Review: King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon #1
Script: Timothy Truman, Artist Tomas Giorello, and Jose Villarrubia. Covers by Gerald Parel and SanJulian
Written by Robert E.Howard, 'The Hour of the Dragon', first published in serial form in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1935 through 1936. Many years later the story was released in the 50's under the title, 'Conan the Conqueror'. It then was reproduced and sold over the coming decades by various book sellers and has been published right across the world in many languages. It has also been translated into Japanese, Italian, Finnish, French, German, Swedish, Czech, Russian, Sinhalese and Spanish. Then Dark Horse decide to recreate it once more in the form of a comic book, and here it is released at the end of May 2013, under King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon.
My first thoughts as I open the pages late at night with the lamp light reflecting off the shiny gloss paper is nice, detailed, exquisite and lightly captioned. Though because of the lightly captioned first few pages, you get to concentrate on the art rather than the text. The details in the cracked old face of Conan, scarred upper lip and wise eyes stare out from the panels to draw you in. King Conan locked in his thoughts of his love for Zenobia, his saviour from days gone by. As he gently lays a red rose to signify his soft inner loving side for his queen on her sarcophagus. Brilliant and moving scene already from Truman the script writer, whose ideas run smoothly with Howard's like whisky and ice in my drink. Then in an instant the old rage of the brutal barbarian appears, the swift hand to steel put to the throat of an unseen shadow that lurked behind the king, that shadow was his scribe Pramis, he who was to put ink to paper to record King Conan's time as a young man finding his way in the primal land of Hyboria. Giorello's draws a nostalgic Conan peering back into his youth through wise eyes is really breath taking to say the least, with the crown of Aquilonia squeezed from the life off Numedides upon his head. The way Giorello draws this crown is impressive and really looks like Conan was made for the it. Normally artists would portray a crown looking silly, lopsided, less deserving of the weakling that adorns it, but Conan wears it like a lion wears a mane, with pride and power. When the wizard peers into the mist mirror to catch a glimpse of this heathen barbarian from the North, Truman captures Howard's text beautifully, and with the artists take of Conan on the throne, it is really one the best depictions of Conan as king as I ever seen in a comic by far. I think I have found another fav in modern times called Tomas Giorello to add to my collections such as Nord and Kayanan.
The story starts to unfold quickly, lots of speech text and narration to get the reader up to speed on the past and what happened to this point. Some filling in or padding by Truman though still sticking with the original story at best, as any adaptation writer could do in respect of the source material. As an example, the plague sweeping across the lands finally killing the old king and his off spring in Nemedia was captured in one panel, which worked well and was suffice to allow a keen eyed north man such as Conan to see that this was more than coincidence and sorcery was at hand, and also draw the reader into the thickening plot to dispose the king!
I could go on and on as I truly feel that Dark Horse have the real jewel of Ahriman in their grasp on this title, but I do not want to spoil the cliff hanger and the rest of the comic to the fans that have not read it yet. suffice to say that this work by dark Horse for me will go down in my book of excellence so far with just one issue. It will rid the stain of other lesser Conan titles that have failed to tell Conan to a modern mass in a constructive Howard way for me. I just hope that the sales go well and the fans of Conan spread this title far and wide and make it become the mast head of what Conan should be in the modern age as the future unfolds.
David Houston June 01 2013.
PS: I never do reviews as you can well tell. I primarily draw pictures, so this was my silly attempt to try and promote such an inspiring title to fans and new fans of Conan. If it causes one person to spend money on this title I will feel relieved that my prattling has done some good in the end for Howard's greatest creation. :)