Well, Robert Jordan neither violated the Conan canon, nor came up with anything especially new and interesting in this novel. The chief villain is a religious leader and sorceror whose level of depraved sexual sublimation is only slightly more explicit than what Conan creator Robert E. Howard would have written. He commands untold hordes of what amount to thinly-disguised Jihadists. (Note that this book was composed during the Gulf War, which perversely mobilized American anti-muslim sentiment against the secular Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein.) Conan is “magnificent” for being able to carry on simultaneous affairs with a noblewoman and a thief, for being absolutely flawless in contests of arms, and for slaying the great monster—yeah, it’s basically a dragon—and thus usurping the evident destiny of one of the supporting characters.
As I was reflecting on what, if anything, might distinguish this book from dozens of other latter-day Conan stories written over the three decades or so, I noticed that the pacing was a little quirky. Jordan’s most conspicuous work is an enormous multi-mega-volume fantasy series called “The Wheel of Time,” so perhaps he has never really developed a rhythm for a short stand-alone novel–even one that could draw on thousands of pages of previous character and setting development. And then it occurred to me that there really is no conventional, formulaic pacing or structure for a Conan novel, at least not as established by REH, since the overwhelming preponderance of Howard’s Conan writing took the form of short stories. In this respect, the tendency of later authors to write Conan novels is in marked contrast with the more conservative inclination of most Lovecraftian pastiche-artists to stick with the original short form.
Anyhow, this book. It doesn’t present Conan as a character in any way that’s likely to be compelling to someone who hasn’t already got some imaginative investment in him from some other source. It’s got gratuitous female nudity and inconvenience, and reasonably amusing rivalries and one-upmanship among the characters. There’s no shortage of violence to adrenalize the melodrama. Being okay with all of that, I was still disappointed by the way that the final chapter resolved plot elements at a rather breakneck pace, almost making it seem as though the climax and denouement were added out of a sense of grudging obligation. [via]
Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews Free Companions, volume 9 of the Dark Horse Conan collections, by Tim Truman, Tomas Giorello, Joe Kubert, and Jose Villarrubia.
I can still recall my entry to comics reading as an adult. It began with the early issues of Grimjack from Chicago-based First Comics, written by John Ostrander, with art by Timothy Truman. That book got me excited about the comics medium in a way that traditional capes never could, and I really liked Truman’s art. In the many years since, I’ve come to respect Truman’s own talents as a writer, and I’ve been pleased with the work I’ve seen him do on the Dark Horse Conan books. Ironically, my affection for him as an artist has not been so durable. The Free Companions collection of issues 14 and 16 through 21 of the Conan the Cimmerian title does a fine job of showcasing Truman’s writing, while his art suffers by comparison to the two other artists whose work is presented in the same volume: Joe Kubert and Tomas Giorello.
Kubert’s distinctive style is well-suited to sword and sorcery, and his contribution is a frame-story for “Home for the Hunt”: Kubert shows the court of Khoraja, while Truman’s interior tale is a recollection of Conan’s Cimmerian youth. The body of the book is the “Free Companions” novella, recounting Conan’s early blunders in national politics. Truman’s art is central here, but it is framed by a story in Giorello’s images, which continues into the epilogue “Kozaki.” There are also some full-page interstitial pieces by artists Cary Nord and Joseph Michael Linsner. Of all these artists, Giorello and Nord do the best job of capturing Conan and the Hyborian Age, as far as I’m concerned.
Truman’s development of a continuous narrative to cover the activities of the still-young adventuring Conan invites comparison to the many such developed by pastiche writers since the 1950s. Truman does as well as any and better than most. His work as a comics scripter is doubtless informed by his experience as an artist, and he is adept at letting the pictures carry the bulk of the storytelling, while his dialogue is credible and dynamic, and his narrator’s voice captures the feel of the Robert E. Howard original. [via]