Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Post No. 503"

REVIEWING: The Savage Sword of Conan Vol. 1 trade paperback, published by Dark Horse Comics; 2007, 544 pages, B&W, $17.95.

You would think that Marvel Comics would have published this collection of "Conan the Barbarian" since all of the material contained within it originally appeared in the Marvel magazines, "Savage Tales" and "The Savage Sword of Conan". But Dark Horse has the Conan publishing rights these days and thus it's so. Who cares? Damn nice collection of the best of what those magazines presented in the early 1970's. The difference between this collection and a Marvel Essential, is perhaps the absence of some material that didn't really deserve to be included that didn't dwell in particular on the character.

Otherwise we begin this volume with some fine work by Barry Winsor-Smith that was originally in Savage Tales #'s 1 thru 5 including "The Frost Giant's Daughter" and the complete "Red Nails", then "Night of the Dark God" with Gil Kane artwork, and "Dweller in The Dark" (Smith artwork again), before we move into mostly John Buscema reprints from the first ten issues of "Savage Sword".

Along the way we encounter work by Alex Nino, Neal Adams, Jeff Jones, Walt Simonson, Alfredo Alcala, Tim Conrad (plus others) and of course, it's all written by Roy Thomas. We even have a nice full color cover painting by Boris Vallejo.

The black and white format, as in the originals of these stories, gives one a good aspect of the way the original artwork would have appeared, and leads to a better understanding of just how fine a craftsman someone such as Barry Winsor-Smith became, with this freedom in his style away from the typical 4-color comic book in his earlier days at Marvel (and as well why he became so closely associated with the Conan character). John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala's work is definately much better in black & white and ink wash and these earlier Conan tales shows their professionalism. Starlin's work is more quaint as it predates his association with such titles as Warlock and Dreadstar, but indicates the developement he eventually "grew into" artistly.

You may even be amazed at just how much material Roy Thomas was able to create regarding our favorite Robert E. Howard barbarian. In fact, if one already has "The Essential Conan" tpb, or, the color versions of the Smith and Gil Kane tales from the original Marvel comic book series (No.'s 1 thru 24), "Marvel Masterpiece" editions, etc., this is a definative bookend to those and with this first volume it would probably be all of the Conan tales you'd ever want in your comic book library unless you're just truely a die-hard fan of the character (as Marvel presented him).

I give this collection : "A+" in the way of a rating, (and give a reader the same if they can actually wade through all 544 pages of it).


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