ADVANCE REVIEW! Kull: The Cat and the Skull #2 will come out on Wednesday, November 8, 2011.
The second issue of Kull: The Cat and the Skull delivers some sword-swinging action, some heavy philosophy on the nature of fate and a solid portrayal of Robert E. Howard’s brooding barbarian king.
The story continues with the serpent men planning yet another doomed attack on King Kull, this time being egged on by some unseen wizard who can explode people with a wave of his hand. Kull, oblivious to the uprising, continues to be enthralled by the ancient talking cat Saremes. His councilor Tul and his wife Igraine are concerned that Kull is listening to much and too often to the cat, and seems to be incapable of making decisions without first consulting her. The only thing that Kull will not defer to Saremes on is the forbidden wedding of Delcardes and Kulra Thoom, which is the point that Saremes is most insistent on. At the same time, the unseen leader of the serpent men is moving behind the scenes, positioning events so that Kull falls even further under Saremes’ spell.
David Lapham is striking a good balance between adaptation and pastiche in The Cat and the Skull. He has added some considerable plot points — mainly the serpent man uprising — that help to pepper the early part of the story with some action. I was impressed how he used Howard’s dialog almost verbatim in the conversation between Kull and Saremes regarding the past, the future, fate, and the whims of the gods. It is just these kinds of introspective moments that distinguish Kull as more than just a less-successful, pre-Conan Howard creation.
For those that know Howard’s original story, Lapham does throw in some heavy-handed foreshadowing. I don’t want to give away any surprises to those reading the story for the first time, but there are many clues of things to come.
Gabriel Guzmen’s art is still pretty to look at and sets a nice tone for the story. There are some great compositions here, like when Kull’s Red Slayers on horseback burst into the serpent men’s lair. And the actions scenes are handled with equal aplomb — I really enjoyed how Guzmen depicted a scene that was nothing more than a few pages of Kull talking and eating with a cat.
My complaints with the series still stand, and aren’t likely to be fixed any time soon. The “Nosferatu serpent men” come off as comic relief more than any real threat, and they just don’t look like serpent men. Really, Guzmen draws them with such goofy facial expressions that I can only imagine they are purposefully intended to be a joke. The much-despised “Pictafarian” version of Brule the Spear Slayer only appears for a few panels, but I think we just have to accept that this is Dark Horse’s official version of Brule and we aren’t going to get anything different.
As we know, the real action is going to go down next issue, and there is a nice preview page of Kull battling in the Forbidden Lake. I am looking forward to seeing how Lapham and Guzmen handle those scenes. Because anytime a Howard character battles and octopus man, good times are had by all.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the ’90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack’s reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.