I feel a little bad for Dark Horse’s “Conan the Cimmerian” comic. When they debuted “Conan” a few years ago, it was a runaway hit, one of the company’s greatest selling titles. These days, “Conan the Cimmerian” (retitled and renumbered after “Conan” #50) barely seems to get noticed, but it’s still a solid read.
Timothy Truman begins his adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s story “Black Colossus” here, and it’s an attention-grabbing beginning. Jumping back in time to the fall of the city of Kuthchemes, it’s a combination of black magics and attacking armies, destruction and preservation, and essentially the opening trailer to a huge epic adventure. Conan shows up half way through the issue, we start to meet the new supporting cast… and then, suddenly, we’re done until next month. And really, that’s my big quibble with the issue; there’s so much time spent with the opening bits that the comic feels like it stops dead in its tracks just as we’re really getting started. I know it’s the nature of serialization, but the chapter end-point feels unusually early here, and it’s a bit of a glitch to the reader.
I have to say, though, that Tomas Giorello and Jose Villarrubia’s art is so great here that it’s the ultimate selling point. From the massive war that rages in the opening scenes, to the images of scorpions and vultures amidst the desolation, it’s just beautiful. Giorello’s able to handle numerous figures, objects, and events on a single page and keep from them getting lost next to one another. Some of the scenes remind me a lot of collaborations by P. Craig Russell and Lovern Kindzierski, and that’s no small feat.
One small nitpick does have to go with the lettering this issue; Richard Starkings is normally right on the ball with this sort of thing, but the particular old-world font he’s using here for the narration actually hurts my eyes to read too much of, with the letters seeming to blend into one another. Still, overall, a solid issue to a comic that been neglected a bit by readers. I won’t deny that I suspect this will read better in a collected form, but it’s still an enjoyable single issue.