Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword, Volume 1
Written by Paul Tobin, Scott Allie, Mark Finn, Marc Andreyko, Joe Casey, Robert E. Howard, Jeremy Barlow, David Lapham, Joshua Williamson, Dave Land, Peter Doree
Art/Illustrations/Pencils/Inks/Colors by Wellington Alves, Ben Dewey, Greg Scott, Pop Mhan, Tony Parker, Fabio Cobiaco, Patric Reynolds, M.S. Corley, Sean Phillips, Tim Bradstreet, Tim Seeley, Robert Atkins, Rebecca Buchman, Michael Atiyeh, Dave Stewart, Grant Goleash, Michelle Madsen, Jose Villarrubia, Brian Miller, Hi-Fi Colour Design, Dan Jackson
Letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: January 9, 2013
Cover Price: $17.99
Okay, first off, the individuals listed above were done so in the order in which their stories were placed in the anthology, subdivided by the type of work they contributed. No offense was implied towards any person who might have been placed incorrectly in this review. There, I’ve been about as politically correct as I can be. All characters are based upon the work of Robert E. Howard. This is, after all, Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword, Volume 1.
Admittedly, I expected this particular graphic novel to be filled with stories of Conan, Kull, Red Sonja, and other such barbaric tales…and a few of the tales are of that genre, though most are not. But my surprise at finding such a variety of stories was a pleasant one as I was introduced to several of Howard’s creations for the first time and found myself wanting more. Compilations such as this are rare, mainly because it embraces such a wide range of concepts from a single writer.
The Conan stories are essentially typical Conan stories. I’m not meaning that as an insult in any way, as I have much love for the stories of everyone’s favorite Cimmerian. Thievery, lusty (and busty) women of ill repute, evil sorcery and much bloodshed are all common components to those tales. And I could find no fault in the ones presented here.
The El Borak prequel and tale both showed depth of character and storyline, the plots were laden with politics and intrigue. And while the context isn’t something I’m normally interested in, the presentation is such that you find yourself drawn into the story.
The sixteenth century tale of Dark Agnes is my favorite of the bunch. Full of humor and bloodshed, it gives you great insight into this particular character and why she does what she does. Adding in a bit of women’s lib at the end only made it seem that much more authentic for the time period when the protagonist was originally conceived.
The Sailor Steve Costigan tale was probably the one I cared for the least. The entire story seemed two dimensional, almost wooden. I didn’t feel like I have any idea what the point was or who Costigan truly is. It really leaves you uninterested more than anything.
The most pulp story-ish of the bunch is the one centered around The Sonora Kid. It’s your typical old west theme, and it takes place in a saloon, of course. Trade in the gunfight for a knife fight and there you have it…other than a little arson at the end. Not a bad read, just more action than words.
The Brule tale is that of a savage mariner and is broken into two parts. Though we learn little of the man himself, we are privy to the journey and the adventures therein. Fighting great sea monsters and rescuing mermaids leads to the acquisition of an superb weapon that will serve him well in years to come.
The noir tale of Detective Steve Harrison is pretty cut and dry. A good story that neatly wraps up at the end. My only problem was that I kept thinking of Steve Harris (of Iron Maiden) and it kept me giggling throughout the reading. I kept humming bass lines from old Maiden songs. But I really did like it. I would love to read the originals and really need to find them, if possible.
There’s also a very short yarn that seems almost Lovecraftian in the telling. You know the drill: an ancient text leads to an item with a curse, which in turn leads to the death and destruction of the individual(s) responsible. This one features some weird cross between Cthulhu, a toad and a horse. You’ll have to see for yourself, I cannot really explain it.
The end result of all this is a fairly decent compilation of some little known Howard creations and a couple of great Conan stories. It compiles the first four issues of this series and adds in a cover and pinup gallery for good measure. With a variety of art from a wide range of artists, each tale is unique in it’s own right. Not a bad purchase for someone who wants a plethora of stories inspired by the creator of the world’s most famous barbarian. A solid four on a five point scale, this is definitely a must have for Conan fans. If nothing I’ve said so far has piqued your interest then move along, there’s nothing to see here.