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]