The only flaw I can find in King Conan: Hour of the Dragon #6 is that it is the final issue of this mini-series. We have to wait until next year to finish off this story in the next mini-series, King Conan: The Conqueror. And you know what? I'm OK with that. Because perfection like this takes time; and in King Conan Truman, Giorello, and Villarrubia are creating a comic for the ages—possibly the best Robert E. Howard adaptation ever to hit the printed page. I would much rather they take an extra few months to get out the next series than to rush or cut corners to stick to a monthly schedule.
This final issue is as powerful and beautiful as any in the series. Truman starts us off with a melancholy rumble. His Gotterdammerung Conan gazes out from his tomb across the mists of time, recounting to the scribe his familiarity with death, and how it has served him over the years. Successful in his rescue mission for the Countess Albiona, the deposed King Conan sails away from Tarantia and into the next arc of his story. He must continue to pursue the Heart of Ahriman if he has any hope of regaining his kingdom.
I've always loved this part of Hour of the Dragon. I love the inner struggle that Conan faces when contemplating exactly why we fights so hard to regain his kingship. After all, it is hardly his birthright—Conan stole the crown from someone else and then it was stolen from him in turn. And here, free from throne and crown and responsibility, Conan sniffs the air and scents the freedom that could be his. All he has to do is ride away. Abandon the people who have abandoned him. That's what young Conan would do. But he made a promise to someone who was true to him in his hour of need. And that is what drives Conan on, more than vengeance or a need to reclaim what was never his to begin with.
Truman rightfully balances this inner war against Conan own nature with fights against more tangible foes. Robert E. Howard could sulk with the best of them—his character King Kull was all about moods and melancholies. But Conan is a more visceral character, and Truman gets that to that core. In this issues Conan battles with bandits, torturers, and even darkness-spawned ghouls. Granted, the ghouls scene—while kick-ass—is one of the most arbitrary in one of Howard's Conan novels. It has a stink of "fight scene quota” to it and doesn't really advance the plot, except to remind readers that Conan's world has its share of supernatural dangers. But Truman does the battle good service, giving us about three pages of combat fun but not letting it completely disrupt the flow of the story.
I really can't say enough about the art team of Tomas Giorello and Jose Villarrubia. It's amazing to see how they have grown since their first team up on Conan so long ago. King Conan: Hour of the Dragon would never be this good if it wasn't the result of years of experience working as a team and working with the character and his world. There's a refinement and craftsmanship here that you never find in an art team jumping on a title together for the first time. Giorello has this wonderful panel balance between busy action scenes and intimate portraits assembled on a single page. His art gives this outstanding effect of being both huge and intimate at the same time. And Villarrubia's colors—man, that guy is just incredible. He uses these deep, rich purples and reds that just stand off the page, and then dry, dusty deserts that make me want to grab a glass of water. Villarrubia gets effects out of his colors that I haven't seen any other colorist emulate.
No single contributor gets to take credit for this masterpiece. Everyone's contributions work in perfect harmony to create one of the best modern comics I have seen. Timothy Truman. Tomas Giorello. Jose Villarrubia. Richard Starkings. Gerald Parel. Philip Simon. Hat's off to all of you, and thank you. It's been a privilege to read this.
The last issue—until February 2014. The comic stands are going to be a lonely place until then.