This hardcover is volume 4 of the new Conan series, reprinting issues zero, 24, 25, 29-31, 33 and 34 of the monthly comic. Don’t know why they skipped around like that, but series artist Cary Nord is here throughout, which may be why, and there are three writers: Kurt Busiek, Mike Mignola and Tim Truman.
It was interesting to see the contrast between writers. Kurt’s issues (his final ones?) continue to be a rich mixture of plot, character and action delving deep into the original texts by Robert E. Howard. I remain impressed by his work on the series. It never feels derivative despite the source. Like Roy Thomas before him, Kurt has found a way to allow his own style and voice to come through while still remaining true to Howard.
Mignola’s issues are an abrupt change to a much more visual story with Lovecraftian overtones, much less dialogue, and lots of action and sound effects. If Conan fighting giant toads appeals to you, this is it. I liked it, actually. More understated, more action, more “in the moment” work, but still entertaining.
Truman’s chapters fall between the two. He has lots of action, but more plot and dialogue as well. Perhaps less of the Howard feel than Kurt, a bit more than Mignola. Having the same artist ties everything together fairly well, despite the different approaches.
About that art: it’s pencilled by Nord and digitally painted over by Dave Stewart. Dave is very talented, and much of the art looks great, as above. In some places, though, the pencils are just too loose for it to come together well, as below.
Here the faces and figure work looks sketchy, and Dave is obviously struggling to make it work, not really succeeding in this case. And unfortunately, it’s a title page, which if anything should have more detail and precision, not less.
Nice lettering by Comicraft on this series,by the way, as seen above. I like the way Conan’s balloon shapes are always angular rather than oval. And the caption fonts work well. Some of the sound effects are a bit too cartoony for my taste, but overall it’s fine work.
If you’re a Conan fan and haven’t tried this new series, I’d suggest beginning with the first volume (“The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories”), but this one is good too.