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The Savage Sword of Conan, Vol. 2 (v. 2)

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Roy Thomas

In the mid 1970s a comics magazine was published containing some of the most exciting epic fantasy tales the world has ever known - The Savage Sword of Conan. Based on the work of renowned author Robert E. Howard, each issue offered multiple thrilling … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Roy Thomas
Genre: Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: Dark Horse
1 review about The Savage Sword of Conan, Vol. 2 (v. 2)

The Best Of Howard, The Best Of Marvel

  • Sep 3, 2009
"Savage Sword Of Conan" was Marvel Comics' second attempt at capturing Conan, peaking ironically while Marvel's first attempt, the color monthly "Conan The Barbarian", was enjoying its greatest success. As great as the color comic was, this book amply demonstrates why "Savage" was the ideal medium for enjoying Conan in illustrated form.

Collecting issues 11-24 of "Savage Sword Of Conan", originally published through 1976-1977, this "Volume 2" is about as close to the conception of Conan creator Robert E. Howard as the comics ever got. Of the 14 issues, all but one ("The Haunters Of Castle Crimson") are adapted from Howard's stories. Some of these featured Conan, others were recrafted by series scripter Roy Thomas to become Conan stories.

Consistency is at the center of the collection in other ways. John Buscema was the lead penciller on all but two of the issues featured, mostly paired with Alfredo Alcala. Their dramatic sense for face and form are on fine display, along with an eye for perspective and detail that lends a tactile quality to Conan's fantasy world. You can get lost in just the opening splash pages of many of these stories, forget the many gripping frames within.

A great example of all this is in the last story, "The Tower Of The Elephant", an original Conan story by Howard previously featured in different, shorter form in the color comic. Dialogue, a.k.a. word bubbles, were often used in comics at this time for exposition purposes, never mind the absurdity of a hero discoursing about his situation in mid-fight. Thomas often did this to a fault. Here, however, he wisely lets Buscema and Alcela do the work, and they come through. Eight pages show Conan exploring the tower's interior and fighting a giant spider without offering more than an occasional oath in word or thought. A final confrontation with a wizard is equally as wordless.

The high point of this great collection is a four-part adaptation of one of Howard's Conan novellas, "People Of The Black Circle", which alone fills 120 of the book's 540 pages. Conan kidnaps a princess and finds himself up against the title beings, a group of magic users who have the ability to fly through the air, will their adversaries into killing themselves, and tranform into monsters. Howard is the master behind the story's many blood-chilling twists and turns, but Thomas, Buscema, and Alcala are with him at every step, demonstrating the wit that sets both Conan and Howard apart from the popular hack-and-slash image.

Thomas and his team also do well when they verge from straight reproductions from the source. The opening piece, "Abode Of The Damned", uses a non-Conan Howard story, "Country Of The Knife", as a starting point for an adventure featuring a lovely cinch-waisted maiden who finds herself saved by a Conan in disguise. "Gods Of Bal-Sagoth" is the most comic-y tale here, with more lurid pencilwork by Gil Kane, but it plays well in its own right with its less naturalistic compositions in a story about Conan and a friend paying a call on a doomed city.

A couple of stories even showcase Conan's gentler side to good effect. "The Haunters Of Castle Crimson" has him trying not to kill a friend who has taken a strong liking to his slave girl, while "Tower Of The Elephant" features an ironically bloody act which is also a rare moment of Conan compassion.

If there's any chance of you liking Conan, Robert E. Howard, and/or graphic story-telling, "Savage Sword Of Conan Vol. 2" will draw it out from you. It's an underappreciated art at its best.

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