Like so many red-blooded fans of Conan, I originally came to know the tales of the Cimmerian in my youth – I was introduced to the tales written by Robert E. Howard in early high school when, of course, the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies were yet to be released. The films only further fueled my interest in the character. I didn’t read all Howard had penned, but I read enough at that time to know what a truly ingenious creation he had made; Conan was a hero for the ages, and hats off to all of the comic publishers that have continued to explore and build on that legacy. Dark Horse Comics has done some stellar work, and while not every offering is to every fan’s liking, I’m enjoying these new adventures as much as the next male.
(NOTE: The following review contains minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
As do so many tales of the Cimmerian, this one begins with the aged king recounting one of his adventures to a dutiful scribe trying to capture its highs and lows for the ages. This time around, Conan is asked to remember how he came to know one of the greatest loves of his life, and thus THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON begins.
Of course, it isn’t only about the barbarian’s love life. As he has reigned supreme for so long, those who would usurp his crown continue to amass their own army, hoping to not only remove him from the throne but also to go “off with his head” once and for all. That’s the backbone of the story here. The single greatest development is that, when he’s incapacitated by evil visions, Conan must stand down and let an imposter defend his kingdom. As one can guess, that doesn’t end well, and that only stirs the man’s passions more. He rises up once more, ready to face those who would see his days numbered.
Timothy Truman’s script is very good. It’s certainly focused like a laser on getting the action underfoot, and, to be honest, it could’ve used just a bit more introduction to some of Conan’s various cohorts (they’d basically thrust into the tale without much ado). Still, it’s a reliable tale told with plenty of gusto; there isn’t much bloodshed at this point, and that’s because – as part 1 of 6 – this mostly functions to set the tale within the man’s rich history – little else gets accomplished here.
But no Conan tale would be complete without the impressive artwork, and Tomas Giorella does a good job conveying the world and those hardened men who populate it. If anything, it does feel a bit too familiar – maybe a bit too comfortable – hoping to blend in seamlessly with so much that’s come before with the run of Dark Horse Comics. It’d be nice to see something different, but maybe there’s more to come as this tale unfolds in the issues ahead.
KING CONAN: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON (Part 1 of 6) is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Timothy Truman; the art is by Tomas Giorella; the colors are by Jose Villarrubia; and the lettering is by Richard Starkings and Comicraft. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is an adaptation of a tale woven by Conan’s creator, Robert E. Howard, himself. All of its bloody glory comes with the cover price of $3.50, and that’s a bargain at any slaying!
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Yes, as is often the case with first issues, THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON’s first serves primarily as set-up: where and when Conan is during his reign, as well as the various enemies he’ll face, is the stuff of this new legend. Timothy Truman’s script is mostly lean – much like Conan’s chiseled physique – and Tomas Giorella’s artwork is solid though a bit too easily derivative of so much that’s come before in the legends of the world’s best known Cimmerian.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital copy of KING CONAN: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON (Part 1 of 6) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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