprinted), 416 Pages

Review:

Man, this was one hell of a buy! A great value in fact! I was surprised that I found one in pretty pristine condition on eBay for about twenty bucks.

This collection is pretty special, as it is magazine sized and all in black and white. It’s also over 400 glorious pages! It reprints all of the Solomon Kane magazine format stories from the original Marvel era when they had all the Robert E. Howard publishing rights from the ’70s into the early ’90s.

I’ve read probably half of these stories before, as I own a lot of the issues these tales appeared in but it’s been a really long time and about 50-60 percent of this was new to me.

It seems like this is mostly in chronological order and it allowed for it to read much better as a broader body of work, covering the large passage of time over Kane’s many adventures.

Being that this was made by Marvel, it features some great crossovers with the Marvel version of Dracula, as well as another Robert E. Howard character, Conan. There’s even a story in here that features Frankenstein’s castle.

A lot of the stories here are adapted from Howard’s literary Solomon Kane tales. Having recently read the definitive collection of the literary work, it was really cool seeing some of the same tales brought to life with great art.

All in all, this is now one of my favorite things in my graphic novel collection. It’s a beast of a collection but it’s also something I know I’ll go back to and revisit again and again for the rest of my life.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other comic stories that were featured within the pages of the original Savage Sword of Conan magazine.

Book Review: ‘The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane’ by Robert E. Howard

I have only read a few Solomon Kane stories by Robert E. Howard and that was a long time ago. I’ve always loved the character, however. Especially, when he appeared in issues of The Savage Sword of Conan, as well as his own classic comic book series from his original Marvel run. I also like the film adaptation, quite a bit, as it has grown on me since I reviewed it for this site a few years back. I may need to update that, as I have a higher opinion of the movie now than I did after my original viewing of it.

This nice, thick book collects a lot of the iconic Solomon Kane stories that Howard wrote. I’m not sure if this is all of them or most of them but it does feature the stories I’m either familiar with from the comics and from what I’ve learned about the character’s history.

I enjoyed this pretty immensely, which I kind of expected to, but it exceeded those expectations and as far as a big collected body of work, this may be my favorite book I own by Robert E. Howard. Granted, I plan on reading the collected editions of Conan soon, as I have only read about a third of his short stories.

Solomon Kane is a very different hero than either Conan or Kull, however, and it was cool seeing Howard writing what I still consider to be sword and sorcery but quite unlike his better known “barbarian” heroes.

I love that this takes place on Earth in a historical time and that it connects to the real world closer than Howard’s prehistorical fantasy stuff.

Additionally, every story here had purpose and serious gravitas. I also liked all the colorful characters that weaved in and out of these tales, as well as the monsters and the Lovecraftian influence on them.

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane should definitely be in anyone’s library who enjoys fantasy, action and horror. It’s a perfect blend of these three things, written by one of the greatest American authors that ever lived.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

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

I’ve always loved that H.P. Lovecraft never really gave a shit that other writers would tap into his Cthulhu mythos. In the case of Robert E. Howard, the two had become good friends whose work influenced each other. So, naturally Howard wrote some Lovecraftian tales and even merged some of his most famous characters with those existing in Lovecraft’s literary universe.

The first story in this anthology collection sees Howard’s Kull of Atlantis crossover into Lovecraftian horror. Granted, this also happened in some works featuring Conan the Cimmerian, as well.

My favorite story in the collection was the second one, which was originally a novella. The story is called “Skull-Face”. The story is about a British man who smokes opium, has weird visions and then discovers that there’s something real and sinister afoot.

As I was reading “Skull-Face”, I kept envisioning Peter Cushing as the main character and it read like something that could’ve been adapted greatly by Hammer Films in the 1960s.

The rest of the stories were also pretty solid but my mind kept drifting back to “Skull-Face”.

All in all, this was really neat to read as it merged two of my favorite fantasy authors’ worlds together. Sure, Lovecraft influenced Howard’s sword and sorcery tales but this thick volume went beyond just the stuff I’ve read involving Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other works by Robert E. Howard, as well as the literary work of H.P. Lovecraft.

Film Review: Peter Pan (1953)

Release Date: February 5th, 1953
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Written by: Milt Banta, Bill Cottrell, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright
Based on: Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
Music by: Oliver Wallace
Cast: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske

RKO Radio Pictures, Walt Disney Productions, 77 Minutes

Review:

“All this has happened before, and it will all happen again. But this time it happened in London. It happened on a quiet street in Bloomsbury. That corner house over there is the home of the Darling family. And Peter Pan chose this particular house because there were people here who believed in him.” – Narrator

This used to be one of my favorite Disney animated features when I was young. It’s still damn good and I’d consider it one of the best but it doesn’t quite hit me in the same way, now that I’m an adult. Although, I still appreciate it and its message about embracing the youthful parts of your spirit, especially for those of us who are much older than the kids in the story.

Overall, this is a good, fantastical, swashbuckling adventure. It features pirates, Native Americans and a group of kids that are trying to be a force for good in the fantasy land that they inhabit. Most importantly, it’s just a feel good movie that is fun to escape into for 77 minutes.

