King Conan: The Conqueror #1 (Comics Review)

Of late, I’ve read a fair few Conan comics from Dark Horse, and it bears saying that the experience has been fifty-fifty. The first six-issue arc of Brian Wood’s run on Conan the Barbarian was excellent, but Fred Van Lente’s Conan and the People of the Black Circle was anything but. Still, Conan is a character that I find very fascinating, partly due to the cheesy movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. I can never tire of those movies, even though they are very problematic in and of themselves, especially the second one. But, as with Red Sonja, that is part of the charm itself, so I won’t complain really.

King Conan: The Conqueror is apparently the second part of a longer story, the first half of which was told last year in King Conan: Hour of the Dragon. When I read that on the credits page of this issue, I was a bit apprehensive about not being able to understand the story, but Timothy Truman gave a quick summation on the first couple pages and then launched straight into a visceral, action-packed story that I really liked. And the artwork by Tomás Giorello and José Villarrubia was excellent as well, very old-school and entirely fitting for a title like this.

King Conan - The Conqueror 01

When this story starts, King Conan is no longer a King, having lost his kingdom in betrayals and treachery. And now he is on the hunt for a gem that was taken from him, a gem of great importance. Hunting for it, he arrives in Messantia, Argos to look up some old contacts that he still has in the city, from the days when he was a corsair by the name of Amra. This is, I believe a reference to the Black Coast story penned by Robert E. Howard decades back. I haven’t read it, but I did read the early parts of the comics adaptation, which are the Brian Wood issues I mentioned up top.

As always in any Conan story, there are yet more betrayals and treachery, not to mention a fascinating mystery, in this issue, and I believe that The Conqueror is off to a great start here. Truman tells the story as narrated by an old King Conan, a man who has conquered the world and seen all that there is to see in it. He spends his days now ruling his people and narrating his adventures to a scribe, which is where we come in as readers for this story. Truman’s writing all the way through evokes that same style of Howard’s from ages back, and that is one of the ways in which he pulls you in and keeps you interested in what is going on. Just getting to see another story set in Messantia would have been enough for me, so I loved everything that he did here.

It was nice to get a story that seemed to act as a bridge between some of what I’ve read previously and this new series. As someone who hasn’t read any of the old Howard novels, the comics are my quick fix, and I’ve certainly enjoyed seeing more of Conan’s world, as it is presented in these comics. And of them all, The Conqueror #1 is one of the best I feel.

When it gets right down to it, the action involves a lot of sword-swinging and cracking heads. Like I said up top, the action is visceral and immediate, just like any good Conan story should be, and it is thrilling. Conan’s physicality and his skills with a sword or otherwise are one of the charms of the character so it is nice to see that Truman lets the Cimmerian have his day here. Or night, as the case may be.

Giorello’s pencils and Villarrubia’s colours and Richard Starkings’ (and Comicraft) letters definitely evoke the feel of the Howard tales. They make the issue and the story that much more atmospheric by association and seeing Conan as a fighter, with the requisite build and… physicality, is one of the reasons I liked this issue. There are a ton of details packed into the art and the inking is quite fine, giving the art that necessary rough and tumble edge. Plus, the characters are expressive, with both their faces and their body language, so that is another plus here.

Overall, this was quite a good comic, and I’m definitely on board for more.

Rating: 9.5/10

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Posted on March 31, 2014, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

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