Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Review: Kull Number One

Kull number one starts with a bang. You ever seen Army of Darkness? The 13th Warrior? Read an issue of Vault of Horror? Somebody over at Dark Horse has too. Knock, knock. Who’s there? Ass-kickery. Welcome home geeks, welcome home.

The Days of High Adventure:

Kull the Conquer is another Robert E. Howard sword and sorcery hero like Conan. Perhaps the less well known Conan predecessor offers a freer hand to writers as Conan has expectations tacked on movies and books, and that can be a good thing. Picking up a copy of Kull number one readers my be less than impressed with the odd cover, which appears to be the weird variant cover fad we’re still suffering from the excessive 90s. But buck up, that’s Joe Kubert of Sgt. Rock fame and the art inside is actually pretty good!

Now spoiling will occur but seeing how this is issue one there’s not much to spoil. Kull’s king and he’s trying to take out the last Count to resist his rule who’s laid up in an impenetrable castle. Luckily, one guardsmen has been passed over for promotion and agrees to open the gate. Next panel, Kull’s army swarm’s in, no boring speeches or build up, let the body count begin.

Dark Horse Gods:

So, the Count has his men open this trap door in the courtyard. Anything foreshadowed with a “release the Kraken” moment and “we’re all dead,” has to be all cuddly and fun, right? From the dark an unseen fiend says “Yesss, release me…” Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness, anyone? What is this Etrigor? Why it appears to be an undead, demon centaur with nasty wings and a C.H.U.D. head—and he’s about the size of an elephant. Ladies and gentlemen this is why we love comics!

In comes Kull in a two page splash that looks great and says, “let’s rock.” He’s got an axe and with here a chop-chop and there a chop-chop he fights the monster. Some of the action panels are a little wonky, but, seriously, demon centaur! And Etrigor also likes to talk smack, before it’s all over we get a little insight that the old ones are coming and things are going to get rough for our King Kull. Kull actually cracks a joke and his men laugh, which is kind of cool in a Viking way, but then again laughing at the demon centaur probably isn’t the smartest move.

Homage, not Swiping:

No surprise, but Kull makes it through his first issue alive, but not before the table is set for this adaption of Howard’s Shadow Kingdom tales. If Etrigor and an issue that has multiple disembowelings and beheading is the warm up act how metal is the main attraction going to be? The Count doesn’t make it, the traitor beheads him and whips the trophy out of a box with a callback line of dialogue straight out of the Vault of Horror: “I didn’t harm a hair on his head like you ordered, but, and get this angry King with a sword, I cut his head off, so you know, technically—wait what are you doing, aaaaa!” Kull, who looks a lot like Valdimir Kulich in The 13th Warrior, is less than happy, and berates his advisor Tu, who looks a lot like Omar Sharif from the same Crichton flick, because the murder made him look bad and heavy is the head—blah, blah, blah, look, bad stuff’s going to happen, that’s the jist. Buckle up. (Seriously, what is with the face swipes from movies, like the earthquake chick in Fury’s Secret War—totally Angelina Jolie from Hackers!)

Some of the dialogue is crisp, some a little talky, some just corny like when Etrigor says he didn’t know men like Kull still existed. Kind of sounded like they were on a first date. They use a lot of old language and stuff, like coxcomb which totally sounds dirty. And scars, every body’s got scars, which is a nice touch; still it is a bit of a face scar convention.

Bottom line:

Kull number one comes out strong, fast paced, and enjoyable. I’m not trying to gush about this comic, but when you pick up a comic book these days and you get a demon centaur you feel like that cute girl remembered it was your birthday: “really? For me?” In a world of fantasy and a sci/fi comics that are short on action and story Kull number one wraps up three story arcs in one issue (plus: did I mention the demon centaur?). King Kull rules in this issue and if they match the fun next time the series should be good addition to any pull list.

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