Well, seventy-five issues later (plus the #0 prequel), the “Conan” and “Conan the Cimmerian” (as it was renamed and renumbered after “Conan” #50) has come to a close, and on the whole it’s been a fun series. It’s not the end of Conan in general when it comes to Dark Horse; the entire “Conan the Cimmerian” creative team already has a “King Conan” mini-series in the works for 2011. But for now, this particular narrative is drawing to a close, as the shift from barbarian warrior to ruler and king will take place between this and the next comic.
So with all that in mind? I hate to say it, but “Conan the Cimmerian” #25 is a tiny bit disappointing. Timothy Truman’s script splits between Conan having to fight the massive gray ape to save himself and Olivia, and the pirates coming to their own particular doom on the island. It’s the latter half that makes part of “Conan the Cimmerian” feel disappointing; half of the story is resolved with nothing to do with Conan. It could have been a creepy enough moment (involving living statues), but with Conan and Olivia wandering past the carnage later in the issue, it feels almost like a story that was wrapped up because the author was getting bored. (Not being familiar with Robert E. Howard’s original “Conan” stories, I’m guessing that this is based off of a plot from Howard, but there’s nothing within the credits themselves to confirm or deny that.)
It also doesn’t help that Olivia’s narration as Conan fights the ape feels a little too florid for my tastes. I’d have rather those pages been silent; they’re choreographed well by Tomas Giorello, and they’ve got more than enough of a visual impact to go without any sort of well-meaning assist.
I do like Giorello’s art, which looks as rich and textured as always. There’s something about the way that Giorello draws “Conan the Cimmerian” that always makes me feel like he’s a perfect choice for a low fantasy comic; it’s like seeing a classic pulp novel burst to life, over and over again, for every single page. And for what could have felt ordinary (barbarian versus ape), Giorello makes it feel tense and exciting.
The part of the writing I did enjoy here was the conclusion to the issue itself, which felt like more of a return to Truman’s normal, stronger writing. Conan rallying the remaining sailors was a good way to wrap up this story in general, and since it’s also serving as a series conclusion, it works that much more so. “Conan the Cimmerian” was a dependable comic month after month, and while some parts of this issue didn’t quite work as well as expected, it did leave me feeling like those last pages were satisfying. And for that alone, I’m pleased.
(Oh, and make sure to check out the pin-up gallery at the end. Jeffrey Brown? Art Baltazar? Rob Guillory? Farel Dalrymple? This is one of the strangest collections of artists for a “Conan” pin-up grouping, and there are even more contributors than the ones I mentioned, but it ultimately works. Kudos for not going for the obvious choices, Dark Horse.)