TRADE PAPERBACK REVIEW: Humanoid's The Hounds of Hell
Another Impressive Fantasy Graphic Novel Release Available Now...
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Before there was the fan-favorite Heavy Metal Magazine, which began in 1977, there was the French publication called Métal Hurlant. First published in 1974 by Les Humanoïdes Associés, the sci-fi and fantasy magazine's success inspired the publisher to continue to bring hard-hitting, gritty, and violent comics to the marketplace. Now, thanks to the publisher's American counterpart, Humanoids, fans of the classic old and modern new sci-fi, fantasy, and hardcore comics can pick up a variety of graphic novels and unique hardcover books.
The Hounds of Hell Trade Paperback
If you're a fan of Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja or other heroic fantasy comics or graphic novels, you'll love Humanoid Publishing's The Hounds of Hell. Written by Philippe Thirault with artwork by Christian Højgaard, Drazen Kovacevic and Roman Surzhenko, The Hounds of Hell features all of the sword and sorcery spectacular fans have come to expect from their favorite fantasy as well as an engaging story filled with plenty of murder, mystery and character development.
The cast of characters in The Hounds of Hell makes the story and it is these characters which the story revolves around. While the cast seems familiar in character type - to include the blind warrior woman Camarina, the savage archeress Triada, the talented sorcerer Avian, the acrobatic Khorsbad (also known as Three-Hands) and Harane of Tyr, the Eagle - each also is completely unique in personality and development. The troupe has been separated by distance and years and, when forced to come together again to face their greatest plight yet, soon realizes their lives and relationships aren't the same as they used to be.
The story is straight forward and easy enough to understand: the Hounds of Hell, a group of mercenaries formerly known for their war fighting abilities, is reunited and accepts a secret mission from the Empress of the Byzantine Empire. Tasked with finding a secret treasure unique in the underworld the likes of which would help the Empress become more powerful than ever, these 5 warriors - who've aged and grown weary from battle - must use every ounce of their wit and will in order to not only find the treasure, but simply survive. Of course, along the way, the band realizes they're a part of something more than a simple treasure hunt and they must face the consequences of their actions from years of murder, mayhem, death and destruction.
While the story itself seems somewhat cookie-cutter in format and style, the plot and tone are much darker than I expected. Considering The Hounds of Hell was recommended for fans of Conan the Barbarian and I've been a fan of Conan since I was a kid, I was excited to pick up The Hounds of Hell. However, I was somewhat surprised at the mature themes and brutality found in The Hounds of Hell. More akin to the original tales of Conan by Robert E. Howard than the kid-friendly comics I grew up reading, The Hounds of Hell features brutality and violence that's done abundantly, yet appropriately.
The artwork captures the brutality and violence well. Each panel is well laid out and thus easy to understand, making the story simple to follow and enjoy. The character designs are impressive and consistent throughout with each mercenary featuring unique characteristics, armor and weapons. As previously mentioned, the character's unique abilities and skills - magic, swordplay, archery, acrobatics, and brute strength - are conveyed through their appearance, ensuring none of the characters are confusing or misrepresented.
At 196 pages long, The Hounds of Hell is approximately the same length as an 8-issue mini-series. Like a mini-series, the book features a number of minor climaxes, cliffhangers and plenty of rising action to keep readers engaged and looking or more. All this leads to an ending that's seemingly abrupt, odd and - at the same time - completely feasible and realistic...or at least as realistic as a fantasy which features zombies, ghosts, blind warrior women, regrown limbs, and wings of steel. Readers will find themselves impressed with writer Thirault, who breaths life into a story that's engaging, entertaining and fun. He's not afraid to throw somewhat confusing plot changes into the mix and kill off major characters, keeping readers on the edge of their seats.
The Hounds of Hell is available now wherever fine graphic novels and comics are sold for a suggested retail price of $19.95.
For more information, be sure to check out www.Humanoids.com.
Be sure to check out the images here for a sneak peek at The Hounds of Hell.
- Jess C. Horsley