With Conan Vol.1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories, Dark Horse embarked on a bold strategy where the classic Conan stories were shaped anew, with writer Kurt Busiek putting together a continuous narrative that charted the rise of Conan from a simple Cimmerian warrior to the King of Aquilonia. With the addition of fantastic artists like Cary Nord and Dave Stewart, the series began well with the first volume, establishing a clear frame of reference for the characters and his adventures in a way that would always leave you wanting more.
In Conan Vol.2: The God In The Bowl and Other Stories we see more of the same as Conan now sets out for the Nemedian city-state to learn more of the world, to hone his skills as a thief and see more of what the world at large could offer someone like him. Kurt’s writing is very much on point in this volume, as it was in the previous one, and now that the Cimmerian is in more familiar circumstances, the story becomes all the more enjoyable. And along the way, artists Tom Mandrake, Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates and Dave Stewart add a particular vividness to the visual aspect, enhancing the story in every way possible.
Of all the heroes over the years who have left their mark on the wider world of fiction, few if any come close to the pedigree of Conan the Barbarian. Multiple movies, hundreds of comics, numerous novels and short stories. Decade after decade goes by and he is always there in some form. Dark Horse Comics, who have held the license for the comics on the character for several years now have done a great job of shepherding Conan through various iterations, whether as a young warrior first stepping out in the world, or as an aged king. That is where we start with here.
Conan Vol.1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories is a collection of some of the earliest Conan stories, chronologically speaking, where we meet Conan as a young adventurer who barely knows of the world outside of Cimmeria but is eager and willing to explore. Writer Kurt Busiek weaves the many stories together into a stunning narrative that is enhanced by artists Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates, Dave Stewart and others. The story is a little fuzzy here and there, but the creatives here have captured the essence of Conan really well and delivered a stunning package.
Last year I did a small roundup over at The Founding Fields with fellow reviewer Bane of Kings which contained a list of the best new comics to have come out in 2013. It was a rather small list with only 10 entries each from the two of us, reflecting our reading for the year and the consequent small pool to pick from. But in 2014, I greatly expanded my weekly reading, and so for the round-up of the best new comics to have come out in 2014, whether as mini-series or ongoings, I have decided to go much bigger.
There were a ton of new comics to come out last year and many of them started off well enough but unfortunately well by wayside since subsequent issues were nowhere near as good. That however, is a call to make on any new comic and you have to have a wait-and-see attitude for the most part. For this embiggened round-up, I have some mini-series here and some ongoing titles. Some have had multiple issues come out in 2014, while some have had less than three.
Irrespective of that, these are all the most promising new series of 2014, and I think that they are all well worth the read in 2015.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
A few days ago I did my best of 2014 list for the comics I read in the second half of 2014. And back in July of 2014, I did the first “best comics of 2014” post. The reason I mention that is because of the changes I’ve made for this list. While previously I used to do it so that I put up my top 6 comics, in July’14 I did a top 12 on account of the increased number of comics I was reading at the time. And that same holds true for this list as well since I’ve gone up on the number yet again, and this list has the top 20 and then 20 honourable mentions.
More comics, yay!
So, with the books of the second half of 2014 already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite monthly comics of the same period. The next post will be a list of the top graphic novels I read in all of 2014.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
The fourth book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is for Josh Reynolds’ Gotrek & Felix: The Serpent Queen, which was published in late March this year and is one of the best books I’ve read all year, indisputably. Josh’ take on Warhammer Fantasy’s most famous heroic duo is very different from that of his counterpart David Guymer, being much more quirky and fun for starters, and that approach is exactly why I love his work so much, in general. And The Serpent Queen stands tall among all the other work he has done for Black Library, which is saying something since pretty much all of it is top-notch, all of that I’ve read that is.
The fourth set of comic covers I pick this year are for Transformers: Windblade #1 by Mairghread Scott, Sarah Stone and Chris Mowry, with the cover done by Casey W. Coller, and the second one is for King Conan: The Conqueror #3 by Timothy Truman, Tomás Giorello, José Villarrubia and Richard Starkings of Comicraft, with the cover done by Tomás and José. The former was the first of a new mini-series from IDW that has since led to the upcoming release of an ongoing featuring the titular character, and since the mini-series was top-notch, I’m really looking forward to that one. The latter was the latest in a series of comics adaptations of novels from Robert E. Howard, carrying on the story of The Hour of The Dragon, and proved to be immensely good.
