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The Savage Sword of Conan, Vol. 1 (v. 1)

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Roy Thomas

In the mid 1970s following the colossal success of Conan the Barbarian, Roy Thomas helped expand the universe of Conan to showcase further stories and the talents of some of the comics industry's best with the equally popular Savage Sword of Conan magazine. … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Roy Thomas
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: Dark Horse
1 review about The Savage Sword of Conan, Vol. 1 (v. 1)

Conan's PG-Rated Adventures Begin

  • May 27, 2008
Rating:
+3
Created in 1932 as a pulp-fiction fantasy hero by Robert E. Howard, Conan the Barbarian found new life 38 years later when Marvel Comics launched its successful Conan comic. But something of Howard's Conan was lost in the kid-friendly Marvel monthly, so a magazine, "Savage Sword Of Conan", was created.

A collection of Conan stories from the first ten issues of "SSC", as well as five issues of predecessor mag "Savage Tales", "Savage Sword Of Conan Volume 1" offers a generous helping of Cimmerian savagery as published from 1973 to 1976. Unencumbered by the Comics Code, Conan fights rotting corpses, crushes skulls, and makes his moves on assorted cat-eyed brunettes and pouty blondes whose near-nakedness is played up on every page. It's Conan as Howard intended.

Now published again as a Dark Horse compilation, it's easy to see what "Savage Sword" really had going for it: Incredible artwork and a steady scripter in Roy Thomas, the primary person behind both "Savage Sword" and the original Marvel Conan. Here, with "Savage Sword", Thomas uses the room to take Conan through novel-length adventures rather than the more episodic treatments of the Marvel comic. He has help from some singular artists, none better than John Buscema, who gave panels a depth of detail that makes them singularly re-readable.

Picking a favorite Conan adventure from this pile is hard. Thomas makes striking use of several original Howard stories, including Howard's only full-length Conan novel, "The Hour Of The Dragon" (here confusingly chopped up into non-consecutive chapters as "Corsairs Against Stygia" and "Conan The Conqueror"), and the classic novella "Red Nails". Other great Howard adventures repurposed here include "A Witch Shall Be Born" (where Conan is crucified on a giant X and chomps a vulture by its neck for nourishment) and the splendidly atmospheric "Iron Shadows Of The Moon."

While a couple of the Howard adaptations are notably sketchier, and the non-Howard-based stories often wilt in comparison to the group mentioned above, there is a remarkable consistency in the stories. Formulaic, yes, with Conan often interchangeably doing battle with a wizard, slaying a monster, and saving a maiden, yet the action is never less than gripping and there's enough variety of incident to keep one entertained. In one story, the monster gets the woman (of her own free will); in another, Conan feeds the woman to the monster himself. He even ditches one hottie for a horse.

Often captured, never defeated, Conan has a routine, almost casual response for his would-be tormentors: "Loose my bonds and hand me a sword, and I'll not walk the road to Hell alone." Whatever his enemies plot usually turns out a bad idea.

In a world of shifting values, it's nice to have Conan around again. Dark Horse would have done better to offer some introductory information, perhaps an intro from Thomas like he did with Dark Horse's reprints of the Marvel comic books. There's a strong need for a map of Howard's Hyboria for those of us who don't know our Asgard from our Kush - the magazines follow a non-chronological path and Conan bound around the known world a few times during his singular career.

But quibbles aside, what you get here is a remarkably generous portion of Conan's finest moments. Even Conan would be pleased about that.

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