Comic Review: The Witcher, Vol. 1: House of Glass

Published: October 7th, 2014
Written by: Paul Tobin
Art by: Joe Querio, Mike Mignola (cover)
Based on: The Witcher novels by Andrzej Sapkowski

Dark Horse Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Witcher comic book but I’m glad that this didn’t disappoint and was a pretty cool read.

While the cover was done by Mike Mignola, the interior art was not. However, it does have the same sort of vibes even if it is less stylized.

The story here was enjoyable and there’s a mystery to be solved. While things aren’t what they seem, the story isn’t predictable and the ending is pretty satisfactory.

Most of the story takes place in and around a haunted house but there are a few characters that come into this tale, as well as some neat monsters, many of which you’ll recognize from The Witcher games.

The story here was interesting and well written with fairly rich and well developed characters that you end up caring about.

All in all, if you are a fan of the franchise, this is definitely worth your time.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Witcher comics.

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.

Book Review: ‘Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword-and-Sorcery’ by Brian Murphy

As a lifelong, hardcore fan of sword and sorcery fiction, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Brian Murphy did his research and it showed, as this great book is probably the best thing I’ve ever read on the history of sword and sorcery fantasy, as a whole.

It’s part biographical when it covers specific writers in the genre but it also gets really deep into the history of the sword and sorcery style and how it was established and grew into quite the phenomenon that still creeps in and out of mainstream pop culture.

While this spent a good amount of time on the legendary writer, Robert E. Howard, and his most famous creations Conan and Kull, it also went way beyond that exploring other writers and their work, which helped propel sword and sorcery forward and into the hearts and minds of literary fantasy fans around the world.

The book also shows how sword and sorcery grew beyond just words on a page and how it sort of fell out of popularity but also had a resurgence, later on.

If you love sword and sorcery and you haven’t picked this book up, you definitely should. It’s something I will probably go back to and reference for years to come.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other books about sword and sorcery literature, comics and film. Especially, the books put out by Pulp Hero Press.

Comic Review: Conan Chronicles – Epic Collection IV: The Battle of Shamla Pass

Published: January 14th, 2020
Written by: Benjamin Truman, Tim Truman
Art by: Joe Kubert, various
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Dark Horse Comics, Marvel (reprinted), 464 Pages

Review:

These massive collections are kind of pricey, which up to this point was fine. But this one is probably my jumping off point, as it was such a big step down from the previous three Epic Collection releases Marvel has put.

These beefy trade paperbacks cover the span of Conan stories while they were being produced and published by Dark Horse after the original Marvel runs. Well, now that Conan is back at Marvel, they’re releasing two-to-three of these per year to fill in the void.

I guess the stories in this volume weren’t all that bad but the art was a big departure from what I had come to expect with the other volumes.

Additionally, the art was a mixed bag with contrasting styles that changed too often and just sort of made this collection feel really disjointed, where the others felt cohesive, uniform and consistent.

In fact, I’d say that this one made me appreciate the early volumes that much more.

I guess if you’re a Conan completist and you want all of these, have at it. For me, I’ll have to look through the next one before I just outright buy it.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other Conan comics from the Dark Horse era.

Comic Review: What If Thor Battled Conan?

Published: June, 1983
Written by: Alan Zelenetz
Art by: Ron Wilson
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 37 Pages

Review:

I’m planning to review many of the classic What If? stories but in doing so, I wanted to start with the ones featuring Conan first. This is the second of the four Conan stories.

While Conan briefly crossed over with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in his first What If? tale, it was just a small cameo by Spider-Man and his future wife and the characters didn’t actually interact. This story, however, is the first time that Conan actually has fisticuffs with an iconic Marvel character.

The comic also features Conan villain Thoth-Amon, a brief appearance by Loki and a strange, bonkers appearance by Crom, who shows that he just doesn’t have time for Thor’s shit.

The comic’s title is somewhat misleading, as Thor and Conan do actually battle but it’s pretty short and they start working together to try and figure out how to get Thor back home, as he’s trapped in Conan’s realm and time.

The setup for this is pretty basic. Thor follows Loki into a cave and ends up in a different time and place. Part of me was kind of hoping to see Loki team up with Thoth-Amon but that didn’t happen.

Overall, this was a pretty cool read but the scene with Thor meeting Crom felt really out of place, strange and as if the writer didn’t really know much about Conan lore. Crom isn’t like Odin, just chilling on a throne for anyone to confront and chat with.

This isn’t my favorite of the Conan What If? stories but none of them are bad and they’re all amusing and entertaining in their own unique way.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the three other What If? comics featuring Conan.

Comic Review: What If Conan the Barbarian Walked the Earth TODAY?

Published: February, 1979
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: John Buscema, Ernie Chan, Glynis Wein
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 37 Pages

Review:

finally collected all four issues of What If? that feature Conan the Barbarian. So I figured that I’d read them all and review them. In fact, I’ve had plans to review all of the What If? comics in my collection, as some of them are great alternative takes on the heroes and villains we all love.

