Created by Robert E. Howard, Conan is probably the writer’s most revered creation. There have been scores of adaptations done to Howard’s few original tales, as well as hundreds of new ones fleshed out by creative teams from several companies that have dabbled with the license. Now, the fate of the barbarian rests in Dark Horse’s more-than-capable hands, and they’re definitely geared up for some great things with this recent adaptation of Howard’s only novel-length Conan story, known either as “The Hour of the Dragon” or “Conan the Conqueror” depending upon the publisher. And – as should be expected – it’s a grand story, one ripe with everything any reader could expect from the man who would be king.
(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 ...)
When we last left our fabled barbarian, Conan struggled past the pains of affliction and rose up from his makeshift bedchambers preparing to march into the field of battle against the hordes of Tarascus after witchcraft had been used to decimate most of the Cimmerian’s forces and allies. Now, the same black magic is used against him, and he wakes up later in the dungeons controlled by Xaltotun. But as is often the case with good men, he won’t be held in chains for long, and his rescuer may indeed change more than just the strongman’s immediate fate: she may be the love of his life!
Scribe Timothy Truman’s work here is particularly good. Though I’ve yet to read Howard’s original novel (I recently purchased a Kindle, so I’ve uploaded it into my library of items to get to hopefully in the next year), the prose here definitely feels as if it’s been inspired by epic legend. There’s a fair share of background the goes hand-in-hand with any adaptation, but, in Truman’s hands, it never quite feels as if we’re delving into unnecessary exposition; rather, one senses that all things are pointing these characters (and the readers) in precisely the direction they need to look.
Additionally, Tomas Giorella’s artwork is pretty fabulous. No doubt, Conan has always been a project those serious about their craft want to work on, and Giorella’s panels compliment the epic story with grand though gritty visuals. The colors are understandably muted, giving the work a very earthy / natural essence, definitely something needed when trafficking in the world of ax-wielding warriors, villainous wizards, and even scantily-clad women of the castle.
As the tale ends, Conan’s gained an accomplice – Zenobia, one of the rare loves of his life – and the stage is set with yet another cliffhanger, one that’ll mean only more action in thirty days!
KING CONAN: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON (Part 2 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. THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON is shaping up quite nicely, a fitting tribute to both a character and its creator of legend. Stylistically, DRAGON is a throwback to days when pulp strongmen were regarding with greater artistic considerations than they’re often given today (did you even see that last theatrical Conan reboot?!?), so this is definitely one title worth following.
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 2 of 6) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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