I love anthology books. I love the idea that you're gonna get something different each time out. That's why I would always buy Marvel Premiere, it always seemed to have something interesting on offer, including this, the first appearance of Robert E. Howard's puritan hero Solomon Kane.
Solomon Kane is a fascinating character, and is REH's only conflicted hero. Unlike Conan, who knows exactly why he does what he does, Kane is a haunted man, who travels the world, obsessively righting wrongs and fighting evil. At times, he considers himself nothing less than The Right Hand Of God, striking down the sinful with The Lord's blessing,
( not much of an ego problem, then ) but truthfully, he's an adventurer simply because, well, that's the kind of life he likes.
This two-parter was adapted by Roy Thomas ( natch! ) & Howie Chaykin from REH's tale Red Shadows, and it's a classic Howard story of revenge & obsession. It begins in France, where Kane, wandering gloomily through the forest, comes across a young girl who's been raped:
Good to his word, Kane makes it his life's mission to track down Le Loup, slaughtering his band one by one & putting ( literally ) the fear of God into them. Le Loup sees the writing on the wall and, being the slimy bastard that he is, takes care of his men himself, just ahead of Kane's appearance. One thing Chaykin's always been great at is decadence, and, in the louche, lazy, sneering face of Le Loup he gives us a bad guy reeking of perversion & vileness. He also does the best blood splatter of any comic book artist. When somebody gets cut in a Chaykin strip, you feel it viscerally.
This being the first time that hero & villain have met, I love the way Rascally Roy lets us know that Kane doesn't just randomly want to get revenge; He's actually mortally offended by the fact something like Le Loup exists at all. As the movie posters say: This time it's personal.
Of course, Le Loup escapes, leaving our even more than usually racked off hero to follow in hot pursuit.
Sadly, the 2nd part of the story isn't quite as riveting, as Kane tracks 'The Wolf' to the african jungle, encountering voodoo, zombies & bloody great man-eating gorilla's, introducing new characters and generally diluting the paranoia & single-mindedness of the first chapter. I guess even Howard had to cut back on the obsessiveness occasionally. Still, Roy & Howie do their usual spectacular jobs, and there are still some great scenes between Kane & Le Loup, leaving us in no doubt that these men were simply born to be at each other's throats.
And, after reading this, Solomon Kane did become my all time 2nd favourite Robert E. Howard character.
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