The thing I really like about it, as a fan of this style of animation, is the overall look and vibe of the movie.

I love the character design, the design of the locations and the animation, itself, is really damn good, propelling the Disney standard to new heights, once again.

At this point, Disney had mastered fluidity in its use of motion. It makes me further appreciate how great the company and its animators were, almost seventy years ago and more than thirty years before the PIXAR computer animated style became the norm. This is also why 2-D animation of this style is still and will always be my favorite.

Peter Pan is just amusing and entertaining from top-to-bottom. It’s stood the test of time, greatly, and it has spawned an eternal interest in the characters and its world that movies based off of it are still made today. While this is based off of the J.M. Barrie book, I truly believe that it is this film that kept Barrie’s creation alive for future generations.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Disney animated films of the 1950s.

Video Game Review: Captain Silver (Sega Master System)

I had no idea what this game was because I don’t have a lot of playing experience with the original Sega console, the Master System.

However, I now have access to tons of these games thanks to my RetroPie, a supremely worthwhile investment for anyone into retrogaming.

This is a simple side-scrolling action game where you play a heroic swashbuckler fighting real threats and fantastical ones like lion men wearing fancy clothes.

I went into this blindly so I wasn’t sure what the objective was but you pretty much have to collect letters dropped by defeated enemies and spell out “Captain Silver”. You can do this multiple times per level by walking back and forth but you are also timed and need to reach the end of the stage before the time runs out.

It was fairly fun but the one-hit death kind of sucks and makes the game more challenging than it should be. I didn’t play it to the point of beating it but I got a few stages in.

I tried to beat it on several attempts but after 45 minutes to an hour, I thought I had a good grasp of everything.

The mechanics are decent but the platforming was a bit rough, especially when having to jump from moving object to moving object. Plus, a water fountain killing a swashbuckling hero seems really lame.

Overall, this isn’t a bad game but it’s not great. I thought it looked good and it was amusing for awhile but I’m not sure if it’s anything I’ll play with any sort of regularity.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other side-scrolling action games of the 8-bit era.

Film Review: The Pirates of Blood River (1962)

Release Date: May 9th, 1962 (Denmark)
Directed by: John Gilling
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Music by: Gary Hughes
Cast: Christopher Lee, Kerwin Mathews, Glenn Corebett, Oliver Reed, Peter Arne, Marla Landi, Desmond Llewelyn, Michael Ripper

Hammer Films, Columbia Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

“[to the elders] I am not guilty. The cause of Maggie’s death… was fear. Fear of her brutal husband. Yes, fear is your weapon, and it’s a dangerous weapon because one day it will recoil on your heads.” – Jonathan Standing

Well, since I recently watched The Devil-Ship Pirates, one of the few Hammer Films swashbucklers, I figured that I’d also check out this film, which came out just before it and also stars Christopher Lee.

I actually liked this a wee bit more than The Devil-Ship Pirates, as it seemed to have more going on. I really enjoyed the plot of the other film but this one seemed to have more layers and more at stake. Regardless, they’re both enjoyable for those who like classic swashbuckling tales.

In this one, we see Lee play an actual pirate, where he played a Spanish naval commander in Devil-Ship. It was cool seeing him with the traditional garb and eye patch. He also got to use his sword, which is always a bonus. I don’t think people know that Lee actually has the most sword fights in motion picture history. I think that’s a cool fact that gets lost because he’s primarily known for being in horror movies and not action pictures.

I really enjoyed Kerwin Mathews in this, as well as Hammer regulars Oliver Reed and Michael Ripper. We even get to see Desmond Llewelyn, which is always a treat when he appears outside of his most famous role as Q in the old school James Bond movies.

All in all, this is a pretty decent swashbuckler from a studio that probably should’ve made more than they did. But I get it, horror was Hammer’s real bread and butter. 

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other swashbuckling/pirate movies by Hammer like Captain Clegg a.k.a. Night Creatures and The Devil-Ship Pirates.

Comic Review: Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment

Published: July 1st, 1989
Written by: Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo, Roger Stern
Art by: Gene Colan, Mike Mignola, Kevin Nowlan

Marvel Comics, 154 Pages

Review:

I heard a rumor that the second Doctor Strange movie would possibly include the Marvel Cinematic Universe debut of Doctor Doom and that the story for the film would borrow heavily from this story, one I haven’t read since the early ’90s. After reading this, I don’t know how they’d pull it off but I would kind of like to see them attempt it.

Reason being, this is a stupendous comic book. In fact, it’s pretty fucking perfect.

This was originally released as one book in a series of Marvel Comics’ graphic novels. Back in the ’80s and through the early ’90s, Marvel had a graphic novel series that were printed in a larger format than regular comics and also had roughly twice the pages. They sold for more money than regular comic books but they rarely disappointed and usually the stories had a more adult edge to them, which was definitely cool for my pre-teen brain. They also had some of the best artwork of the era, as more time and care were put into these releases.

