Thursday, 9 February 2012

‘King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel’ – Truman, Giorello and Villarrubia (Dark Horse)

It seems like a long time since Conan trod the jewelled thrones of this blog under his sandalled feet, doesn’t it (and did you see what I did there)? I still need to dive into the original texts at some point (in the same way that I still need to read a lot of books right now…) but it was the announcement that Dark Horse’s ‘Conan The Cimmerian’ series was to end that had me seriously wondering whether to pick up any future ‘Conan’ reads. It may look like cutting my nose off to spite my face (I love the ‘Conan’ comics) but Truman and Giorello worked together so well on ‘Conan The Cimmerian’ that it felt to me like anything else would be an anti-climax. What would be the point?

Well, it looks like that decision has been put off a little while longer with the trade release of ‘King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel’. Not only have I not read the original short story but Truman and Giorello have teamed up once again to deliver this version. I couldn’t say ‘no’ really could I?
‘The Scarlet Citadel’ was originally a four-issue mini-series that has been collected for trade release. As a result, I got a shorter read than normal and that has just left me wanting more. I know I said that I wouldn’t read anymore ‘Conan’ but I absolutely have to read ‘The Road of Kings’ now…

Conan is now King of Aquilonia but he is finding that holding a throne is far more than gaining one; especially when neighbouring kingdoms have their own ideas about who they want on the throne…
Conan finds himself betrayed and cast into the dungeons of Tsotha-Lanti’s Scarlet Citadel. If he is to rescue his kingdom, Conan must brave terrors like never before and that is just in escaping the dungeon itself. Even harder challenges await but an unlikely ally might hold the key to victory…

I’m of the opinion that you’re pretty much onto a winner already if you choose to adapt any of Howard’s tales for comic book format, especially Conan. The material is already so brash and larger than life that it often feels to me that Howard wrote it with comic books in mind. He didn’t (I don’t think…) but that’s what it feels like. All you need to do then is just tell it like it is and you’re home and dry, surely? Truman does this to a degree, recounting what happens and making sure that all the bases are well and truly covered in the manner that Howard intended the story to be told (which can make the plot a little more liner than it perhaps wanted to be). To his credit though, Truman isn’t just satisfied with just telling the story and takes things a couple of steps further; not only having Conan tell the tale himself but also providing a very good reason why Conan would do so. I loved this approach, not only does it all make sense but we get a little glimpse of how Conan is faring as King and you are left with the impression that it’s a weight that he is slightly uncomfortable bearing. You also get a little glimpse into Conan’s mind as he wonders the depths of the Scarlet Citadel, a glimpse that leaves you with an idea of Conan’s basic humanity and how it drives him on.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Tomas Giorello’s ‘Conan’ is the definitive one as far as I’m concerned. Giorello really captures the primal rage simmering under the surface (even when Conan is chained in a dungeon) and unleashes it in veritable tidal waves of gore. This is also the case when we are shown Conan as an older King; he may be older in years (and sporting a nasty new scar) but you still wouldn’t want to cross him, not at all. The background that Conan fights against is as skilfully rendered as ever and there were panels where I just wanted to stop and stare so I didn’t miss out on anything.

All in all then, ‘The Scarlet Citadel’ was nothing short of superb as far as I was concerned. Classic ‘Sword and Sorcery’ deftly fleshed out to fit the presented format.

Nine and a Half out of Ten

1 comment:

Niall Alexander said...

So it gets better again. Good! After the last couple of trades - I'm past the excellent Busiek era already - I have been wondering whether to leave Conan be for a bit, because he's been boring me to tears. But if there's awesomeness on the road (of kings) ahead, you don't have to tell me twice, mate. Thanks Graeme!