As I’ve often said (and kinda/sorta been derided for), telling a first issue can be a treacherous, treacherous thing. There’s a balance I think every writer seeks to create, one that assures regular readers that they’re in for something special while also inspiring those newcomers who’ve just boarded the adventure that they, too, won’t find themselves at a loss. Adding to that the added complexity of things like artwork, panel construction, and general narration ups the ante for comic book writers, indeed … but there’s still a fundamental requirement to minimally set the stage and promise that even brighter days are ahead.
Under the spotlight, KING CONAN: THE CONQUEROR starts out just fine … but it isn’t nearly as grand as it probably hoped to be.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type 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 …)
From the published advertising: “In the port city of Messantia, the deposed, fugitive Conan could uncover the key to regaining his throne—or he could get a knife in the back! Conan follows a lead to a lost relic, revisits an old friend, and finds that he’s not alone in his risky hunt for a missing, magical gem.”
For the uninitiated, “The Conqueror” is actually a continuation of a story – an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON – which began (in 2013) with Dark Horse’s six-part miniseries. This new mini – dubbed “The Conqueror” – also promises six fun-filled issues with the singular Cimmerian typing up some of the previous arc’s dangling threads. Adapting the work of a master like Howard apparently isn’t daunting enough as this creative team seeks to adapt an adventure that’s previously adapted before (in 1974 as well as serving as the inspiration for 1997’s Kull the Conqueror movie).
When adapting something as revered as Howard’s tale, it certainly stands to reason that Dark Horse would tap a creative team worthy of such challenge. Scribe Timothy Truman has been in DH’s stable toiling away on Conan titles since the mid-2000’s. As best as I’ve been able to find, artist Tomas Giorello has been working on various issues since 2010. Between the two of them, there’s an appreciable measure of experience to build on, and, as such, one can hope for good synergy.
As the tale opens, King Conan sits with his royal scribe Pramis, who’s been tasked with preserving in writing the tales the elder ruler wants left for posterity, and the strongman begins exactly with where the action left off in the previous mini: the barbarian finds himself in Messantia requiring the aid of an old ally in finding the present whereabouts of a jewel known as the Heart of Ahriman. Legend tells that Conan will need the gem in order to regain the throne. It goes without saying that what appears an easy task will be far from it, and – before the issue closes – our hero will find himself in dire straits but on the dark path of an epic quest.
Indeed, Truman and Giorello seek to emulate the look of a classic tale, and much of THE CONQUEROR reminds me of pages I’ve happened across in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They’ve gone a ways toward emulating those tales of old, but far too little happens by way of action to my liking. The early pages work fine in establishing an epic tone for what follows, but let’s just say these aren’t Conan’s finest hours by way of standing his ground against what appears to be a lesser band of foes. It’s an effective beginning – one that feels a bit too clinical and formulaic at times – though little else.
If the best is yet to come, the team will need to ratchet up the action and develop some intrigue in Issue 2 to make a believer out of me.
KING CONAN: THE CONQUEROR (Part 1 of 6) is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Timothy Truman; the art is supplied by Tomas Giorello; the color artist is Jose Villarrubia; with lettering supplied by Richard Starkings & Comicraft; and the cover artists were Tomas Giorello and Jose Villarrubia. The work is an adaptation of a story written by Robert E. Howard. The issue bears the cover price of $3.50, still a bargain so far as this reader is concerned.
RECOMMENDED. A good start. Nothing grand. But good.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of KING CONAN: THE CONQUEROR (Part 1 of 6) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more