ADVANCE REVIEW! Conan: The Frazetta Cover Series #8 will come out on July 13, 2011.
This is a perfect Conan comic book. Directly adapted from a Robert E. Howard story. An able art team that is familiar with the character and Howard’s world. And just for a little bit of frosting, a Frank Frazetta cover. In fact, I loved this comic so much I would put it up there with Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith’s adaptation of Red Nails. This is beautiful.
Conan: The Frazetta Cover Series #8 collects Timothy Truman’s adaptation of Howard’s Iron Shadows in the Moonlight that appeared in Conan the Cimmerian #23-25. Whereas the ongoing series generally expands and ties together original Howard stories, this collection slices out just the core piece without the preamble, as Howard intended. This is, as the saying goes, All Thriller, No Filler.
The story opens with Conan and Olivia — the princess turned slave that Conan rescued from Shah Amurath — seeking refuge on a small jungle island in the Vilayet Sea. They find an overgrown city populated by grotesque statues of black iron, as well as something alive stalking them from the jungle. Their attempt to flee finds them caught between pirates of the Red Brotherhood and the mystery of the black iron statues. And as night falls…well, the story is called Iron Shadows in the Moonlight, after all.
I have always loved Iron Shadows in the Moonlight. The tale has a perfect blend of raw Conan fantasy mixed with elements of weird fiction and an ever-so-slight Lovecraftian influence. In the story, Conan finds himself pitted against three enemies; the pirate Red Brotherhood, the jungle haunter (who I always found reminiscent of Thak from Rogues in the House) along with the supernatural terror of the iron statues.
Olivia is a strong Conan heroine as well. She isn’t quite on the same level as Belit, but she shows herself to be made of sterner stuff than her soft skin and silk apparel make her out to be. When drawn by Giorello, she also seems to have the magic ability of standing with her ass to the viewer no matter what the pose. It is easy to see what Giorello’s preference is when drawing women.
Truman made all the right choices in his adaptation, keeping some original Howard dialog and prose, distilling the story down to its raw elements and keeping the appropriate fantasy/horror mix. He basically allows Howard to stand alone, without getting in the way or adding anything unnecessary to the story.
The artist/colorist team of Giorello and Villarrubia have their act down. I was leery of these two when they first started working on Conan, specifically Villarrubia’s colors, but no longer. Giorello draws a dynamic, muscular Conan who is still human and expressive, while tackling the monsters and settings with equal fluency. His battle scenes are everything you want in a Conan comic, primal and relentless. Villarrubia’s colors give the series a light wash that lets you see Giorello’s line work and creates a mysterious and haunting mood.
And of course there is the Frazetta cover. Really, this collection would be five bullets even without it. Like many people, I came to Conan through the Frazetta covers, and it is nice to see “The Berserker” gracing a Conan comic book. It isn’t at all necessary to the book, but just gives it that little bit of extra “Conan” making a great book even greater.