Headlines   2003Review Index   March 27, 2003
Suspended Animation

Michael Vance - Mark Allen
Michael Vance Books

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Worms of The Earth

      In the glory days of the Roman Empire, Titus Sulla, Roman governor over Pictland, rules with a cruel, hard fist, crucifying those enemies of the state who are unfortunate enough to be captured.  For Pict king Bran Mak Morn, however, vengeance is about to be served upon Sulla, with the aid of a most fearful, and unlikely ally.  Will his revenge be as "sweet" as he expects?

      Robert E. Howard's Worms of The Earth was originally adapted to comic form in 1976 in Marvel's Savage Sword of Conan.  The story follows the Pictish king as he seeks to enlist the aid of a race of beings who were once "almost human."  This race, having separated themselves from the race of men, are now changed, and feared throughout the land. Adapting the story to comic form was the task of writer Roy Thomas and artists Barry Windsor-Smith and Tim Conrad.

      Thomas does an admirable and non-enviable job of fitting such a tale into a 39-page comic story.

      While Smith provides the first seven pages of the story's artwork, Conrad produces the overwhelming majority, and for the better.  Conrad's Bran appears far more foreboding, formidable, even savage, than Smith's.  He is more "in character" with how Robert E. Howard himself described him; a man with "a certain fierce innate vitality, comparable only to that of a wolf or a panther."  Conrad's art style also fits the tone of the story very well. 

      Though highly entertaining, Worms is a dark tale, with dark characters, and not one ray of hope or brightness.

      Worms of The Earth is recommended for those who enjoy sword and sorcery tales, Conan, or any work of Robert E. Howard.  Due to some adult situations, and the general dark nature of the story, it is not suggested for younger readers.

      Find it at comic shops, comic conventions, and online auctions and catalogs.

      Worms of The Earth, published by Wandering Star and Cross Plains Comics, 64 pages (8.5 x 11 format), $9.95.

      Review by Mark Allen

Mortal Coils

      A woman awakes one morning to find she's in the body of the man who assaulted her.  An obsessed scientist, seeking to develop the latest in artificially-intelligent robots, plays a deadly game of hide-and-seek, using himself as bait.  A television program does more than entertain; it grants individual fantasies.

      These are some of the premises of an anthology comic called Mortal Coils, by creator/writer A. David Lewis, and various artists.  Though, it reminds me of an old television program.  Maybe you've heard of it; The Twilight Zone.  Mortal Coils invokes all of the feelings of mystery, foreboding, and surprise that were inherent in that t.v. show, perhaps to the maximum degree that a comic book can.  It's rather surprising, really, and a good example of why so many small-press creators are enjoying more success, these days; they produce great work.

      Lewis' characterization is superb, as characters are well-revealed, considering stories run two per issue.

      He also does an excellent job of pacing for this format.  There is no time for much buildup, or back-story, so it's cleverly worked in as you go.

Before the reader knows it, they have enjoyed a great story, in which more has taken place than does in some entire comic books. 

      The art, on the other hand is hit and miss, which is to be expected in an anthology comic.  The artists of the first two issues are Evan Quiring and Jason Copland,.  Both are very competent artists, who appear to work quite well in the black and white format.  Due to some difference in inkers in the first two issues, however, the quality of art work is not consistent, which could make some small difference in enjoyment.

      Mortal Coils is recommended for those who enjoy mystery, adventure, and the best in Twilight Zone-type stories. Go to www.redeyepress.net , or http://www.georgetown.edu/users/adl6/mortalcoils.html for direct information to order about Mortal Coils.

            Mortal Coils, Published by A. David Lewis, in association with Red Eye Press, 24 pages, $2.50.

       Review by Mark Allen


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