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Opus 61-


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61 Conan: The Jewels of Gwahlur.

A 66-page 3-issue mini-series, from a Robert Howard story.
Dark Horse, May to June 2005.
Preview for issue 1, issue 2 and issue 3.
Collected in December 2005.

One of the superbly designed pagesA really cute Conan doing what he does wellP. Craig Russell is working with one of his favorite writers, another dead one of course, and I must say that, even if I have no fondness for the character, he makes it look fun and highly readable.
In this story, Conan tries to put his hand on another hidden treasure and finds himself in the middle of a religious rivalry. The interesting thing is that a character I associate more with brawls than brains is here manipulating people and only resorts to violence when he has no choice.
Russell does not shy away from showing violence and corpses. It's rather shocking to see the combination of Russell's very elegant line with gruesome subject matter, and it works very well. Conan is here a young man in his prime, and, well, he's really cute in a stocky kind of way. As you can see from the pages on the left, Russell also gives us some of his famed highly detailed narration. All that made for a very entertaining read, even more than I thought it would be, and I'm sure it's going to become a favorite among Conan fans.

62 Coraline.

A 190-page adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel for kids.
Harper Collins (a 38-page preview), 2008.

The Other MotherAnd here is another collaboration with Neil Gaiman, this time for a weird, horror story for the young readers.
Coraline is a young girl who moves into an old house with her parents. She soon discovers a door, seemingly walled, but which in fact leads to another world where copies of her parents welcome her--copies with black buttons instead of eyes. And her Other Mother, as she calls herself, doesn't have any good intention...
Craig Russell gives us a wonderful interpretation of Gaiman's novel, blending real life and fantasy elements in a way that makes the reader empathize with Coraline's feelings as she explores her new worlds, the usual, boring one, and the hidden, at first exciting one. Gaiman has written a story that resonates probably more with kids (there are missing parents, dead children's ghosts, a talking cat, etc.), but since he never looks down on his young audience, older readers can get on the train and enjoy themselves.
Russell hasn't drawn a lot of horror, and even though this isn't full of blood and dismemberment, some of the panels are filled with unease and disrturbing imagery. There's much atmosphere here, and it shows again that fiction intended for kids can be enthralling for adults.


Cover by Mike Mignola

63 Hellboy: The Vampire of Prague.

A 19-page story written by Mike Mignola.
In Hellboy: The Troll Witch and others (vol. 7 of the collected Hellboy), Dark Horse, 2007.
See PCR's site for another preview page.

P. Craig Russell has drawn this story pitting Hellboy against, well, a vampire in Prague especially for the collection.
It's a fun little tale with Hellboy chasing a vampire card player who drinks the blood of whomever loses against him. Yeah, weird. It's full of humor, done in the cartoony style of PCR, and the storytelling is, as usual, very impressive. And you get PCR drawing famous places and statues in Prague. It can't get any better than that!

Cover by Yuko Shimizu

64 Sandman: The Deam Hunters.

A four-issue mini-series, DC/Vertigo, 2008-2009.
A collection has been published.

dh01thRussell has already worked with Gaiman on The Sandman, for the fiftieth issue of the series, and for the Endless graphic novel. This time, he adapts to comics a prose story written by Neil Gaiman ten years ago, starring his famous character and set in medieval Japan. I must admit this story wasn't my favorite at all, when I first read it back then: Gaiman obviously has fun with this doomed love story between a young monk and a female fox spirit, but it seemed to me far lighter than the Sandman series.
dh02 But as usual, Russell manages to enhance the writing with his imaginative layouts and his delicate, expressive art. What's more, since this is a story told as a Japanese legend, he gets the chance to bring to the front one of his old influences, classical Japanese art. The combination of classical aesthetics and modern storytelling is, frankly, intoxicating.


65 The Spirit: Art Walk.

An eight-page story in Will Eisner's The Spirit #17, DC, October 2011.
No idea whether this will be collected later on.

the Spirit descends a staircaseThis short story, written by Will Pfeifer, is one of three black-and-white homages to Eisner's creation by top artists and writers (the other contributors to this issue are Howard Chaykin, Brian Bolland, Paul Levitz and José-Luis Garcia-Lopez). Pfeifer has written a clever story, where the Spirit chases after a criminal in a museum where world-famous artworks are collected. The narrative device of having a a cleaning employee comment on the works while the Spirit and his prey are wrecking havoc on them has a humorous effect that Russell's realistic and dynamic style enhances. It's obvious both Pfeifer and Russell had fun working on this.
66 Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde - The Happy Prince.

happy-prince-endpapersA 30-page story included in The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde Vo. 5, published by NBM in April 2012 (endpaper design on the right).

P. Craig Russell finally completes his adaptations of the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde, begun back in 1992, with The Happy Prince, the most famous of those tales. In this story, in this story, a metal statue of a prince feels for the poorest inhabitants of the city, and with the help of a swallow, gives of himself to help those in need. But it is winter, and swallows should fly away to warmer lands...
Russell's style is extremely well suited to this story, which blends scene of blinding beauty and abject poverty. The prince is as handsome as any young man drawn by Rusell, and the swallow looks like he's come right from a classic Disney cartoon. Recommended for kids and open-minded adults.

67 Fables: A Delicate Balance.

A three-page story in Fables #113, DC/Vertigo, March 2012.
This will be included later in the next series collection, entitled Inherit the Wind, which will be published in July 2012.

Fables is a long-running series written by Bill Willingham, about characters from fables living in the real world. Issue #113 is a stand-alone collection of short stories, and the first one is drawn by P. Craig Russell. It concerns a magic-wielding king who's learned of his queen's infidelity, and the way he punishes her. It's a morality tale and it's suitably poetic. In only three pages, PCR doesn't have much room, but he gets to draw fantasy settings and it's a lot of fun.

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