This is the first story to feature Conan and it’s probably the most well-known of the four. Also, it is penned by regular Conan the Barbarian comic writer Roy Thomas.

The question posed by this issue of What If? is an intriguing one, especially for the time when it came out. While Conan has been to the modern world several times since the 1970s, this was the first of those stories.

Now I can’t call it the best of those stories, as I am digging the absolute hell out of the Savage Avengers title that started last year but this took a typical “fish out of water” story and just made it more badass and cooler than they typically are.

This also features a very brief cameo by Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson but unfortunately, we don’t get to see Conan and Spider-Man tussle.

The story sees magic from Conan’s time send him to 1970s New York City, a time of rampant crime and a Times Square filled with grindhouse theaters, lots of drugs and affordable sex services. Being that Marvel likes to sell comics to kids, we don’t get to see Conan partake in any of these awesome activities.

What we do see, is Conan not knowing how to adapt to this strange land and quickly finding himself a wanted man because half naked dudes swinging swords in New York City was really frowned upon, even in the ’70s.

He also meets a cool chick that is way too trusting and they do “Conan and lady” thangs.

Ultimately, he arrives back home by the end of the issue and it left me wanting more. I get that What If? is a series of one-shots, essentially, but this really could’ve worked and been better as a multi-issue story.

In the end, it was a solid read and I liked seeing Roy Thomas’ take on Conan in the then-modern world.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the three other What If? comics featuring Conan.

Comic Review: Conan: The Hour of the Dragon

Published: January 1st, 2020
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: John Buscema, Gil Kane
Based on: Conan the Barbarian and other characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 281 Pages

Review:

This is old school ’70s Conan the Barbarian by the original Conan comic book maestro, Roy Thomas. But it was just released as a collection and it’s kind of unique, as it tries to adapt the only full-length Conan novel that Robert E. Howard wrote: The Hour of the Dragon.

This was mainly told over the course of multiple issues of Giant-Size Conan and Conan the Barbarian annuals, as opposed to being a part of the regular comic book series.

Overall, this was action packed and featured some of the best character development writing for the Conan character. It also sees him fall in love, get married and become a ruler.

This is one of those Conan stories that kind of hits all the marks one would be looking for in a comic featuring the iconic hero. A lot happens and every issue and chapter within is pretty cool.

Additionally, this features art from two of my all-time favorite Conan artists, Gil Kane and John Buscema.

Top to bottom, this is a solid Conan tale with solid art and while it might not be a perfect adaptation of the source material, it pulls it into the Marvel comic book mythos quite well.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Conan comics from the classic Marvel era.

Comic Review: He-Man/ThunderCats

Published: July 11th, 2017
Written by: Rob David, Lloyd Goldfine
Art by: Freddie E. Williams II
Based on: Masters of the Universe by Mattel, ThunderCats by Tobin Wolf

DC Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

I was late to the party in knowing that this even existed. It came out in a time where I didn’t have a local comic shop, otherwise I would’ve been all over it in 2017.

I’m glad that I checked it out now and even if IP crossovers are a dime a dozen lately, this one just felt like it could fit really well together and for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed.

It includes all the key characters and brings them together in a cool way that isn’t just a story about opening a random portal.

This was fairly clever and I liked some of the daring things that they tried, like making He-Man’s trusted partner Battle Cat into a humanoid ThunderCat character, even if it was pretty brief.

I also liked how it tried to merge Mumm-Ra and Skeletor into a single entity and how their personalities clashed.

The illustrations, ink and colors were also really good and this was just an incredible work of art from page-to-page.

Fans of either or both franchises should enjoy this quite a bit.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other comics DC has put out based off of Masters of the Universe.

Book Review: ‘Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History Book’ by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson & Sam Witwer

I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons, even though I was fascinated by it. My mum dumped the religion on me pretty hard and then by the time I was older and didn’t care about that, none of my friends really cared about playing D&D anymore.

I’ve always adored the franchise and everything within it, as I’ve always loved fantasy, especially sword and sorcery fiction and movies. I also dug the hell out of the cartoon when I was a kid, which I was actually allowed to watch for some reason.

This big, thick, hardcover masterpiece is a damn fine book to add to your collection. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, the artwork collected in this alone makes the book well worth the price tag.

One really cool thing about this is that it’s foreward was written by Joe Manganiello. Yes, that Joe Manganiello, who apparently was a massive D&D fan. Sam Witwer, another actor known for a lot of his sci-fi roles, also contributed to this.

This book covers a lot more than even its large size would imply. It shows the history of the property in just about all of its forms from early role-playing manuals to the animated series to video games to comics to books and just about every other medium and product that adorned the Dungeons & Dragons name.

I love this book. Right now, it’s on my coffee table. Granted, I should probably move it before someone with French fry fingers gets it all nasty. 

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: anything, from any media, about Dungeons & Dragons, as well as other big, hardcover art books on cool nerd shit.