This story was one of my favorites out of the Marvel graphic novels I read and I’m glad to say that it didn’t just live up to my original opinion of it but it exceeded it. I think that’s because I was able to grasp this more as an adult and the emotional weight of the story really took hold of me.

It also doesn’t hurt that Doctor Doom is my favorite Marvel villain of all-time and I’ve always loved Doctor Strange and the mystic side of the Marvel mythos.

But this story is just so perfect. It brings these two characters together and in regards to Doctor Doom, it really displays his human side and how there might be a good man trapped underneath all that armor, emotional baggage, narcissism and borderline madness.

Doom and Strange unite and take on Mephisto in an effort to free the imprisoned soul of Doom’s mother. It reads like a dark fairy tale but it is packed with lots of action, great magical moments and all sorts of hellish beasts. It’s also all presented with exceptional art.

While this is longer than a regular sized comic book, it is still a quick, easy read. But it shows different sides of these characters and it made Doom a lot more interesting and complex, overall.

It’s also one of the best stories to feature Mephisto and what it is he can do when he’s not just sitting on a throne giving monologues and devising sinister plans.

I read the version that is currently up on Comixology and it also had a few other stories tacked on to it. It’s probably the coolest version of this to be released, if you don’t mind reading comics digitally.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other ’70s & ’80s comics featuring Doctor Doom or Doctor Strange.

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Also known as: P.O.T.C. 3 (promotional abbreviation), Pirates 3 (informal short title), Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (working title)
Release Date: May 19th, 2007 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio
Based on: Pirates of the Caribbean by Walt Disney, characters by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Stuart Beattie, Jay Wolpert
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Chow Yun-fat, Jonathan Pryce, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Lee Arenberg, Mackenzie Crook, Naomie Harris, Tom Hollander, Keith Richards

Second Mate Productions, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Walt Disney Pictures, 169 Minutes, 128 Minutes (censored Chinese version)

Review:

“You will listen to me! Listen! The other ships will still be looking to us, to the Black Pearl, to lead, and what will they see? Frightened bilgerats aboard a derelict ship? No, no they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see, they will see the flash of our cannons, and they will hear the ringing of our swords, and they will know what we can do! By the sweat of our brow and the strength of our backs and the courage in our hearts! Gentlemen, hoist the colors!” – Elizabeth Swan

One of the three films had to be the worst one of the original trilogy and well, this is it. Regardless of that fact, it’s still one hell of an adventure movie that hits the right notes and sends these characters off with a well-deserved bang.

Had this been the actual end, people would’ve had a much brighter and appreciative view of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. However, Disney’s gotta be Disney and they couldn’t leave well enough alone and stop while they were ahead.

Regardless of the films that followed, this was a close to prefect ending to the original three pictures and it brings everything full circle in a great way and finished the job of developing the main characters stupendously, making them some of the greatest characters in motion picture history, especially in regards to blockbuster cinema.

Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow is just as good as ever but the real treat of this movie is seeing the story of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan come to a close. Sure, they have a cameo years later, but this really ends their story, as I’m assuming the cameo won’t lead to anything now that Disney wants to do a female reboot of the franchise. *cough* Good luck with that, Disney.

I liked seeing how the characters of Will and Elizabeth evolved from children in the beginning of the first movie, to a solid, badass couple that essentially saved the oceanic world by the end of this picture. It’s especially great seeing how perfect Elizabeth evolved, as she leaves this chapter as an incredibly strong, independent woman that an entire armada saw as a real leader.

The original Pirates trilogy should be a primer on how to make a great female character that isn’t a cookie cutter Mary Sue. Maybe J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson should’ve watched these films before farting out the Disney Star Wars trilogy.

Anyway, this is the most over-the-top, insane Pirates movie of the lot but it all leads to an incredible final battle that sees the Black Pearl and the Flying Dutchman go to all out war while being sucked down into Calypso’s maelstrom a.k.a. a massive whirlpool. 

I also really liked how they explored Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones even more, getting into his personal turmoil that shaped him into a monster and set him off on an extremely dark path. His story is handled with such great care, though, that it’s hard not to relate to him and his pain. But it’s also fantastic finally seeing him meet his end.

Additionally, I loved how this movie built up the already established mythos and expanded the Pirates universe pretty immensely. I didn’t necessarily dig every new thing they tried to do but it worked for this story and how it ended.

The thing that hits me the hardest in these films, however, is the story of James Norrington. What a fantastic and spectacular character arc! The guy goes through so much over the course of the three films, trying to do what he thinks is right, only to sacrifice himself, quite selflessly and courageously, for the woman he loves but knows he can never have. I fucking love that guy and he doesn’t get enough respect due to how he’s never really the biggest thing onscreen.

In the end, this is one solid movie (and trilogy) that is probably much better than it should have been. I have to tip my hat to Gore Verbinski’s superb direction, as well as just how great the actors were. I wish we could have more Pirates movies as good as the first three but that ship has most assuredly sailed.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Pirates of the Caribbean movies, especially the original trilogy.