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 month Dark Horse and Dynamite finally launched their collaborative new series, Conan/Red Sonja, which brings two of the biggest swords-and-sorcery heroes together once again. The first issue detailed the first meeting between the two of them, and it proved to be all-out fun, beating my expectations of the title, whether we talk about the story or the art. Collaborative projects can’t be easy to pull off but if Conan/Red Sonja is any indication, then things are going to go great for this series, which is great as far as I’m concerned.
Conan/Red Sonja #2 is the second meeting between the two titular heroes, and an interesting meet-up it is too. And more than just the titular heroes, we also have two of their greatest allies as well, Belit for Conan and Annisia for Sonja. The two sides meet together in a naval battle, and the story involves some really hard-hitting action from both sides while the art portrays that to the fullest. This issue is another example of the finest that you can expect from a creative team that includes the likes of Gail Simone, Jim Zub, Dan Panosian and Dave Stewart.
As part of the celebrations for the tenth anniversary of Dynamite publishing Red Sonja comics, the publisher last month launched a new series with the character, Red Sonja: Vulture’s Circle, which explores the character when she is way past the prime of her life and has taken to opening an academy where young women are given weapons training and are prepared for war. The first issue was excellent, with Nancy A. Collins and Luke Lieberman displaying a great grasp of what makes the character who she is while artists Fritz Casas and Adriano Lucas nailing the visual feel of the book.
Red Sonja: Vulture’s Circle #2 from this past week carries on from where the first issue left off and it deals with Sonja and her students bringing the priest Sefkh back to the Academy to question and interrogate him about the demon Sonja dealt with back in the city. Set’s son Sutekh has been let loose in the world and he has made war on the entire world, intent on bringing it all down and then offering it to his god-father. The writing here was even better than it had been in the first issue, and the art is pretty much on par, so I had a blast reading this issue as well.
Another week of a “Magic 40”, though no graphic novels.
This week’s surprise hits were Ivar, Timewalker #1 from Valiant, Mortal Kombat X #4 from DC, and Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance #1 from Dynamite. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #3 from Dynamite and Spider-Verse #2 and The Amazing Spider-Man #13 from Marvel and Vampirella: Feary Tales #4 from Dynamite. Ongoing greats were Wonder Woman ’77 #3 , The Flash: Season Zero #11 and Supergirl #38 from DC, Black Widow #14 and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #4 from Marvel, and, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #6 from Zenescope among others.
With two solid arcs behind them, writer Gail Simone and artist Walter Geovani kicked off their third arc on Red Sonja last November in a story that revisited the character’s roots and also shed some light on the most defining moment of her life, the murder of her family and the rest of her village. Of course, going back to the roots doesn’t mean that it is all a song and dance because there’s actually a dark twist to things here, and that’s where Red Sonja #13 really excelled. It paved the way forward for yet another superb engrossing story and I’ve been waiting for the second installment ever since.
In Red Sonja #14, coming some two months after the release of the previous issue, we see what is happening to Sonja with the curse that has been placed upon her by a dying necromancer, the curse to never be able to forgive anyone and to take serious offense at the lightest insult, even a perceived one. Suffice to say, things are tough, and as the big baddy of the arc makes his own appearance, it is clear that with all that the character has faced recently, her true troubles are just getting started.
When it comes to swords and sorcery fantasy, there are no bigger icons than Conan and Red Sonja I must say. Sure, there might be some other heroes out there as well, but the creations of Robert E. Howard and Roy Thomas have well-stood the test of time and are very popular today in the comics world with the recent ongoings from Dark Horse and Dynamite Entertainment respectively. So it only stands to reason that there would be a crossover between the two properties, given that they are both set in the same world.
Conan/Red Sonja was meant to come out last year, around February/March, but for whatever reason it got pushed back to almost a year, and the wait has certainly been a long one. Jim Zub and Gail Simone have been given the task of shepherding this series, and I think that they did a splendid job here. This story chronicles the first meeting of these two heroes and it is well-paced with some great dialogue. The art by Dan Panosian and Dave Stewart is also excellent, being a bit stylized but also very action-packed and free-flowing. For me, who has been waiting for it for so long, Conan/Red Sonja #1 is pretty much what I wanted it to be, and then some.
No “Magic 40” in the first week of the new year, but the second week definitely sees me hit that landmark number, and with graphic novels mixed in to boot!
This week’s surprise hits were Angry Birds/Transformers #2 from IDW Publishing, Ares & Aphrodite #1 from Oni Press, Operation: S.I.N. #1 and Wolverines #1 from Marvel. The disappointments of the week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #2 and Ant-Man #1 from Marvel and Future’s End #36 from DC. Ongoing greats like Swamp Thing #38 and Detective Comics #38 from DC, Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #3 from Marvel, and John Carter: Warlord of Mars #3 from Dynamite to name a few were just as I expected them to be: superb.
As mentioned above, the graphic novels for the week were Legends of Red Sonja Volume 1 from Dynamite and Quest: Age of Darkness Volume 1 from Zenescope. The former was a fun book where Gail Simone brought together several different female prose writers, paired them with different artists, and wrote a grand, sweeping Red Sonja story. The latter was part of the publisher’s Age of Darkness event and was more a prequel story.
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!
2015 is the tenth anniversary of Dynamite Entertainment publishing Red Sonja comics. It has been a long and successful ten years by all accounts, especially with 2013’s reboot of the line under Gail Simone and Walter Geovani, which has taken the character to new heights and made her even more popular than before. Of course, as anniversaries go, this is a pretty big one and so Dynamite is going to be celebrating it in as grand a way as possible, with some new mini-series and the like coming out this year. I love Gail and Walter’s ongoing and many of the mini-series and one-shots of the last 3 years have also been fairy good, so I’m always ready to check out more Red Sonja.
The first mini-series to be released is Red Sonja: Vulture’s Circle. The first issue of this came out this week, and in this we get a look at Sonja’s future. After all her years of fighting and looting and ruling and everything, Sonja has taken to a very peaceful life. She has built herself a school of arms for young women and has become a teacher. That’s the setting going into this first issue, which also brings back one of the main god-like villains of the setting, Set, in a really neat way. Nancy A. Collins, who also writes Vampirella for Dynamite, does a great job at depicting an older and wiser Sonja who still has some strong ties to her past with fellow writer Luke Lieberman, while the art by Fritz Casas and Adriano Lucas is also outstanding.
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!