By Roy Thomas, John Buscema and others (Dark Horse Books)
When Dark Horse acquired the comic book publishing rights to Robert E. Howard’s legendary Barbarian they not only began issuing new monthly adventures and adaptations. Supplementing their excellent monthly Conan comic with these lavishly recoloured reprintings of the character’s Marvel run must have seemed something of a risk, but the stories here stand up remarkably well.
Volume 6 (collecting issues #35 – 42) is brimming with scurrilous rogues and scarce-clad maidens, and lot and lots of action, as scribe Roy Thomas continued his then practise of adapting not only Howard’s prose output, but also the cream of whatever other pulp fiction he could lay fair claim to.
John Buscema’s epic artwork absolutely shines in this format, even with the inking of Ernie Chan, whose efforts seem to be an acquired taste for many fans. There’s an added treat for art lovers of a more naturalistic temperament with ‘The Curse of the Golden Skull’. Originally this was a fill-in issue, but illustrated by legendary comics iconoclast Neal Adams. After reading the excellent-as-usual Afterword by the author I can only squirm at the realisation of what a naive and sheltered child I must have been when first I read this little gem!
Buscema and Chan return for ‘The Warrior and the Were-Woman’, adapted from Howard’s “The House of Arabu”, and the all-original ‘Dragon from the Inland Sea’, both fine swords-and-sandals yarns, but Rich Buckler’s pinch-hitter pencilling on ‘The Fiend from the Forgotten City’, plotted by Michael Resnick, suffers a notable lack of panache and verve. Buscema’s return for the new tale ‘The Garden of Death and Life’, and especially the final tale ‘Night of the Gargoyle’ – adapted from Howard’s “The Purple Heart of Erlik” – bring the book to a close on a spooky, action packed note.
These classic tales, chromatically enhanced, are superb examples of the graphic sword-and-sorcery genre. For sheer exuberant fun, you really can’t do much better.
© 2005 Conan Properties International LLC. All Rights Reserved.