Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guest Review - The Classics - Kull the Conqueror #2

   Back with another guest review is my pal Lyle Tucker, with a look at one of my all-time favorite Robert E. Howard-based comics:

KULL THE CONQUEROR #2, "The Shadow Kingdom," Marvel Comics, September 1971.

   Throughout the history of our favorite “junk medium” there have been runs of exemplary work which stand the test of time and shine like brilliant jewels in a sea of sometimes merely-competent visual literature (i.e. Eisner's SPIRIT, Lou Fine's CONDOR, Steranko's NICK FURY, etc). 
   With Marvel's KULL THE CONQUEROR such a run of visual sumptuousness started with the second issue. Even though the first-ever comic-book attempts at interpreting Robert E. Howard's Conan-lite were also visually highbrow, with Berni Wrightson giving us our initial gorgeous taste in CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #10, and Wally Wood splendidly inaugurating the CONQUEROR title with Ross Anru's assistance, it really wasn't until the brother-and-sister team of Marie and John Severin took the artistic chores that something quite special began. 
   Their KULL was a far more organic affair than either Wrightson's or Wood's, and the look they achieved immediately plunked us into a world quite unlike anything we had seen in the super-hero-centric '60s/'70s.
   Roy Thomas wrote the adaptation, and does a fine job of it, even if there is a bit of silliness involved with just how the villains of the piece are discovered and unmasked, and how that information is conveyed to Kull (by one of the people Kull suspects as being an imposter – which would be akin to The Joker disguised as Alfred telling Bruce Wayne he couldn't be anyone but himself because he is a butler). 
   It is Marie Severin who especially shines. Having already had a long history in comics, she takes to the subject exquisitely, penciling the brawn-heavy action with a deft eye and a raw sensibility one wouldn't have, perhaps unfairly, attributed to a woman. 
   Cementing the deal are John's immediately identifiable inks. As he had already shown over Trimpe's HULK, John's approach elevated any comic page to true works of art. 
   Even though this as-far-as-I-know only brother-and-sister team *ever* in comics produced less than a dozen issues, and such artistic luminaries as Mike Ploog and Alfredo Alcala would later do him justice, it is the run which begins with this issue that stands as the pinnacle of KULL's somewhat rocky comic-book reign.
Grade: A-

1 comment:

e1e2t3 said...

I've always loved Mary Severin's sprawling, almost awkward-kinetic figures. (Sometimes there is only a hairbreadth, if deft, difference between her serious comic work and hr comic comic work.) I loved her work on the Silver Age Hulk and Doctor Strange and Not Brand Echh, but these issues of Kull are surely a high point for both her and her brother.
And was there ever an inker who so commandeered another artists pencils as much as did John Severin? And always to such magnificent effect. In some instances he sort of "normalized" the work of artists whose figures and faces were otherwise oddly skewed. His sister's work was great no matter who inked it, as far as I could tell.
Yeah, the art in these issues of Kull have some of that "mists of time" look and detail that makes Hal Foster's Prince Valiant so wonderful.