Thursday, February 28, 2013

H Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines

There aren't many books of British comic strip reprints that could boast the talents of Jesus Blasco, Mike Hubbard, C. L. Doughty, Bill Baker and John Millar Watt in all one volume... but that book is here! And the strips, reproduced from original artboards, has never looked better.

Gathering together three classic adaptations behind a Millar Watt cover, this latest title from Book Palace Books contains King Solomon's Mines, Allan Quatermain and Montezuma's Daughter. The first should need no introduction as it is one of the most famous of all adventure novels, written in a delightfully readable and fast-paced style that means it can still be enjoyed today – unlike many books from the Victorian era, which are too slow and plodding for a modern audience. The artwork is some of Bill Baker's best and one wonders what led to the strip being taken over by the equally talented C. L. Doughty part-way through. Doughty was the more dynamic of the two artists and the strip was none-the-worse for his arrival.

Allan Quatermain is the sequel, in which the hunter and adventurer of that name introduced in King Solomon's Mines, returns to Africa after persuading his friends from the latter book to accompany him. The artwork here was produced in line & wash by Mike Hubbard as a follow-up to his beautifully rendered version of KSM for Ranger.

But for me the star of the show is Jesus Blasco with a barnstorming adaptation of Montezuma's Daughter, which takes up almost half the book. The long, rambling story begins as a simple tale of revenge but takes in a shipwreck, slave trading, swordfights, capture by Aztecs, torture, sacrifice and vengeance. Phew!

Wrapping up the volume is a lengthy introduction from editor Steve Holland which reveals the story behind the stories and how his novels were inspired by his own travels and explorations of Africa and South America.

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