The Savage Sword of Kull: Volume One – Various

Kull 01This is a massive 448 page omnibus collecting more than 20 stories from the 70’s and ’80. Kull was created by Robert E Howard in 1926 some years before he would go on to create the better known Conan. Only two of the less than a dozen Kull stories were published at the time with the majority being printed after Howard’s death.

Some of the tales here are graphic adaptations of existing stories and some are original works based on the characters. The adaptations do tend to be longer. Because these works were published in other titles, mostly The Savage Sword of Conan, they are self-contained and reading them together exposes large holes in plot, time, and characterisation. You also see Kull’s origin story re-told at least four times.

Howard was a popular and accomplished writer and the adapted stories rely heavily on narration that is lifted straight from his books. Whilst exposing us to beautiful language it makes for slow reading. It also reveals the depth in Howard’s work. As well as heroic stories of battle and honour likened to Greek myth, and eldritch horror in the Lovecraftian vein, he also gets very metaphysical. There are questions about the nature of time, space and existence; the nature of man; the role of civilisation and the destiny of humanity.

The art is all black and white as most of the stories were published this way. You are exposed to a huge number of artists and see myriad variations in the way recurring characters and worlds are drawn. Some of the work is the harsh black ink of the newsprint variety but others have much more subtle, rich shading with soft greys giving a more three dimensional feel.

In addition to the copious stories there are a lot of articles of the period detailing the world of Kull and the life of Robert E Howard. Including a fan letter by one Robert Bloch who would, some years later, go on to write the script for the film Psycho. There are also covers and additional artwork.

You certainly get a lot of pages for your money. The paper is cheap newspaper quality however and some of the printing (white on black text in particular) is poorly reproduced. There is almost no guttering between the pages making you bend the spine back on itself in order to read the words.

A valuable introduction to this lesser known character and a Thumbs Up!

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