Review by Frank Plowright
The back cover claims the material presented in this $19 books has been digitally cleaned and re-mastered. While being grateful for the availability of strips out of print for over thirty years, the re-mastering is hardly a quality procedure, and however good the stories might be the first impression is of smudging and Ben Day dots.
A King Comes Riding featured Kull as King of Valusia, and an early chapter here runs through the circumstances of that occurring. The opening story concludes the Kull contributions of Gerry Conway and Marie Severin. She’d pencilled most of the previous volume, and the look suffers slightly from Frank Chiaramonte inking her work rather than her brother John. It’s a decent story of deception and its consequences.
Thereafter Kull’s enemies unite with a new and very effective ally able to usurp him. Roy Thomas delivers a tense script adapting a story by Kull’s creator Robert E. Howard, pitting Kull against seemingly impossible odds, and it’s the best material in this book by a country mile. This is due in no small part to the effective layouts and subtle characterisation of Mike Ploog, the determining factor of quality being that he inks his own pencils.
Thomas diverges from Howard’s ending in order to take Kull on a path more suited to episodic serialisation, but one that pretty well erases most differences between Kull and Howard’s more famous Conan as he’s now a rebel attempting to reacquire his throne. Steve Englehart’s plots over this section don’t quite match the previous work, and never explain the new King’s motivation, merely alluding it’s necessary for greater plans. Simultaneously, the beauty of Ploog’s art is increasingly sucked away by a succession of unsympathetic inkers. By the time Ernie Chua (later Chan) inks his final chapter you’d not know it wasn’t Conan.
There’s then a total creative change as Doug Moench and Ed Hannigan arrive, making reference to several stories we don’t see, which is because they were in black and white, and so collected in the Savage Sword of Kull series. Hannigan’s pages are a mixture of the remorselessly mundane with the occasional really fine image, although the dodgy perspective and figure work of his first chapter is corrected by collaborating with Alfredo Alcala for the remainder.
Moench has Kull demand visions of his future from a sorceress, and rapidly regrets his folly as he takes them in. By now we’ve moved well away from anything set down by Howard, and Kull is a muscular brute seeing off monsters, ape-men and magicians, and the title story is literal. It’s stock sword and sorcery material with little inspiration, but there’s far worse in volume three, Screams in the Dark.