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Conan seems like a really easy character to write for and that’s why so many writers have tried to tackle him over the years. At his core Conan is the biggest brute that over powers every enemy with his sword or strength and usually both. He’s the first Incredible Hulk, stronger than the rest and always willing to prove it in a fight. In my opinion you don’t change Conan, you simple throw interesting things at him. In a way the world is revolving around him and it’s the writer’s job to make the world interesting, not Conan. This is where the majority of writer’s will fail as they attempt their take on the character and attempt to add layers to the man who cannot be defeated.
This issue of Conan thankfully steers away from everything that shouldn’t be done with Conan and practically writes out the perfect formula for any Conan story. The issue is narrated, not by our future king, but by his female companion Olivia. With her poetic and insightful narration we are introduced to her feelings about Conan the Cimmerian, a race of people she had been raised to fear and who has now become her protector. They’ve landed ashore a deserted island for the night and have taken bed with some truly gruesome statues. As Olivia sleeps she’s awaken by a dream that foretells the statues coming to life as the moonlight hits them. Conan fearing nothing but magic decides they should leave the island before it becomes too late.
They make it to the shore only to find their ship smashed by some other beast inhabiting the island. The beast spies on them from afar while Conan plans their next move. They head to the highest vantage point so that they can see the monsters coming when the time hits, but fortune would have it that a Pirate ship is also taking bed on the island for the night. Conan recognizes the ship and decides the only thing to do is kill the captain and take over the ship as the leader. He heads down leaving Olivia to watch from the cliff side as he approaches the Pirates camp. Now to leave the island before the statues awaken he must kill a man and convince his men to follow him as their new leader.
This story is wonderful. Once I began reading the issue I couldn’t put it down. At first I was put off by the size of it, but around page 20 I was glad that there was more to read. Writer Timothy Truman truly understands how to write a Conan story. Conan is the same as he ever is, strong and brutish with a real sense of chivalry. What Truman does right is surround him with characters that are interesting and drive the story for Conan. He after all is just looking for the next fight, the bigger challenge. It’s the supporting cast that gets him to those adventures. Truman’s narration with Olivia is sheer brilliance. Her soft tones and beautiful descriptions are the perfect balance to Conan’s rough edges. Everything she says is interesting and helps build the drama of the battles to make them truly significant.
To really capture the world of Conan, the art must have a certain look and style. Conan can’t be glistening with sweet and looking like a male model/body builder. He’s a chunk of a man that teeters on being ugly due to his size. Artist Tomas Giorello captures the look of Conan and his world. Whereas Conan is borderline ugly, the woman he’s surrounded by are a thing of beauty. Olivia is not only the perfect balance to him in voice and personality, but also in her look as she’s sexy and yet simple to look at. Giorello’s pencils are stunning as he fills the page to the brim with detail and has a range wide enough to show the fiercest of battles and the simplest of human exchanges.
It may seem strange to give an issue of Conan a perfect ten, especially the last issue in the series, but this book is damn near perfect. I’ve never enjoyed Conan more in my life and really this story is a tribute to Robert E. Howard’s creation. It shows readers just how interesting Conan can be given the right setting and supporting cast. The great thing about this issue is that you don’t have to know what happened in the previous seven issues to enjoy it and understand what’s happening because it tells you what little you need to know. It’s a smartly written and beautifully drawn issue that should be welcomed in anyone’s collection.