My god, it’s great to see Richard Corben illustrating comics again. Corben is one of comics’ finest artists, a true stylist whose work has been legendary nearly since he started drawing comics decades ago. The great Will Eisner once praised Corben in the most glowing possible terms: “Corben’s work is singular in its humanity. He works with towering technical skill… …the wondrous thing of it all is that underneath all that technical tour-de-force is the sound of a beating heart.”
Corben’s art is unique and intense. It’s emotional and other worldly, grandiose and mysterious. In other words, it’s the perfect art for a character like Conan.
In the first two issues of this series, Corben illustrated a spooky story-within-a-story about an encounter that Conan’s grandfather Connacht has with a pair of werewolf brothers. Corben’s work was passionate and thoughtful, one of the spookiest stories he’s ever illustrated. The story in this issue isn’t quite as inspiring as that in the first two issues. It tells the story of Conan’s grandfather and his quest for a beautiful slave girl. The story may be duller, but Corben still displays his majestic artwork, most notably in a long-shot of a large and diverse city.
Corben’s amazing artwork brings the city to life with a unique sort of verisimilitude that is perfect for the world of Cimmeria. The city doesn’t exactly look real, but it still exudes reality. There is a shadowy intensity and grittiness to it, and a feeling of mystery pervades the atmosphere. Corben’s art transcends the writing and presents a unique artistic experience.
But Corben only illustrates six pages in this issue. The rest of the art is by Tomás Giorello, a fine stylist whose artwork is really overshadowed by Corben’s. Giorello has a nice feeling for creating interesting poses for his characters. His static images work beautifully. But unfortunately his storytelling abilities don’t match his artistic abilities. I had real trouble following a fight scene in the middle of this issue; there are a number of word balloons that seem to refer to events that are simply not well shown in the comic.
Giorello does do a good job with his character illustrations, most notably his intense, brilliant and powerful Conan, who always seems to be scheming in order to turn every event into something that will work in his favor.
The real problem with this issue is that the story feels very uneven. Writer Tim Truman doesn’t successfully tie the Corben and Giorello stories together. Both are interesting, but there’s no sense of why these two stories are juxtaposed next to each other, of why a reader should feel it important to consume these stories together rather as separate tales. Perhaps this will all tie together in a future issue, but here the stories just don’t fit well together. I would buy this book just for the amazing Corben art and stories, but I wish the main story was just a bit more compelling.