Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review - KING CONAN: Wolves Beyond the Border #4

DARK HORSE COMICS – @DarkHorseComics

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

WRITER: Timothy Truman
ARTIST: Tomás Giorello
COLORS: José Villarrubia
LETTERS: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
COVER: Tomás Giorello with Jose Villarrubia
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (March 2016)

Wolves Beyond the Border: Part 4 of 4 “The Worms”

Conan the Cimmerian (also known as Conan the Barbarian) was born in the pulp fiction of Robert E. Howard (REH), first appearing in the magazine, Weird Tales (1932).  In 1970, Marvel Comics brought Conan to the world of comic books, and with only few pauses, Conan comic books have been published for over four decades.

One of the most acclaimed Conan comic book writers of the last decade, Tim Truman, has taken an original REH story fragment, “Wolves Beyond the Border,” and has created a four-issue comic book miniseries, King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border.  The artist for the series is one of the best Conan comic book artists of all time, Tomás Giorello, who has worked with Truman on earlier Conan comic books.  Series colorist is one of the best Conan color artists ever, José VillarrubiaRichard Starkings & Comicraft provides the lettering for this miniseries.

In King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border, Conan is the aged king of the nation of Aquilonia.  He is alerted to a conspiracy involving his longtime enemies, the PictsKwarada, Witch of Skandaga, plans to gather the various Pictish tribes to her side, a confederacy that she will use to invade Aquilonia and eventually all the lands to the east.

In order to convince the other tribes to follower her, she needs the lost “Crown of Brule,” but not all Picts will follow her, in particularly, the Wolf Tribe.  The crown, an iron circlet, has come into Conan's possession.  In order to stop Kwarada's plot, Conan forges a tenuous alliance with an “old friend,” the high priestess Nai, and the war leader of the Wolf Tribe, Bril.

As King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border #4 (“The Worms”) opens, Conan and the wounded Bril travel through the forest in order to reach “Uamh-Dagon.”  There, Kwarada plans to sacrifice the boy, Brune, Bril's nephew and the next chief of the Wolf Tribe.  With the boy's life and an incantation, Kwarada hopes to raise a dark army from the bowels of the earth.

Robert E. Howard began writing “Wolves Beyond the Border” in the 1930s, but it remained a fragment that he did not finish.  Conan is mentioned in the story, but does not appear in it.  In a piece that was published at the end of the first issue of King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border, Truman wrote that he loosely based King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border on the fragment.  That may not matter to many readers.  Truman also hinted that he might use the story to connect REH's three most significant characters:  Kull, Conan, and Bran Mak Morn.  That may matter more to the fans of REH's fiction and to fans of comic books based on his work.

What really matters is that King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border is an excellent Conan comic book.  I consider Tim Truman, Tomas Giorello, and Jose Villarrubia to be the modern gold standard in Conan comic book creative teams.  How good is this comic book?  Well, I was sad when I came to the last page because I could have read at least one more issue.

Truman's sense of adventure is in evidence here, and as always, his story and script are imaginative and inventive.  Of course, Truman would never leave out the brawny storytelling that the best Conan comics require, but this isn't some phony masculine fantasy.  Wolves Beyond the Border can be enjoyed by anyone who loves Conan or the genre known as swords and sorcery.

Giorello takes Truman's script and creates the most beautiful art.  Giorello's graphical storytelling captures the essence of the world of Conan, where sullen-eyed, sword-wielding warriors, slayers, thieves, etc. tread the world.  Villarrubia's colors finish the process, adding the final touch that creates an undreamed of age of shining kingdoms spread across the blue mantle of the world like stars embedded in the firmament.

King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border #4 delivers on the promise of the first issue.  Four issues are not enough, but still, they are four great issues.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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