Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil – Puritanical Bliss

It seems somewhat inappropriate to recommend this book so heartily, so fervently. Restraint is more befitting the title character. But, damn, is Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil sixteen shades of badass!    

Solomon Kane is the blue-balled kin of Conan (Barbarian, Conqueror, Destroyer), just another bastard child of Robert E. Howard. He’s a pistol-packing pulp icon with blood on his hands and a prayer on his lips. Now, all of Howard’s boys are known for “gigantic melancholies,” for brooding in the wake of battle. But only Kane asks, “Are you there God? It’s me, Solomon.” Here’s the pitch. Vigilante Puritan has guns, will travel. He’s cold. He’s sharp. He’s the angel of death. Imagine Watchmen‘s Rorschach having found his religion, set loose upon the 16th century. From Europe to the high seas to darkest Africa, he cuts a swath of vengeance for his Lord. He’s a wanderer guided only by his grim moral compass.  All he needs on is playlist is vintage Johnny Cash. 

But don’t take my word for it. In the story fragment upon which this comic adaptation is based, Kane sums himself up rather succinctly:

“It has fallen upon me, now and again in my sojourns through the world, to ease various evil men of their lives.”

Kane makes for a compelling action hero. Not really a guy I’d like to play ski ball with, and maybe not a hero with mutual ideals (I’m a lapsed altar boy), but a tremendous catalyst for mayhem. You don’t have to know your mysteries of the rosary to enjoy the slaying of demons. Fact is, Kane puts down some wicked men and unleashes all manner of occult beasties in his sojourns. And that’s something we can all appreciate. My enjoyment of the Kane stories stems not from the man, but from his trappings. It’s the world and not the wanderer. Maybe it’s the wanderings themselves, the footfalls of fantasy. Since 1928, prodded along by the primal drumming of typewriter keys, Solomon Kane has endeavored to tame a wayward world.

It’s always been visceral.  Now there are visuals. 

Scott Allie, editor of all things Hellboy and Buffy as well as the writer of The Devil’s Footprints, tells a tale of Solomon in the Black Forest of Germany. It’s a great setting for an adventure, both thematically and visually. This is the home of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, a vast pagan wilderness rich with mystery. Big bad wolves and the like. In a very real way, it’s the stuff of nightmares. Mario Guevara and Dave Stewart collaborated on a truly haunting visual style. With much of this story set in the forest, the expectation is most likely green. It may come as a surprise then that this book is comprised primarily of slate grays, midnight blues, and burnt oranges. It’s an earthy, autumnal palate. Not quite dead, but on the way out. It’s an entirely organic way of getting the audience unsettled. Think campfire tale.


I’m not totally familiar with the earlier comic adaptations of the Solomon Kane stories, so I’m not sure if Allie references anything aside from the very brief prose fragment left by Robert E. Howard.  The original text of “The Castle of the Devil” is, to my knowledge, an unfinished story opening. Kane encounters a fellow wanderer called John Silent and tells him of a boy he rescued from a hangman’s noose. There is mention of an allegedly malevolent Baron Von Staler and the promise of retribution. But the remainder of the story–the truth behind the hanged boy, the nature of the Baron’s malevolence, and more–was all up to Allie. A lot of questions were left to be answered. By my tally, he didn’t get any wrong. 

Without giving too much away, there is something rotten (and rotting) in the house of Von Staler. I will tell you that there are ghosts and there are monsters (designed by Guy Davis, no less!). I will tell you that Kane spends more time flaying than he does praying. I will tell you that I never want to be Kane’s horse. But that is as much as I want to tell you aside from the fact that Allie is a great storyteller with a lock on Howard’s purple prose (which he handles eloquently, if that makes sense). Real gravitas. As for Mario Guevara’s pencils, they’re the best kind of scribbled ferocity. His style brilliantly recalls the Gary Gianni pen and ink illustrations usually coupled with the Howard stories. The guy’s a demon. 

All that, a Mike Mignola cover, and production art from the likes of Mario Guevara, Guy Davis, Joe Kubert, and John Cassaday. Say grace and dig in. 

        



Solomon Kane: Castle of the Devil
hits shelves this week. 


Paul Montgomery still loves ya, you godless heathens. Find him on Twitter or contact him at paul@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. I’ll be honest — I love the idea of Solomon Kane. And I think Scott Allie is a talented creator (loved Devil’s Footprints). But I didn’t feel as if this mini-series came together as we as it could have. I’m not even sure I could tell you what it was now — something just didn’t quite click for me.

    That said, I want to buy this TPB almost solely for that AMAZING Mignola cover. And if I do, maybe I’ll re-read it all in one chunk to see if it reads better as a whole.

