After reading the preview images that the good folks at Dynamite Entertainment sent Major Spoilers earlier this week, I could not help but take the opportunity to review the second installment in new series telling the early days of one of the most famous of Robert E. Howard’s villains, the man known as Thulsa Doom!
More after the Jump!
As we start this second issue, Thulsa Doom is accompanying the guardsman Mallius and his men back to their shattered city of Maracanda after they saved a group of potential slaves from a Pictish raiding party. Maracanda, which was laid waste to after Atlantis sunk below the waves, is in ruins, and in the aftermath even more dire things have happened. Upon their arrival Mallius discovers that the rulers of Maracanda, the Duke and Duchess, where slain and hung like animals in a butchers shop by the new “ruler” of Maracanda, a madman who claims to be a High Lord of Atlantis has come to the ruined city, and has used a powerful talisman to conquer the remains. Thulsa assures Mallius that the man is no Altantian High Lord, mainly because the amulet he is using to conquer and control is the item which Thulsa has been looking for.
Under attack by the madman, Thulsa, Mallius and his men retreat back to the Temple of Merama. There Thulsa explains the situation: As long as the enemy leader has the amulet, there is no chance of mounting a direct assault on him and freeing the city. When Mallius asks Thulsa who exactly he is, Thulsa sidesteps the answer, diverting attention back to the amulet. Telling them that it has the power not only to destroy, but to mend; he believes that he might be able to undo some of the damage visited upon the land by the Cataclysm. A plan is made to raid the madman’s fortress at night when most of his guards are off pillaging the city. With confidence, Thulsa tells the men if they can lead him to the “High Priest” Thulsa will handle killing him.Â As the raid begins, Mallius again presses Thulsa for answers as to his origin, and again Thulsa deflects the answer. Time is short, and they have to strike when the time is right.
The “High Priest” is found in his court chambers with a group of followers at his feet. When he sees the intruders, he once again begins to pontificate about how he will lay waste to them all, and do various things to them and their families, yadda-yadda-yadda. Calling forth some internal power of his own, Thulsa orders him to be silent. He then informs the “High Lord” and his men that the mark on his forehead is not what they where told it was. It is an Atlantian Mark of Shame., only awarded to the most repulsive of offenders. Thulsa then taunts the crazy man, “Was it… little boys, Great One? Or do you prefer things with four legs.”
When they hear this, the fake high priest’s men start to have their doubts about their leader. In an attempt to regain their loyalty, he uses the amulet’s power to call forth an “unholy ravager of the illimitable black shadow”, what looks like a demonic two-headed dog with spikes going down it’s back. He commands the creature to slay his enemies, but to everyone’s amazement, it does not attack, but hesitates. Suddenly, it begins to tear into “High Lord’s” men. When Mallius’s men begin to attack the beast, Thulsa warns them to stop, but the beast has already started in on them. While Mallius’s men fight for their lives, Thulsa advances on the charlatan, ripping the amulet from his neck and orders the monster to attack the one who summoned it. Then, with the ex-master dead, Thulsa uses the amulet and orders it back toÂ where it came. The creature looks at hims, and says, “Goodbye, Thulsa Doom, for now…” and disappears.
With all of the charlatan’s men, and Mallius’s men, dead, he finally demands to know who Thulsa Doom is. Thulsa tells him, “I was a slave. I escaped, Mallius.” Mallius tells him that no one escapes from Atlantis. “In the destruction.” Thulsa says, looking upon the amulet, “And I took this with me. I might be able to undo some of the damage with it.” He tells Mallius he may be able to repair his city, and more. But his declaration is interrupted by a blast which throws them both across the room. A beautiful woman wielding magic has appeared in their midst, and her name is Ancasta. She had a part in Thulsa’s escape from Atlantis; she’s here for the amulet, and for Thulsa’s head.
Executive Editor Luke Lieberman and script writer Arvid Nelson have hit on a mixture of magic and suspense that works a spell on it’s reader. Prior to this,Thulsa Doom was simply a powerful necromancer who was the primary foil for Robert E. Howard’s Kull of Atlantis. Not to slight him, he was a great villain, but a villain nevertheless and not the main character. Nelson and Lieberman have taken this great villain and wove the beginning of a back story that makes him into something more. Thulsa Doom has been given a hint of tragedy about him that makes the reader wonder what happened in his past to make him the man he is today. You tend to forget this is one of the great arch-villains, and actually start thinking of him as a hero. Right when you get comfortable with that image of Thulsa Doom, the mask slips just a little and you have a hint of the evil beneath.Â Great writing.
The art work is great as well. Lui Antonio’s draws excellent eye-candy. The pages consist of dynamic angels and cinematic scenes that draw the reader into the story. The landscapes and city ruins all have a sense of weight behind them. Added with Romulo Fajardo Jr’s colors and the pages just pop. A great experience all the way around. And there is not really anything that I can add in regards to Alex Ross’s covers other than they are spectacular, as usual.
The initial storyline of Thulsa Doom series, Feast of Venom, has been action packed looks to be
the beginning to a great tale. Revealing the untold history of a great literary villain may have been something of a leap of faith, but it is a leap that is well worth the chance. I’m giving Thulsa Doom #2 a score of 4 out of 5 stars.