Monsters Unleashed #1: "Skulls In The Stars"

Monsters Unleashed #1
"Skulls In The Stars"

Script: Roy Thomas
Art: Ralph Reese
Based on the story by Robert E. Howard

Down through the ages, the name of Solomon Kane has echoed more loudly, and more strongly than any other! This is one of his adventures...

Solomon Kane is standing at a crossroads. To take the longer road to Torkertown through the swamp because the townspeople had warned him of the other... Not the road that leads to the moors, because that way is haunted by some foul creature who claims men as its victims! Solomon Kane turns towards the swamp, and sees the shack of Ezra, the miser... The elderly Ezra has lived there alone ever since his cousin Gideon had wondered away, and died in the swamp. His body was never found... As Solomon Kane prepares to make his decision, he hears laughter coming from the moor side! HA HA HA HA HA Without mirth... such as no human being has ever laughed before... Then, the sound of a scream breaks through the unearthly laughter! The screamer at least was human!

His blood quickening, the dour puritan succumbs to the lure of danger and of adventure! With evil afoot, this strong man must combat Satan himself! He goes... having defied him several times before! Solomon Kane draws his pistol and curses the half-light that conceals the approaching figure of a man! What had once been a man! A thing that falls writhing and gibbering at his very feet... to drown in its own blood! The moonlight spreads, melting the mist surrounding the shadows... and Solomon Kane saw what had killed the thing at his feet...

Instead of running along the moors... or screaming before being dragged down to his doom... Solomon Kane aimed his long pistol and fired... with no effect upon the drooling winged creature before him! If a pistol ball failed to harm it, then he would see what the Lord's good steel could do! As the spawn of hell came forward...

Solomon Kane's blade passed through the creature without resistance! The savage thrust was met by empty air... while the moor monster's flaying talons thudded against his chest! His broken sword and shaken body informed Solomon Kane that his was a most desperate plight, indeed... Instead of taking flight, he lept at the shambling thing before him... and wished only to give a fair account of himself before his end came... and to see if it were possible to inflict harm upon his unusual assailant!

Solomon Kane drove his broken sword into the unreal creature... while its strong hands held him at first... then tossed him aside like an unwanted toy! By the dead man's body, a man fought with a demon beneath the pale moonlight... and the demon had all the advantages... but one...! If such a creature could be brought into existence by abstract hate... then surely courage could be used as a weapon against that ghostly being.

Solomon Kane fought with the strength of a madman... until he dimly realized that his foe had given way before him... and its laughter had become furious screams! As they grappled... he started to understand its meaning... and his fleshed crawled, and his hair stood on end when its secrets sanks their icy fingers into his very soul... and Solomon Kane knew!

Old Ezra's hut was on the edge of the swamp. Few people saw Ezra, except for a brief glance of his yellow eyes peering through the fungus-filled windows. A small group of men now made their way towards that lone hut by the light of the afternoon... Ezra sat inside the hut, his deadened eyes as deep as the swamp itself. KNOCK! KNOCK! Once inside, Solomon Kane asks Ezra about the miser's cousin, who had lived with him. Ezra claims that Gideon had wandered off into the swamp... and never came back... a year ago or so... He undoubtedly lost his way... and had perished there. Solomon Kane reveals to Eztra that he himself had fought the unearthly being who haunts the moors. It fled from him, but not before whispering its own horrible truth... How Ezra feared that his own cousin would tell others of his past cruelties to him... and how Ezra stabbed him one evening, a year ago!

Ezra dragged his barely living cousin into the moors -- for the miser had feared Gideon's ghost might haunt the area of his death. It is Gideon's ghost that stalks the moors at night. As he was insane in life -- so is he after death! He does not know where his slayer is -- and since his spirit can not distinguish one man from another -- he slays them all, in hopes of finding his killer! His cousin's ghost will know Ezra soon enough if they were to meet again -- and then Gideon's ghost can truly rest in peace! The miser panics and admits that it is Gideon's ghost who haunts the moors! He will not be sacrificed so that the hapless villagers will be able to sleep at night! Solomon Kane warns the miser to keep away from the gun! In the name of heaven above -- Solomon Kane commands him -- and his blade prevents Ezra from reaching it on the wall! THUNK! They have heard his confession and know that only Ezra's death will stop the ghost.

Solomon Kane and the villagers haul Ezra to the edge of the moor... where they prepare to pass sentence upon him -- The miser will not die by noose, nor by bullet, or the sword -- but at the talons of him who he slew! Nothing else will satiate Gideon's ghost. Ezra screams to be burned at the stake -- to be flayed alive -- anything but this! There is no other way. The miser must make his peace with God -- or with Satan. The sun is setting -- as Solomon Kane walks across the fen, and the moon was rising when he heard Ezra screaming -- "There are skulls in the stars!" In the evening, a shadowy form flew across the surface of the moon -- along the moors, there was a single shriek, along with a blood-curdling parody of laughter -- and the moors were quiet once more.

Roy Thomas and Ralph Reese both have prior experience with characters by Robert E. Howard, in the pages of Conan The Barbarian.

Solomon Kane's puritan garb would not look out of place in 1973 or at a comic book convention with cosplayers.

Gideon's ghost had a ball with the pistol and Solomon Kane had to steel himself with his broken sword against this unusual foe.

Mego action figures were dolls that broke rather easily in 1973.

Steve Chung
"Skulls In The Reviews!"