    BTW – I remember first loving the visual of Solomon Kane from an old Marvel or Epic series back in the 80’s. I wanna say Mignola had done covers, but I might be wrong. If anyone can find an image of that, lemme know.

  2. Somone ate his Honey nNt cherrios.  Are there refrences to spiritual ritual, or does Go simply occupy the background? That’s a fantasric review,I’ll tell you what.

  3. Looks interesting, stories like this with vigilantes (a la the movie Taken) dispensing old fashioned justice have been popular as of late – some would say this kind of drama has been needed to quell the public’s appetite from the bitter state of things in the world right now.  Pulled.

  4. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @daccampo – I think it reads very well in trade. It’s sort of a small story, set pieces all tightly woven together. I definitely picked up more details on my second reading. 

    Do you remember anything else about the older Solomon Kane image?

    @DaveCarr – The story involves monks, mad and otherwise, as well as angelic/demonic texts. There are also conversations about religious relations (Kane is Puritan, the Baron is Catholic, and his wife is Muslim). Sorry if I’m being too vague. Really don’t want to give away too many reveals.  

  5. @Paul – I think it may read better in trade. Honestly, I like the writer, I liked the art, and I do own a copy of Howard’s Kane stories. I think he’s fascinating character, albeit a tough one to do right. I think you may be right; this series may read better in one satisfying chunk.

    Don’t remember much about it — just remember being drawn to the figure of Kane with the sword and gun and big hat. The more I think about it, it probably wasn’t Mignola…

  6. Sorry — that second paragraph was re: the old series. I wanna say it was from Marvel, but it may have been Marvel’s Epic imprint….

  7. Ah, I believe it would have been the Sword of Solomon Kane mini-series, published from 1985-1986. Thank you, Wikipedia. Can’t find the covers, though… I just remember seeing it on the spinner rack at the supermarket.

    Ah, spinner racks. I miss those in supermarkets. 

     

  8. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Well, Mignola did do an issue of The Sword of Solomon Kane.  Either way, the collection of the older comics is coming out later this month.  Maybe it’s in there. 

  9. Yessssss! That was it!

     :childhood glee:

     Thank you, Paul. Good find.

    And did you see the Sienkiewicz cover on issue #3? Giddy!

     

  10. I believe i now have a mission for SDCC. I want all of these individual back issues. I haven’t done that in quite some time (usually favoring a trade collection). But for some reason, I want all of these covers.

  11. There is nothing that can stop me from buying that phone book reprint collection.

  12. i read this in issue. it was pretty good.

  13. I loved this in issues – but if I had known the cover of the trade was going to be this beautiful, in the style of a pulp paperback, I would have waited for that reason alone.

  14. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    The trade also includes a page of crazy weapon designs from Guevara and a big gallery of creature designs from Guy Davis!  

    There are also page numbers, which thrills me more than it should. 

  15. Sounds great.  I’ll definitely pick it up.  Thanks for the recommendation.  

  16. That looks pretty friggin’ sweet, as the kids say.

  17. That’s some nice looking art! I might have to give this one a try.

  18. Is this structured like B.P.R.D. in that you don’t need to know anything for each mini?  Or would it be better to read some background first?  Either way, it looks great, and I love Dark Horse produced books.

  19. @Neb – you don’t need to know anything. I mean, there’s a certain mystery to Kane, but that’s part of the character. This is perfectly standalone.

  20. I read this in issues, and I would be tempted if they released a hardcover version.

    The writing and art were beautiful; however, I felt that certain fight sequences had some spatial/perspective issues that led to me being confused and kind of took away from the climax in issues #4/5.

    Still really good.

  21. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @Neb – Very accessible. This is the first mini. It’s probably easier to compare it to Hellboy, because Kane’s adventures are episodic. Not sure what Allie and Dark Horse have planned for the next mini, but judging by the character and the existing stories, I’d wager it’s going to be a completely different adventure.

    I’d actually consider B.P.R.D. more of a serial narrative because each arc seems to touch on those that came before.  

  22. @Paul — good observation. And perhaps since this first story is based on one of Howard’s short stories, it directly reflects the episodic nature of the pulp tales. I know they’ve announced there is more Kane coming, but I’m not sure if they’re going to continue to work from Howard’s original tales or branch off into something new. Either way, if you look at the way Dark Horse is handling the Conan series, I think each arc will continue to be accessible to new readers.

    BTW, saw this in the shop today and it looks fantastic. I’m refraining right now because it’s double-dipping AND I’m on a moratorium from purchasing anything other than regular weekly issues because SDCC is right around the corner… 😀