In 2003 Dark Horse Comics took over the creative rights from Marvel of the Cimmerian Barbarian warrior Conan. Made famous by the two films produced in the 1980s by Dino de laurentiis and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The first volume of stories collects all the issues from #1 to #7 and features new material as well as faithful adaptations of the original Robert E Howard narratives.
Dark Horse brought heavy hitting story writer Kurt Busiek to tackle the initial stories in the series run. Busiek had spent a decade at Marvel writing characters like the Avengers and Spider-man. He begins his narrative with an ongoing narrative between a Prince and his adviser the Wazir. These two characters are living centuries in Conan’s future and they discover what appears to be his tomb. This interests the prince who wishes to know more about this ruler whose imposing statue he has just encountered.
Then as a nice touch, Robert E Howard’s poem ‘Cimmeria’ is beautifully told and illustrated before the Wazir beginning to unfold a tale regarding the young Conan. This tales follows his early quest for adventure where he meets and joins a village in need of a strong hero to aid them in their revenge against savage raiders.
The first six and a half issues adapt a Howard classic story “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” and cleverly merges it with Busiek’s own story, creating an exciting first attempt at portraying a classic character and staying true to it’s original source. This flowing narrative and new approach gave Conan a very different feel than what had been seen before. The story was solid and brought some intriguing exposition with regards to Conan’s motivation.
The publishers also spared no expense when it came to the artwork in these stories. Dark Horse brought two of the industries best artistic talent to the series to help highlight Busiek’s narrative. The team of Gary Nord on pencils and Dave Stewart’s well matched colouring gave the comics a beautiful watercolour look.
Overall the first volume of Dark Horse’s take on Conan started off strong. Busiek’s had a hard task of taking a beloved and known character and giving him a fresh take, while also keeping to the standards that Robert E. Howard and Marvel had set. The art team of Nord and Stewart was a great addition to team as their art style was not only beautiful, but fit very well into the style to lay the groundwork for the Conan series to come
Volume 1 of Conan can be found on the official Dark Horse comic website