Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a die-hard Robert E. Howard fan, but his work is something that I’ve become familiar with through more modern adaptations, however loose they may be.
Bruce Jones’ addition to the Solomon Kane saga, Red Shadows, is an adaptation of Howard’s Skulls in the Stars and a suitable introduction to the character and the world created by Robert E. Howard.
The story opens by giving the Puritan warrior (a walking contradiction) the option of two roads into Torkertown: The short, direct route or the long, tortuous, haunted swamp path. Knowing Kane and his never-ending quest to vanquish all that is evil, you can guess which road he takes.
Bruce Jones re-creates a character in Solomon Kane that fully captures the pulpiness of Howard’s era, with one-liners like “Know the bite of Puritan steel” or “Damn my soul for a moment’s clear light!” Kane isn’t exactly what I would call an anti-hero, but he’s far too neurotic and weird to be considered a traditional hero. It’s almost as though he’s in a class of his own, and you’re either going to be on board with him or not.
It would be an easy route for a writer to turn Kane into a Puritan Snake Plissken, and most publishers or even movie studios would find that more suitable for marketing purposes, but Jones wisely resists, simply presenting the character as he is. It turns out to be one of the comic’s best and most refreshing features.
Artist Rahsan Ekedal, however, sculpts Kane into a mysterious, dashing cloaked figure who at times looks more like a superhero than I’d like. The world he creates around Kane, however, is cryptic, with fog and supernatural entities practically leaping off each page. Certainly, that is where Ekedal and colorist Dan Jackson find their legs.
With a Solomon Kane movie that has been making its way around the film festival circuits (hopefully with a US release date on the way), there will be a lot of interest generated around Howard’s character. If you’re looking to get into the series, Red Shadows might be a good place to begin.