I’ve long had one major gripe with the comics industry, and it boils down to this: if you’re going to dish out a tale, then do readers the courtesy of dishing it out completely. Some publishers as of late (Dark Horse isn’t necessarily one of them) have taken to churning out trade paperback collections of their serialized monthly tales, and – for reasons that defy logic (except to make a buck) – they’re taken to printing them with the most ridiculous break-off points. In other words, what the buyer has is what he believes is one complete tale – start-to-finish – that, instead, is either incomplete or requires the purchase of another graphic novel in order to complete the story. While I can appreciate capitalism as much as, say, the next capitalist, is there anything wrong with wanting one story clearly and cleanly wrapped up in a single volume?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or 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 …)
I’ve never been one to mince words. In my writing life, that’s made me probably as many friends as it has enemies. My enemies tend to believe I take the subject matter too seriously and, consequently, I’m too ‘hard’ on the material. While I don’t disagree with that position, I’d argue that we, as readers, have a right to expect something of continuous quality. KING CONAN: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON does serve up that continuous quality … right up until its ending, which only left me wanting more. Artistically, that ain’t such a bad place to leave the audience, but, as a reader, I’m left hanging. Granted, the break isn’t something of the magnitude like what George Lucas did with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK – leaving an audience hanging on a massive development at the end of the picture (hint: “I am your father”) for another three years (!!!) until it would be resolved. Dark Horse Comics has done similar – they’re leaving audiences hanging – but it isn’t with any necessarily monumental revelation.
Rather, this story just … ends.
Stylistically, Conan has achieved a measure of personal peace. One might even say that he arrived at a crossroads of sorts, where he had to make a decision. Going one way meant immeasurable risk while going the other way would mean … well, by all appearances it really ends up meaning little more than NOT going with what’s behind the first door and simply making it up as he goes. This isn’t to say that there isn’t obviously more to this story because nothing could be further from the truth. He hasn’t reclaimed his kingdom. He hasn’t retaken the throne. He hasn’t even ‘gotten’ the girl he’s spent so much of his time ruminating about in measured flashbacks. All he’s done in the end of Part 6 is decide enough is enough – for now – so he can … what? Live to fight another day?
What the hell happened to fortune and glory?
Methinks I’m overthinking it? Maybe?
Still, it’s been a terrific ride … right up until those last few disappointing panels. I’ll definitely be here to find out how the rest of the story gets told; I’m just honestly too gobsmacked right now to even think about it any more.
KING CONAN: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON (Part 6 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!
RECOMMENDED. What’s entirely satisfying about KING CONAN: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON has been the entire creative run of Truman and his merry band of hellraisers. Together – working from the inspiration of Howard’s original novel – they’ve served up a wonderful graphic tale of the mighty Cimmerian, one that legitimately hits all of the right mythic chords. Like the adventure, it’s nothing sort of legendary. What’s entirely frustrating is that – if you were watching closely and/or had some familiarity with the source material – then you’d know this final issue wasn’t going to be the end (there’s a subsequent miniseries hitting shelves soon that fleshes out the latter half of the novel). Sure, it’s great to have something to look forward to, but these closing panels hit pretty hard in the heart and with not enough emotional satisfaction. It’s like being invited to a great seven-course meal only to find the chef forgot to make dessert … and you really came for the dessert!
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 HOUR OF THE DRAGON (Part 06 of 06) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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