Monday, January 19, 2009

Kull #3

Continuing their love affair with Conan and his related properties, Dark Horse recently nailed down the rights to Kull, a Richard E. Howard creation that actually predates the existence of the famed Barbarian. Oddly enough, Conan's first appearance came as the centerpiece of a story that had previously been rejected as a Kull vehicle. It should go without saying, then, that the two have quite a bit in common.

Having read issues of both titles, I have to admit that I found Conan to be twice the storyteller its cousin is. Where that series never spends more than a few moments between plot developments, the first half of this issue is burned on light banter and premonitions. I have a hard enough time getting into tales of swords and sorcery, set somewhere in the dark ages… is it too much to ask that something happens beyond a few aimlessly unsheathed swords and one or two cautious whispers about a dark power? Even when the page does finally erupt into violence, the moment quickly passes, fading back into yet another long, boring stream of discourse.

If his pace leaves something to be desired, writer Avid Nelson doesn't exactly make amends with his dialog. I can understand that the tone of these stories is a big part of their appeal, that every revelation must be treated as a significant change in the status quo. It can grow a bit redundant, and paints the supposedly bright Kull as a bit of an ignoramus, but fair enough – that's part of the original material's lore. But if I can't even understand what it is that he's reacting to, what startling message the messenger has delivered to merit such a reaction, then what's the point? While everyone makes sure to address each other by name a dozen times over, ensuring we don't forget that yes, the Queen's name is Igraine, no such explanation is forthcoming for the details of their conversations. As a new reader, I was abandoned only a few pages in and never caught up. If this series has managed to become so lost within itself during just its third issue, I can't even imagine what it might be like after twenty or thirty.

Will Conrad's artwork is detailed, if unspectacular. His renditions of Kull and Brule, with whom we spend the majority of this issue, are equally lumpy and top-heavy. Their faces never seem to match from panel to panel, and I found the excessive amount of linework that's spent on their bodies gave the impression that both were much older than they're intended to be. Either these guys are managing to flex every muscle in their bodies from dawn to dusk or they've developed such a terrifyingly wrinkled physique that they should be ashamed to be walking around shirtless. Conrad's landscapes fare a bit better, particularly during the scene setting panels early in the issue, but they too eventually fall prey to the artist's tendency to over-detail.

If you thought Conan was tough to follow, Kull will make it seem like a walk in the park. While the issue's period-specific vocabulary and constant breaks in the action may please fans of the original material, it also ensures that they're the only ones who will enjoy it in this new incarnation. I'm going to skip it, and unless you were already lining up to buy it on release day, chances are good you'll want to do the same.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 2

No comments: