Script – Timothy Truman
Artist – Tomas Giorello
Color Artist – Jose Villarrubia
Lettering – Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Cover – Gerald Parel
Publisher – Dark Horse
The first half of King Conan: The Hour of the Dragon wraps up with one of the most action packed issues yet.
This issue begins as old King Conan continues his story with the words “Death, I was born in its midst and suckled in its shadow.” These words from any other man might seem melodramatic or as some sort of boast but coming from King Conan they ring true and lamentable. Conan is a man that has certainly seen death and his words seem more of a warning than anything else. It’s as if he is telling the scribe Pramis, “If you want a life of peace and tranquility, do not walk the road I have.”
Conan begins with he and Countess Albiona’s escape from Tarantia with help from the Followers of Asura. Valerius and his soldiers are afraid of the Followers and believe them to be a damned people and therefore give their funeral barges a wide berth fearing they are cursed and full of dark magic. Conan uses this ruse to get 200 miles down the Khorotas river where he encounters yet another Follower who informs him that his friend and ally Trocero’s lands are nearby. Conan decides to go it alone from this point not knowing for sure if Trocero has remained loyal.
To Conan’s relief he finds that Trocero and his kingdom remain loyal and a council is called to decide the next move. Trocero advises Conan to attack Tarantia and lead him and his men to reclaim the throne. Conan declines and says he will not rule men by fire and blood. During the council a Follower of Asura shows up with news of the accursed jewel, The Heart of Ahriman.
After figuring out the best course of action, Conan decides once again that going it alone is best and asks Trocero for a horse and light armor and begins his quest for the jewel.
Conan feels alive again, riding his war stallion across the plains, a quest before him. He reminisces about being a lone barbarian, no cares or loyalties but to himself, free. He soon comes across a clue that the merchant he is looking for has been overtaken and brought to the warlord king Valbroso.
Conan once again in the disguise of a lone mercenary, rides to Valbroso’s stronghold and convinces him to let him join up by kicking some ass.
He is taken to the dungeon where the merchant Zorathus is being held. Zorathus is being tortured because he only speaks Kothic and refuses to show Valbroso how to open the strongbox that contains the jewel. Conan being well read and able to speak Kothic is given a go to get the information.
Zorathus recognizes Conan and the king tells him that he will no longer be tortured if he gives up the secret of his trick strongbox. He also informs him that he will kill Zorathus himself if he even trys to tell Valbroso who he is. Zorathus tells Conan the secret on condition that Valbroso himself open it.
When the bandit king opens the box a tiny needle dipped in black scorpion venom pricks his finger and Valbroso immediately and painfully dies. The jewel now exposed distracts Conan and he is hit from behind by Beloso the torturer and knocked unconscious. Conan is soon on his feet again and gives chase. He easily catches Beloso but through his cursed luck, just as he overtakes Beloso, Conan’s war horse uncharacteristically trips throwing Conan to the ground and once again rendering him unconscious.
After what appears to be several hours Conan awakens to find himself and his horse surrounded by flesh eating ghouls that wander the plains at night. Conan fights his way free and escapes on his horse.
We leave Conan as he ponders what lies ahead. Is the Jewel really the heart of his kingdom that the old witch spoke of? Why is the woman Zenobia constantly in his thoughts? Is he saving Aquilonia for himself? His people? Or is it all for her?
As expected Timothy Truman nails it in his adapted script. You feel the weariness of old Conan and the wild, reckless freedom of the younger king. I especially love the latter. Seeing Conan charging across the haunted plains of Valbroso’s kingdom being the badass that Conan fans want him to be is just the best. Truman could not have done a better job bringing Conan’s emotions to the page and I will certainly read just about anything the man writes.
The art team of Tomas Giorello and Jose Villarrubia consistently blow my mind with their vision of how Conan’s world should look. The art and color of this entire series has just been absolutely beautiful. It’s as if the two of them could look into my mind and meet my fairly high standards exactly, bringing this violent masterpiece to life.
Every one of the covers of the King Conan series by Gerald Parel unify the books and could easily stand as beautiful works of art all their own. As I have mentioned a few times in past King Conan reviews, Parel, in my opinion, easily rivals the great Frank Frazetta’s classic Conan work. Parel’s art is so kinetic and action packed I could spend hours just looking at the covers!
Even the lettering by Richard Starkings & Comicraft is essential to the book and I have come to know his work in other books. I have seriously never payed much attention to lettering in comics and Starkings has changed that with his work on King Conan.
Now we wait for February 2014 for King Conan: The Conqueror to complete The Hour of the Dragon story and I must say if it weren’t for the latest Dark Horse/ Robert E. Howard Estate offering, Conan and The People of the Black Circle I don’t know how I would get my monthly Conan fix!
It’s no secret here at FTN that I absolutely loved this first part of this series so I won’t beat around the bush. No clever jokes for my rating this time, just a solid…
5 out of 5 nerds