So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Cimmerian. These are the more popular names of the sword-and-sorcery hero Conan who has been a trend-setter for many decades now, his popularity itself going up and down a fair bit. Not all are familiar with King Conan however, from a time when Conan was no longer just a warrior and a mercenary but a ruler with far lands to call his own, with subjects, with a queen even. I started reading King Conan: The Conqueror from the mini-series’ first issue a few months back and it has been one of the most entertaining Conan stories I’ve read to date. Certainly among the best, by far.
King Conan: The Conqueror #6 marks the end of this mini-series and also of the story that began back in King Conan: The Hour of The Dragon. Now, everything that Conan has been through in the past five issues comes to a resounding (and somewhat obvious) conclusion and really, it could not have been better. Truman and Giorello take the reader for a ride through Aquilonia and beyond, and all along the way they are as impressive as they’ve ever been in this series. No doubt about that. This particular mini-series is certainly going down in my list as one of the best Conan stories I’ve read to date.
A couple weeks or so back I read a really wonderful graphic novel about Conan, The Phantoms of The Black Coast, and that one really impressed me. As someone who has really been getting into Dark Horse’s various Conan comics of late, that one proved to be a highlight, on the same level as one of the publisher’s current ongoings, King Conan: The Conqueror, which has proven to be one of the best new comics of the year, in terms of both the story and the art, and which has instilled a more intense fascination in me of all things Conan.
With everything going on currently with respect to my upcoming marriage (just four days left!!), I didn’t get a chance to read last week’s King Conan: The Conqueror #5, one of my most anticipated reads until a few hours ago, but as expected, it wowed me with every page. Writer Timothy Truman put a capstone on Conan’s adventures in Stygia and then he went big and epic with the story in a way that I didn’t think was possible and the artwork by both Tomás Giorello and José Villarrubia proved a match for Truman’s intensity and scope.
One of Dark Horse’s most recent Conan series is King Conan: The Conqueror, which follows on directly from King Conan: The Hour of The Dragon and is the comics adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Conan novel The Hour of The Dragon. In the first three issues of The Conqueror, this series has quickly catapulted to the top of my monthly reading list, in part because of the excellent story by Timothy Truman, but also because of the wonderful artwork by Tomás Giorello and José Villarrubia. They really get what it means to produce a true-to-heart Conan story.
King Conan: The Conqueror #4 was released this week and it picks up from where the previous issue left off, with Conan meeting Akivasha, one of the earliest femme fatales in comics apparently from what I am told, for the first time. There are two halves to the story, with the first involving Akivasha, and the second involving Conan’s quest to kill Thutothmes , a Stygian priest who possesses an object that is very dear to Conan. Truman, Giorello and Villarrubia are absolutely in their element in this issue, and they turn up yet another great King Conan comic.
By this time you all probably know that I am a big fan of Conan and that the recent comics from Dark Horse are among my favourite of the bunch, whether we talk about Conan the Barbarian or King Conan or Conan the Avenger. I dipped into Conan comics proper last year with Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s Conan the Barbarian Vol.1 but kind of fell off after that, getting back into the swing of things with the ongoing King Conan: The Conqueror by Timothy Truman and Tomas Giorello. This has been a really fun series, whether we talk about art or story, and is definitely one of the best out there right now.
This week, Dark Horse released King Conan: The Conqueror #3 and it shouldn’t be a surprise that this comic is among my first reads of the week. Continuing the tale of a Conan who has become king and is reliving his glory days as he dictates his adventures to a scribe, King Conan: The Conqueror gets into the nitty-gritty of the character. It is interesting and fascinating and it plays up to the strengths of the character and the setting with its swords and sorcery elements. I really couldn’t ask for a better Conan comic honestly.
Last week I talked about getting back into Conan comics with King Conan: The Conqueror #1, a mini-series that tied into the previous mini-series King Conan: The Hour of The Dragon, all of it an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s own The Hour of The Dragon novel featuring the world-famous Cimmerian warrior. Dark Horse is well-known for its comics adaptations of Howard’s various novels and short stories and they’ve done many of them over the years. The few that I’ve been reading, I’ve been mixed about, but overall I’ve loved reading them for the fun of it.
In The Conqueror #1, we see Conan as not a king but as a pauper, his kingdom stripped away from him and the man himself reduced to hunting for a jewel stolen from him. And in that hunt he returns to Messantia in Argos, one of his old haunts. Betrayals and treachery follow and soon, as we see in this issue, he finds himself in the open sea, desperately hunting for the next clue. As with the first issue, the second issue is amazingly well-told and the art once again is gloriously bloody and visceral, hitting all the right spots for a Conan story, embodying that classic feel.
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.