Dark Horse’s ‘Conan the Cimmerian’ was one of those series that I got a hell of a lot out of yet somehow contrived to miss out on issue after issue. Not sure what happened there but my disappointment at finding this particular run ‘Conan’ coming to an end has been tempered by the knowledge that trade paperback collections will help me fill in the gaps.
This is a strange kind of review then in that it actually began back in December 2009, picked up again briefly in February 2010 and then tailed off entirely... until now.
‘Free Companions’ collects the ‘Free Companions’ and ‘Kozaki’ storylines and tells the story of how Conan’s time in Khoraja comes to an end in a flurry of poor choices that will eventually lead to his lying face down in the swamps of Turan, determined to not to fall prey to either his human enemies or the creatures of the swamp that would have him for a meal. Revenge is the order of the day here...
Now I haven’t read a lot of ‘Conan’ (something I hope to rectify fairly soon with the Fantasy Masterworks editions that I received for Christmas) but the overriding theme in what I have read is that Conan wins always wins through at any cost. It made a real change then to see him brought low by his own arrogance and impulsive behaviour. Here more than anywhere else (that I’ve found so far) we get to see some of the fundamental differences between the kingdoms of Howard’s Hyborean Age that make the travels of one barbarian adventurer far more than simple sword and sorcery fare. Conan’s force of personality can shape events around him but every now and then the sheer weight of civilisation is too much for one man to fight against. You don’t get to see that a lot more clearly than you do here as the consequences of Conan’s naivety are laid out for all to see. Here is a tale that doesn’t pull any punches and is all the more powerful for it. I could see what was coming but I still wanted to be around when it all went down, just so I could see what happened in the aftermath.
Long term readers of the blog will know that I love to wax lyrical about the Truman/Giorello team that brought us ‘Conan the Cimmerian’ and, even though I’m repeating myself, it’s worth bringing up again.
Giorello’s Conan totally captures the primal determination and rage that is such a part of Howard’s creation. This isn’t just any old barbarian that we’re dealing with here, it can only be Conan.
Truman’s writing backs this up (as does his contribution to the artwork, Giorello is still my personal favourite though) with work that dovetails perfectly with the artwork on display. I reckon the end result will be seen as ‘classic Conan’ in years to come.
I loved this book, expect more gaps to be filled in the future...
Ten out of Ten