Steve Moore passed away in 2014 but Tales of Telguuth is a retrospective of some of the short stories he wrote for 2000AD between 2000 and 2003. Although this is a meer snapshot of his comic-writing career, it’s a great demonstration of his skill at writing short, self-contained stories, all set in his own fantasy world.
Telguuth leans heavily on a generic fantasy mix of sorcerers, kings and demons. Kings crave ever more power; wizards can provide it through their conjurations and dark arts (though they inevitably have their own agendas); and the demons they call from the pits of Hell invariably try to corrupt and outwit their human summoners whenever and wherever possible. Extra-terrestrial encounters occur every now and then but mostly on a celestial scale. However, there are no gods in Telguuth, only demons.
The tales are wry, witty and beautifully written. There’s little morality here: few of the characters are free from wrong doing, and who will get the upper hand is rarely based on anything more than wit and chance. This absence of preaching is liberating, making the endings truly unexpected.
Various artists have rendered their visions of Telguuth, and most of the stories here are beautifully illustrated. The fantasy tropes mean we’re already familiar with the backgrounds and costumes, so switching artists barely has an impact, though they all use different styles, so some of the switches are more jarring than others.
Overall, however, this is a masterful book. You have to like the short story format, but Steve Moore’s world-building skill makes this book more than a mere sum of its yarns. It’s an essential book for the collection of anyone who enjoys 2000AD‘s twisted tales at their very best.