Thursday, September 27, 2012

REH's: Savage Sword

I apologize for my long absence from this blog. Work has swamped me for the past several long weeks. My reading time has been sparse; however, I did manage to catch up on some comics.

First, I make no apologies, but I am a Dark Horse Fan-Boy. They publish some of my favorite current titles, not the least of which are the further adventures of my favorite barbarian. Among my various DH titles is the sparsely published comic Robert E. Howard's Savage Sword.

In case you have not been keeping up with this book, it is an anthology that features stories based on and/or staring various REH created characters and stories, to include Conan, and all are written and drawn by a variety of folks. It is a full color book. Some of the stories are original and some are adaptions of original REH stories.

The current issue, issue 5, features "Bran Mak Morn: Men of Shadows,  Part 1 of 3" written by Ian Edginton with art by Richard Pace; "In the Forest of Villefere" written by Steven Niles, art by Chris Mitten; "King Conan: Two Birds" drawn and written by the legendary Howard Chaykin; "Dark Agnes: Sword Woman, Part 1 of 3" written by Paul Tobin, drawn by Francesco Francavilla and a reprint of "Kings of Night" written by Roy Thomas with art by David Wenzel. Each issue also features Jim and Ruth Keegan's "The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob: True Stories from the Life of Robert E. Howard" which is a strip that brings to life the volumes of letters written by Bob Howard (and is a favorite feature of mine in all of DH's Howard books). This is the first issue to feature a letters column, "Savage Salutations",at least to the best of my muddled memory it is the first issue to have letters.

As can be seen, that is a good line up. My favorite feature of this issue was Chaykin's King Conan tale, but Tobin and Francavilla's adaption of "Sword Woman" is very attractive and I look forward to parts 2 and 3. I also have to give a shout out to Richard Pace's art work in "Men of Shadows" and I must give credit to the coloring of Moose Baumann in the same tale. I am also smitten with the art of Chris Mitten (not so clever pun intended) in the tale "In the Forest of Villefere".

The rest of my review will be short, as I wish to not give spoilers. The stories, to include issues 1 to 5, have ranged from so-so to "HELL YEAH!". Savage Word is an average of 80 pages, and should be with its hefty price tag of $7.99 (in paper, I believe a digital copy can be purchased for less, but I'm not sure--I am a paper snob). The bad, it is an anthology, so the art is uneven by nature. Some has been great, some, to my tastes, not as great. My major quibble is that each issue has featured a reprint of REH stories, from such classic Marvel books as The Savage Sword of Conan, Conan the Barbarian, King Conan, etc.. That is not necessarily a bad thing; however the recent issue features "Kings of Night" by Thomas and Wenzel. It was recently reprinted in the Dark Horse book The Savage Sword of Kull volume 1. These reprints typically take up half or nearly half of the 80 pages of the book. For my $7.99 I would rather see more original material or at the very least works by REH that are not often reprinted. The good thing about the reprints are, many of these stories were originally printed in black and white, and here they are colorized, but again the purist snob in me that loves me some old-school Savage Sword of Conan, likes these stories in their original black and white.

My snobbish quibbles aside, this is an enjoyable book and I hope it sticks around. Its publishing schedule is infrequent and erratic. I had given up on ever seeing an issue 5, but I do hope it is here to stay, and the fact that this features two part one of three stories gives me hope that Dark Horse will at least publish up to 7 issues. If you have not read this book, issue 5 is a good jumping on point as all the stories are either part one of three parts, or one shots.

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