"Robert E Howard's Savage Sword" keeps the quality level high and showcases the drastic range the old pulp master had. This anthology issue runs the gamut from Conan tales of wits and brawn to western bar fights, high seas adventure, hard boiled detecting, and more broad sword action of the highest degree. This is the best anthology of 2011, no doubt. Pick up this issue and see how much you'll love it all.
'Conan and the Jewels of Hesterm' by Paul Tobin and Wellingston Alves comes to a close this month. This is the third and final chapter of this story so all that is left is the action packed conclusion. Conan uses his wits, and inherent Cimmerian skills, to make the best out of a very poor situation. The mystical elements work well and the final moment, and coda, are just what you want to see. A very fun cap on this easily enjoyable tale.
The Sonora Kid is introduced by Jeremy Barlow and Tony Parker with great flair. Many will not previously know of the Sonora Kid, but after this tale they'll be very keen to see next issue's continuation. These pages set up the plucky spirit of this cowboy and bring the tale up to the point where the Kid is left in danger. He can surely handle himself, we have no doubt, and while the introductory exposition isn't all bad, it would have been nice to get a little more in this chapter.
David Lapham and Fabio Cobiaco will haunt you with "Brule: The Spear and the Siren." There is an intuitive beauty to this tale that captivates. The narrative is relatively simple and yet the heart behind the actions shines through. For all the emotive captivity of the story, the massive sea monster is also a behemoth to be respectfully awed. This might be the top pick of the issue though it has stiff competition from the next tale.
Steve Harrison makes a distinct impression in "Pinot Noir," a dangerous tale of demons and wine from Joshua Williamson and Patric Reynolds. This seedily authentic study of the darker side of noir gains support from the spirit of the weirdest work of Hammett. The scratchy and shadowy pages transport us into a world of warped demonic worship and pale and useless people. This story is as stark and brutal in its depiction of Harrison, his world, and his cases, as we could ever hope for.
The issue ends with a slab of a Kull reprint in 'The Vale of Shadow' by Alan Zelenetz and Tony De Zuniga. This tale, from Marvel back in 1989, feels like someone doing Steranko doing Robert E Howard. The pages warp and meld through the mind funk in which Kull is stuck. There is dynamic bloodshed, hallucinatory messages, secret histories, and plenty of double dealing. Through it all, Tom Vincent's colors do a great job of conveying tone and intent. There's plenty of exactly what you expect of this anthology to enjoy in this tale.
Unlike most anthology comics, this book doesn't have many down spots. All the characters are interesting, all of the tales are well paced, and the variety of genres presented alleviates any desire to wander off. The price tag might feel steep, but you are getting around three issues worth of content. It's a bargain when you consider volume and quality. This anthology feels like a labor of love and thus instills the same feelings in the readership. If you have yet to sample Howard's work then this is your absolute jumping on point.