Tag Archives: comic book

Xombi

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Xombi [Amazon, Publisher, Local Library] by John Rozum, Fraser Irving, & al.

Rozum Irving Xombi

For a book that collects a comic starting with issue #1, this really gets going in media res. It’s full of exotic supporting characters who get defined on the fly. While the Xombi’s powers are the result of hyper-technological “nanites,” his friends and foes seem to be mostly supernaturally religious/occult in their origins and orientations. They seem to have some larger background, because they shared in an earlier series, but they are all sort of quirky and enigmatic anyway: the tone is closer to Bob Burden than Jack Kirby. Superpowered nuns and rabbis are funny, right? Although the original Xombi from the 1990s became involved with the larger DC superhero milieu, this reboot sequence (by the original writer) is more contained. The origin story is not rehashed, but rather dribbled out through incidental allusion.

I was motivated to pick this up to read because the art looked good: Frazer Irving provides expressive painted panels throughout, and there are a generous number of full-page tableaux. The six issues of the new series conclude a distinct plot arc “The Ninth Stronghold,” and the 2009 re-debut of Xombi in The Brave and the Bold 26 is appended to these. Scott Hampton’s art in the latter is looser and more expressionistic.

A King Comes Riding and Other Stories

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Chronicles of Kull: A King Comes Riding and Other Stories [Amazon, Abebooks, Publisher, Local Library] by Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, John Jakes, & al., based on Kull of Atlantis of Robert E Howard, volume 1 of the The Chronicles of Kull series.

Howard Thomas The Chronicles of Kull Atlantis A King Comes Riding and Other Stories

This trade paper comics volume collects the earliest Marvel comics featuring Robert E. Howard’s Kull of Atlantis, from the early 1970s. It’s a very full book, containing about ten individual comics worth of material. 

Kull is king of Valusia in the pre-Hyborian age of the far antiquity of Howard’s imagination. In these stories (some of them based on REH originals), he is continually subjected to court intrigues, sorcerous impersonations, assassination attempts, and the like. The narrative tone is dark, verging on paranoid. 

The art, meanwhile, though often providing moments of violence, tends toward light. Marie Severin’s four-color treatments would look better on old-fashioned newsprint, but they come out jarringly bright on the glossy white stock of this reprint volume. The visual design of Valusia is not so exotic (as Mark Finn points out in the foreword). Instead, it has a decidedly medieval European look, crossing the blood-and-guts REH concept with something of the style of Prince Valiant. Kull’s costuming varies quite a bit; he often runs about in what appears to be little more than briefs, owing perhaps to his barbarian origins.

While most of the inhabitants of his kingdom seem to be unreliable if not inimical, Kull’s best pal — the only other character for whom he shows actual affection, in fact — is Brule, who is a Pict and thus a hereditary enemy of the Atlantean savage Kull, though he plays the Robin to King Kull’s Batman. Not only does the lead character show a surprising shortage of libido (if we discount lust for battle), there aren’t many women in evidence in these stories at all. The few who do appear are inevitably high-born, and serving as pawns in a larger game. 

On the whole, these pieces from the first heyday of sword and sorcery color comics aren’t awful, but they do show their age.