Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: KING CONAN: The Hour of the Dragon #1

KING CONAN: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON #1 (#9 in the series)
DARK HORSE COMICS – @DarkHorseComics

WRITER: Timothy Truman
ART: Tomás Giorello
COLORS: José Villarrubia
LETTERS: Richard Starkings & Comicraft
COVER: Gerald Parel
EDITOR: Philip R. Simon
28pp, Colors, $3.50 U.S. (May 2013)

The Hour of the Dragon is the only novel featuring Conan the Cimmerian (or Barbarian) written by author Robert E. Howard, Conan’s creator. The novel originally ran as a serial in the pulp magazine, Weird Tales, from 1935 through 1936. The novel was first published in book from as Conan the Conqueror (1950, Gnome Press).

Dark Horse Comics is producing a comic book adaptation of the novel as two six-issue miniseries. The first series, King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon, will be released to comic book stores this week (as of this writing). The second miniseries will be titled King Conan: The Conqueror.

King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon is written by Timothy Truman and drawn by Tomás Giorello, already acclaimed for the Conan comics they have produced over the last several years. They are joined by their stellar collaborators, José Villarrubia on colors and Richard Starkings & Comicraft on letters.

King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon #1 opens in Tarantia, capital city of the kingdom of Aquilonia. King Conan is visiting the burial chambers of his late Queen, Zenobia. It is there that a young scribe, Pramis, meets the king and begins recording the tale King Conan tells him – the story of how he met Zenobia.

The story begins in remote Nemedia, on the eve of the Year of the Dragon. In another crypt, a group of malcontents and conspirators, seeking help to capture the thrones of kingdoms they covet, summon a wizard dead for three thousand. Now, King Conan must face a traitorous alliance backed by the resurrected sorcerer, Xaltotun.

I was ecstatic upon hearing that Dark Horse Comics was going to adapt into comics, Robert E. Howard’s sword-and-sorcery novel, The Hour of the Dragon, one of my all-time favorite books. I think that the novel has only been turned into comics once before, in the early to mid-1970s by Marvel Comics.

I am happy with the resulting first issue of King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon. Tim Truman seems to have absorbed the essence of the novel, while relocating the best of Howard’s prose into comics. The novel does have some rough patches, in which the story meanders, so I wonder if this will show over the course of a 12-issue adaptation.

Personally, I’m ready to put Tomás Giorello’s name next to the great Conan comic book artists, Barry Windsor-Smith and John Buscema. Giorello’s art has the pen and ink texture of book illustration and a graphic style that captures the bizarre sensibilities of pulp fantasy tales. José Villarrubia’s colors complete the illusion that the art belongs to a bygone pre-World War II era of fantastic fiction. However, there is no mistaking King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon for a pastiche. This is real-deal Conan.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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