ADVANCE REVIEW! King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword #4 will go on sale Wednesday, April 25, 2012.
It breaks my heart a little to think that this is the last issue of King Conan: Phoenix on the Sword. This is the comic I look forward to the most every month, and I had hoped that Dark Horse would at least have announced by now a Truman/Giorello/Villarrubia 12-issue adaptation of King Conan: Hour of the Dragon. No one has made better Conan comics that the Truman/Giorello/Villarrubia team, and there are still so many stories for them to tell. I will be very disappointed in Dark Horse if an announcement of a new series is not forthcoming. Hour of the Dragon. 12 issues. That's what we want.
Now about issue #4 — the climax of this adaptation of the first Conan story.
Once again, we have to address the embarrassing cover. I'm not quite sure what is going on there, but Conan looks a bit too much like Sly Stallone having a “Yo Adrian!” moment. It's a shame, because King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword has been delivering some of the best Conan interior art I have ever seen, coupled with some of the worst covers. It is the exact opposite of Conan: Road of Kings which had fantastic covers and luck-luster interiors. Dark Horse seems to have a rule with Conan saying that you can have good covers or good interiors, but not both.
But everything else about this issue is pure dynamite.
There are only two panels of the Old King Conan used as a transitional device to get us into the story. Artist Jose Villarrubia makes brilliant use of Conan's eyes as he moves the story from old to young. Being the climax of the story, things get bloody right away as Conan fights for his life and his throne against a coup that has arrived right at his bedchamber door. From there on the story plays out exactly as Howard wrote it — anyone worried about the overzealous Dark Horse copywriter who said that Thoth-Amon makes a play for the throne can be re-assured. There is some slight tinkering of the story but not really enough to mention. (My only tiny complaint is that Conan should have been at least in partial armor when the assassins break into his room. Conan often wore armor in Howard's stories but seems to prefer being naked in the comics…)
Giorello's art is phenomenal. He never ceases to amaze me, and it is easy to see why he was nominated for a Robert E. Howard Foundation Award this year. Giorello has entered the pantheon of the great Conan artists, along with Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, and Gary Nord. It is a limited club and Giorello is a welcome member. This final issue is an action-issue, which shows off Giorello's talents. He is not a fluid action artist, but poses his figures and scenes like an old master. Giorello especially excels at full-page spreads. He doesn't do as much innovative panel work this issue like he did on the last one with his repeating triptychs, but it is still a wonder to behold.
With both King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel and King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword Truman, Giorello, and Villarrubia have been making some the greatest Conan adaptations ever made. I look forward to their next series.
Hour of the Dragon, Dark Horse. Twelve issues. It will be beautiful.