In only three volumes Marvel Comics has effectively reprinted some of the greatest Dark Horse Conan the Barbarian stories ever put to the page. I’m talking the ones from Kurt Busiek, Mike Mignola, and Timothy Truman who wrote most of the latest volume. Marvel is reprinting what was once multiple trades in one thick “Epic Collection,” making this quite a steal at the comic stands.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
“Rogues in the House” and other tales of Conan! The Barbarian finds himself in the middle of a power struggle in an inspired adaptation of one of Robert E. Howard’s most acclaimed short stories! Then, a lingering curse follows Conan on his journey back to his homeland – and great darkness lies ahead in a doomed city! As evil from his past moves ever closer, unfathomable terrors loom into view on the return to Cimmeria! The barbaric land of Conan’s birth is a welcome change from the treacherous cities of the East – but when a tentative truce with the Aesir is threatened by the first woman Conan ever loved, he again finds himself at the heart of conflict that will test his formidable strength, cunning mind and passionate heart!
Why does this matter?
If you’re a fan of Conan at war you’ll love this collection. Much of the narrative revolves around bloody battles of thousands of men and Conan ending up on piles of bodies by the end.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The first issue in this collection–originally published as Conan #40–is a great example of how a single issue can tell an incredible journey. It starts with a powerful man reading a story and that story involves a wizard who has been separated from his head, another wizard who uses him, and a great battle where a rope bridge once stood. At every twist and turn it’s unclear what may happen next and the only certainty is that Conan strikes strong, fast, and at the perfect time.
This is followed up by a four part story involving a mysterious man in a red cape, a gorilla like beast that can crush skulls, and Conan attempting to escape a trap. The art is by the great Cary Nord, who is paired with color artist Richard Isanove, giving the work a realism that stands apart from most stories. This tale also involves a nude woman thrown into slop early on because Conan doesn’t mess around when he’s not drinking. The next five issues heavily involve a Conan at war with Truman writing most and Kurt Busiek filling in for Conan #46. This shows another side of Conan that is brutal and unrelenting as he’s almost superhuman cutting through waves of men.
Following this is the first 8 issues of Conan the Cimmerian written by Timothy Truman with art by Tomas Giorello. The first issue is issue #0 and it serves as a great ode to Robert E. Howard. Following this is a series that splits art between the detailed and highly unique art by Richard Corben and Giorello. Frank Cho draws the covers a few of which have some booty shots he’s known for. It’s a good tale and I’d be curious to see how Marvel collects the remaining issues of the series.
Following this is a lot of extras including introductions and afterwords from the various Dark Horse collections. There is also Greg Ruth’s Conan sketchbook which was printed in the back of Conan #45-#46 as well as sketches from various issues of the series.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
This is a version of Conan that’s a little lighter on the magic and mystery and heavier on the barbarian and blood. If that’s your sort of thing you’ll love this, but overall it feels lacking in the wonderment and world building the previous volumes had.
Is it good?
If you’ve bought the first two volumes of this series why stop now? Read volume 3 to see a war heavy take on Conan who literally stands amongst piles of bodies. Crom demands it.