Robert E Howard's Savage Sword #4

"Robert E Howard's Savage Sword" hits issue #4 and continues to showcase exactly how to assemble a great anthology. This book nudges out "Dark Horse Presents" as a theme based book with all its tales playing into a similar area. If you are predisposed to like the genre, you will no doubt love this series.

David Lapham finishes his "Brule" story with the warrior going beneath the waves to receive a prize for his heroism. This is the concluding second part of the tale so it feels thin but it matches well with the first half in the previous issue. Fabio Cobiaco stands out as the star as his sketchy style will have you staring at the art again and again. The brilliant artistry on display here is just about worth the price of admission alone.

The "Sonora Kid's" plot also wraps up in a second part. Unfortunately, this tale suffers under the weight of being solely conclusion. Jeremy Barlow and Tony Parker do a fine job laying out the finale of the Sonora Kid's ride to victory, but mostly these pages just feel thin.

Many readers will be tuning in here for the standalone "Conan" installment illustrated by Sean Phillips. His style here is different from his usual Ed Brubaker collaborations and this tale reaps the benefits. Phillips' Conan feels like a colder version of the Frazetta paintings and the action is extremely strange and nasty. Pete Doree does a great job not going too deep into the tale so he can wrap it up succinctly. This is a slim slice of Conan, but a bizarre and fun one nonetheless.

"The Thing On The Roof" immediately feels anachronistic in this book due to the art. The faces are different from all other included stories and the setting is much more close to modern. However, while it takes a few pages, you soon see how wonderful this tale is. The brevity of cutting between locales and scenes is excellently done as all the fat is trimmed off this tale. Dave Land structures this in a fastidious fashion and M.S. Corley keeps things calm until he unleashes the many-teated, tentacled flying horse creature. It's a warped image that will stick with you along with the nasty violence of the beast. This story is deceptive because it feels wrong for the magazine but proves itself by the very end.

The final segment of the comic is dedicated to finishing the ongoing "Kull" story. Alan Zelenetz's prism of a barbarian tale is a trip across the light phantasmagorical for much of its duration. Such heady thoughts are well essayed by Tony De Zuniga's European art and individual style choices. This tale is a sprawling epic of nobility and passion. These pages require you to think them through and analyze aspects, making the story a real study.

This issue of "Robert E Howard's Savage Sword" contains many endings for stories begun last issue. This might preclude many new readers from sampling, but one can only hope they instead track down the last issue as well and enjoy the great times. This book makes an effort to keep the pulp quality strong -- something other books don't even attempt. We can only hope a generation of fiendish readers are being fed this book by smart uncles and older brothers. This is the sort of stuff lifelong affairs are built on.

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