James Hudnall is a name that may be recognizable to long time comic fans. Hudnall wrote significant runs of Marvel’s “Alpha Flight” and “Strikeforce: Morituri”, Malibu’s “The Solution” and “Hardcase”, his own “Espers” and the DC special “Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography” among others. Hudnall left comics as a full time job during the economic collapse of the comic market in the 90s, but never walked away from the field entirely.
One of his greatest unfinished works was “Age of Heroes” with artist John Ridgway. The fantasy series lasted only six issues before vanishing. Hudnall and Ridgway remained attached to the series over the years though. Ultimately, Hudnall decided to continue the work not as a comic but as prose.
“Hell’s Reward” is the result. The first in a series of novels based on his original “Age of Heroes” comics, the book introduces a wide cast of characters in a grand fantasy tradition. The book stars a one armed swordsman, an archer and a thief, a mage, a blind bard and more. They live in a world where the gods have vanished, leaving only grand statues and machines behind. But their presence is still felt, even as dark forces gather in the shadows.
Tolkien and “Dungeons & Dragons” fans will see some homage in Hudnall’s world, but he builds a unique world from parts both traditional and original. It’s a new world and a new story built on a grand tradition of fantasy.
While a very solid beginning to the series, “Hell’s Reward” is only that. Hudnall only really introduces readers to his cast in this novel before setting up their quest for later books. Fortunately the story readers do get is more than enough to make them interested in more.
The Kindle edition has a few formatting error, but nothing that renders the story unreadable.