“W-why have you come? What is it you want from me?”… “Conan would hide no longer!”
Upon reading the classic R. E. Howard Conan, and the more recent chronicles of the fabled legend by Roy Thomas, here is a side of Conan rarely seen or felt. For this to work, the story has to unfold in such a way as to convince the reader of the authority behind the author, in order to stand as a legitimate telling. Instead the tolerance of the tolerant is being tested, as this tale stands mighty close to being non-canonical in the land of Cimmeria, or any other place in the Conan universe.
No disrespect to Timothy Truman, whose works have graced titles such as Scout, Grimjack and the re-imagining of Jonah Hex (all 80s titles, and not a clunker in the bunch), but the story has all the legitimacy of a hip-hop song whose tracks were phoned in by the artist. To the artwork then: Tomás Giorello does a competent job, but at times the art seems uninspired and derivative of some of the earlier work had by Cary Nord. One can appreciate the precision of the artwork by itself, its balancing of this against that, the proportions, anatomical correctiveness, and the logical placement of shade and hue, but frankly after reading comics for 35 years, and backpedaling to the 1930s, by NOW one should expect today’s to have met the standard of excellence that took decades to achieve. By itself, if today’s pop-art is going to continue to amaze, it must at the very least augment an amazing story; the reader will have to search for this on its own merits.
At its worst, as hinted at earlier, this is a Conan telling that for many will not be familiar… rightfully perhaps. A cowering Conan is not exactly cliché. Normally, a well placed and well told tale of vulnerability is just what the doctor ordered, but for a hero as mighty and infallible as Conan, without the proper armament, they are just words on a page, which quickly takes you out of the story and back into the land of skepticism.
But there were indeed cliché moments, when it felt more like you were reading about a Marvel Comic superhero, less the iconic sword brandishing barbarian. This can’t help but be a bit out of place (“Another full legion of the devils … damn you to a thousand Hells!”). Other times, the dialog is simply pedestrian, but never over the top … and that’s what is missing. There were more remarks toward “Hell” than “Crom” for instance, and once again, the reader is jerked back to reading a story set in modern times, rather than living it, in an age and setting which insists much more on lore than your typical action story.
This was a good effort, and if you can suspend your sword and sorcerous sensibilities for the mighty Conan, what you have is a decent story of the underworld, replete with slashing and cursing, and even a pretty damsel in distress. Nothing wrong with that. If you are looking for more, you will have to wait for the return of Roy Thomas in Conan the Cimmerian #25.