The pairing of two of fictions most legendary and popular warriors seems like a fantastic idea, throw into the mix superstar writer Gail Simone and equally talented artist Aaron Lopresti and you most certainly have a match made in Olympus, or in the case of this tantalisingly titanic tale – Hyboria.
A decade before our favourite Themysciran Princess first debuted unto the World stage, a Cimmerian, black haired and sullen eyed, sword in hand and ready to tread the jewelled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet first appeared, his name was Conan – thief, warrior, reaver and slayer. Robert E. Howard’s cult character became a huge hit and has spawned myriad novels, comics and movie adaptations since his first appearance in December 1932. This virtually superhuman barbarian has crushed all who have stood before his powerful presence, man and beast has befallen his blade, but has he finally met his match in the form of Zeus’ favoured champion – Wonder Woman?
And since we’re talking legendary pairings, how about the venerable pairing of acclaimed scribe Gail Simone and prestigious penciller Aaron Lopresti, coming together once more to bestow upon us, humble comic fans, another glorious interpretation of the Themysciran Titan. Their previous collaboration on Wonder Woman a few years back was literally one of the greatest runs in comic-book history, and lo, once more their particular brand of magic artistry brings forth yet another astonishingly epic saga.
Now, at first glance the idea of teaming up Wonder Woman – the poster child of female liberation and emancipation, a shining emblem for feminism with a character in whose reality treated women often in the tired damsel in distress trope may seem like an odd pairing, but it’s for these exact reasons that this comic works so well, like popular heroine Red Sonja before her, Diana is able to turn the tables on the barbaric Cimmerian to prove that, not only can she match him in strength and fortitude, but ably surpass him.
Simone’s deliberate slow build up in the story allows us to richly immerse ourselves in Conan’s world, she is the Queen of immersion and deftly drags the readers into his cold and savagely tempestuous reality. Alongside Gail’s impressive writing talents stands Aaron’s always astonishing artwork, these two creators compliment each others work like no other, and Aaron’s pencilling is some of the best I’ve seen in comics for years.
“What makes one a legend? How do legends carve their name into history when countless others are forgotten? Wonder Woman and Conan the Barbarian are destined by the fates to be legendary, but when their stories collide, will both emerge victorious or will the fickle Gods cut their lives short?
The collected version of Wondy/Conan is available in both soft and hardcover variants from your local comic-book emporium. And now is an excellent time to support your local comic-book shop, as most offer a home delivery service and I can’t think of a better way to spend quarantine than indulging in the wonderful world of high fantasy! Take care and stay safe fellow fans of fantastic fiction.
You know, we live in a world now so utterly dominated by social media and online critical presence, that nothing is really given a fair shake of the proverbial stick anymore. There used to be a time when the general populace at large would actually, actively make up their own minds on whether they liked or loathed something… by actually experiencing said thing! Now, well they just read and/or parrot what some random critic or stranger on the other end of this magical digital conveyance known as the internet is spouting. Critics and online meta-data collecting sites such as Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are (in my eyes at least) doing a huge disservice to both the the hard work put in by film directors and the film industry itself, critics tend to now have the power of whether a movie succeeds or fails, not through how objectively good or bad it is, but often according to their own set criteria.
(May I just say, right off the bat, that even though I do review both comic-books and occasionally movies, I never, ever review things I have not enjoyed… can’t quite see the point in it, heaping negativity onto something that clearly wasn’t aimed at me but might have given other people pleasure seems, pointless.)
Neil Marshall’s most recent celluloid outing – Hellboy immediately springs to mind as a really rather splendid conversion of it’s original source material (a classic indie comic-series by artist/writer Mike Mignola)but one that is apparently, according to online film critics an uninspired remake of Guillermo Del Toro’s original Hellboy twosome (which admittedly were a fun time, mostly due to Ron Perlman’s presence) They are (in my humble opinion) incorrect, Marshall’s Hellboy take is fantastic, and in a lot of ways better (yep) than Del Toro’s own variant!
Director: Neil Marshall Writers: Mike Mignola and Andrew Cosby (screenplay) Actors: David Harbour, Milla Jovovich, Ian McShane, Daniel Dae Kim, Sasha Lane, and Thomas Haden Church.
British film director Neil Marshall has given the world such delicious delights as Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Centurion and Doomsday. He has also directed and produced a number of episodes of HBO’s televisual success – Game of Thrones. He is a huge fan of horror, fantasy and comic-books which made him the perfect choice as replacement for Del Toro. Marshall’s Hellboy is a gory, uber violent, and zany take on Mignola’s much beloved character, and a lot closer in tone and style to the original comic creation, with Mignola himself on-board as co-writer.
England 517 AD, and Blood Queen – Nimue (Milla Jovovich) has unleashed a cataclysmic plague upon the populace. Legendary King, Arthur and his faithful magician, Merlin thwart her nefarious plans by severing her limb from limb utilising the mythical blade Excalibur, and secrete her dismembered (yet still very much alive!) body across the British Isles.
Back in the present day, Hellboy (David Harbour) is mourning the accidental death of fellow BPRD agent and friend, Esteban Ruiz, who, dispatched to investigate a suspected vampire cult is bitten and himself becomes a creature of the night. Hellboy accidentally impales Ruiz, who with his dying breath informs Big Red that a prophesied end of days is close. Almost immediately after returning to BPRD headquarters, Hellboy is sent to England by his adopted human father, Trevor Bruttenholm (Ian McShane) to help an arcane Demon hunting group known as The Osiris Club in tracking down and killing three giants who are gleefully on a murderous and hungry rampage across jolly ol’ England. Elsewhere a hog faced faerie named Gruagach seeks the help of witch, Baba Yaga, in seeking out the arcane (de-limbed!) sorceress Nimue and once more unleash a dark plague of epidemic proportion upon the world.
Marshall’s Hellboy is a fun and fantastic rollick, a hyper stylised, gory, violent romp with one of comicdom’s most entertaining indie characters. As mentioned previously, I thoroughly enjoyed Ron Perlman as the titular character in Del Toro’s original duo of movies, but actor David Harbour (Stranger Things) is a damn fine replacement as Big Red. With a standout back up cast that includes Milla Jovovich hamming it up (in the best possible way) as Blood Queen Nimue, the always reliable Ian McShane as Hellboy’s adopted father and decent performances from Sasha Lane and Daniel Dae Kim… not to mention a surprise appearance from (and yes, I was fanboying hard on this one) one Lobster Johnson, brilliantly brought to life by Thomas Haden Church. Hellboy is silly fun from gory beginning through to overtly violent conclusion, yet throughout has it’s tongue firmly embedded in it’s (red, right) cheek! Recommended.