Script – Timothy Truman
Artist – Tomas Giorello
Color Artist – Jose Villarrubia
Letterer – Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Cover Artist – Gerald Parel
Publisher – Dark Horse
BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
In a world where political correctness is the name of the game, one risks being ostracized for damn near everything one does, and comics are supposed to convey some deeper message through fantastic characters with real human flaws, a book like King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon is a refreshing change.
It’s a pretty simple tale of a barbarian king who loses his throne and fights his way back to the top, kicking ass and taking names along the way, but it’s what it isn’t that appeals to me. King Conan isn’t trying to prove some overall feel-good point, it’s simply telling a great fantasy story by a great author.
Issue four begins back in the tomb of Zenobia where the elder King Conan continues the story of his escape from the castle of Tarascus, and how at their first meeting, Zenobia’s help had been instrumental in that escape.
We then flashback to a younger King Conan on horseback charging away from the castle, he has a look of grim determination on his face that is drawn and colored perfectly by the art team of Tomas Giorello and Jose Villarrubia. I have to pause here and reiterate just how fantastic the art is in King Conan. I think of all the Conan art I have seen over the years, with the exception of Frazetta of course, this book is my favorite. It’s just “CONAN”, if you know what I’m saying!?…Well, do ya? Well read it already! It’s great! It’s Conan right? Told ya! The covers of each and every installment of this series by Gerald Parel have been incredible as well. This cover in particular has an awesome scene depicting not only Conan in full battle rage, but also a witch shooting magic lightning as well as a giant wolf eating a guy! Seriously well done.
So Conan is free and sets to gathering together his countrymen that remain faithful to him. Along his way Conan hears the sounds of someone being assaulted. When he investigates further he discovers that one of his people, an old woman named Zelata, is getting the shakedown from some of the guys that invaded his homeland. After calling them dogs or something to that effect, Conan gets to kicking ass as only Conan can, meaning he gets out a big sword and handles his business! Meanwhile, Zelata crawls from the melee of barbarian business handling and grabs a magic dog whistle, which sounds silly but rules! She blows the whistle and out of the woods comes a huge wolf that proceeds to help Conan take out the bad guys. It appears that Zelata is a witch that can somehow commune with nature. While Conan ponders dealing with sorcery, Zelata calls an eagle that swoops in and takes out a suspicious raven that had been following Conan. It turns out; the raven was actually a familiar of former priest and current amateur wizard Orastes, one of the men that resurrected Xaltotun the undead sorcerer! Still with me? Okay,
so Conan decides that a little sorcery in his favor couldn’t hurt and since he needs a place to hide out and crash for the night, he will go with Zelata to her remote cottage. I want to point out how well writer Timothy Truman’s brilliantly adapted script for one of Howard’s more famous Conan stories works here. When Conan ponders getting involved with the witch, the look of Conan, the backgrounds, the dialogue bubbles and boxes (expertly handled by Richard Starkings & Comicraft) and the words all blend together to convey Conan’s thought process. You practically hear the gears grinding in his head. If you have read Conan stories before you will already know that the barbarian has no love for magic or sorcerers. You will also know that Conan ultimately never loses, yet on more than one occasion in this series the story blends together with the art so flawlessly I find myself on the edge of my seat cheering for Conan, wondering how he will get outta this one…I know this story…I know what’s coming…but I get lost in it with this book for some wonderfully illogical reason.
Conan goes with Zelata to a small cabin built on top of a hillside in the remote forest where she assures him that no one will find him and Orastes’s familiars will be dealt with.
That night Zelata uses her magic to show Conan what transpires in his kingdom. He has a vision of his people turned against him and the traitor Valerius sitting on his throne. The witch then looks into the past for some clue to help Conan regain his kingdom and it is revealed what Conan must do.
Conan awakens after a night of fitful sleep, bids Zelata farewell and heads off to find out if any of his generals have remained loyal. He soon comes to the house of his friend Servius Gallanus. Servius tells Conan the whereabouts of his most loyal men and then informs him that the Countess Albiona has been imprisoned in the Iron Tower and is scheduled for the headman’s axe. Conan decides to show his people who the Boss is with one great heroic act by freeing the Countess. To be continued…
I think I have said just about everything I can say about how great this book is. I am still in awe of just how “CONAN” it is. The team putting this book together are continuing to surprise and amaze me, and with just two issues left in this half of the series it will be sorely missed until the second half which will be titled, King Conan: The Conqueror in 2014. No surprises from me when I give this book…
5 out of 5 nerds