When I think of hard-to-like heroes that I still root for, the first one that comes to my mind is Robert E. Howard’s adventuring Puritan, Solomon Kane. The man dresses in black and can be an absolute downer with his puritanical ways, but when it comes to fighting men and the supernatural, few stand taller, swing a sword with more authority, or shoot straighter than Solomon Kane.
Because he died at such a young age, Howard didn't get to leave as sizable a legacy of Solomon Kane stories as fans might have wanted. In the last nearly 80 years since his debut, other authors have penned more Solomon Kane tales than Howard. Nearly all of them have been in comic form.
That venue continues in the latest graphic novel release from Dark Horse Comics: Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil. Hellboy-creator Mike Mignola drew the awesome cover which immediately drew my eye, and interior artist Mario Guevara kept up the tone throughout the story written by Scott Allie.
The graphic novel collects the first five issues of the new Dark Horse comics series, and I’m glad I read them in the collected edition. I couldn’t imagine having to get and read this story piecemeal month by month. In fact, the book would be better read late at night when the house is quiet, or on a camping trip after everyone else has gone to bed. The atmosphere then would provide a perfect reading experience.
The book opens with an excellent action sequence that shows off Solomon Kane’s deadly skills to their fullest, as well as the supernatural that flavors most of the stories. Guevara’s art is fantastic, and Allie shows good sense in staying off the page and letting his artist carry the weight at this point. Then Allie comes back with brilliant dialogue that transports readers back hundreds of years. You just can’t lose with a narrative hook that involves two wanderers on the trail to danger and adventure.
At the castle, the mystery really deepens, and this is when the author’s storytelling skill really shines. As I turned the pages, I could see the movie take shape in my head, guided by the gentle nudge of the panels showing the action and the characters. By that time, I knew I was hooked, and that if I’d been having to wait those months in between I would have been greatly frustrated.
This graphic novel reads like a novel as the characters and events progress. Truths and dangers emerge, constantly twisting and changing. It’s really good, and I don’t think many will sit down without reading it all in one go. But the story and characters are dense enough that you need to allow some time for the experience. As I stated, this reads like a novel, not a flip book to adventure.
The action and adventure really hits its stride in the final pages of the book. By midway I knew I wasn’t going to put it down, but then when all the pieces fell into place and I knew who and what Solomon Kane was battling, I was hooked.
Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil is a wonderful reading experience for those fantasy lovers who want a trip on the dark side, and for those comics readers that want more meat and potatoes with their stories. Solomon Kane is a hero who you’ll probably always hold at arm’s length, but he’s wonderful to watch in action.