Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Conan Funcom Special

Conan Funcom Special, July 2006, Dark Horse Comics
writers: Joshua Dysart & Timothy Truman
artists: Tone Rodriguez, Sean Parsons, Cary Nord
colorists: Michelle Madsen & Dave Stewart
letterer:Richard Starkings & ComiCraft
assistant editors: Matt Dryer, Dave Marshall, & Ryan Jorgensen
editor: Scott Allie

Another Comic Con freebie, from our friends at Dark Horse Comics. On the cover, this issue's title is Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, but the title noted above, perhaps more accurate for filing purposes, is derived from the inside cover's fine print. Funcom is apparently the company responsible for the Conan video game with the more comic-friendly title. This bears no significance to the story, but I thought the differentiation was interesting from a marketing and collecting perspective.

I'm sure I would have read a Conan story at some point during the year, but I'm glad Dark Horse met me half way with this give-away, otherwise, I wouldn't have known where to begin. With well known indies like Bone or Cerebus, I literally just picked an issue from the bin; Conan, in a league with longstanding characters like the Phantom, has so much history, the wrong issue could have alienated me completely. So, this sampling accomplishes its two goals successfully: (1.) it introduced me to Conan and his world, and (2.) it enticed me to read more, with little pressure. Nice.

Two stories, two entirely different settings, but the same Conan shines throughout the issue. In the first tale, Conan is the king of Aquilonia, "the jewel of the dreaming west." The backstory is established in brief, elegant tones, introducing Conan's new bride, who we find out later is with child. Check this out: "Zenobia, with eyes pitch as ocean depths and dark foam for hair, had won the warrior king's wild heart. So where once was a harem girl now was a queen. Just as where once was a barbarian . . . now stood a king." Short and very sweet. I don't know if classic Conan fans like this royal incarnation of their otherwise wandering warrior, but the seemingly bored barbarian shows off his chops in dealing with a couple of traitors: "I'm sure you both expect public crucifixions, where the street children . . . piss in the nail holes in your feet . . . Instead I offer you a kindness you never would've granted me. . . Guard . . . hand over your arms to the prisoners. Come. Die like men." Yeah, that's the abbreviated version, and you get the point. At this stage in his life, Conan will obviously take any excitement he can get.

In the second story, Conan seems younger, more spry, and initially heroic in rescuing some traveling priests from a band of thieves. Alas, he not only accepts their gifts of appreciation but in turn robs them himself of everything save their undergarments. Cary Nord's artwork tells the tale most effectively in this episode, his expressions less exaggerated than the Tone Rodriguez yarn but more effective in the savage grace of Conan's fighting style and generally cocky character. I think these are scanned pencils, reflective of our warrior's rough-around-the-edges demeanor. I see from the ads throughout the issue that Nord is the artist on the ongoing. Good choice. If the storytelling is this consistent in Conan's regular series, I see the attraction.

In a week or so, the A Comic A Day challenge will be one month old. In this first month, I've already knocked the Phantom, Bone, Cerebus, and now Conan off of the list of old or indie characters at my disposal -- characters beyond the standard scope of the "big two," but still readily available staples in the medium. Fortunately, the Con offered some cheap sci-fi, western, and war-related material for future consumption, so in upcoming posts I can focus less on iconic characters and more on genre and obscurity. I'm digging the variety.

And coming soon: If this be . . . Don Rickles? Who says I can't have a teaser?

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