Graphic Novel/Comics Review

The Chronicles of Conan: The Curse of the Golden Skull

(2005) Roy Thomas and John Buscema, Titan Books, 12.99, trdpbk, 160pp, ISBN 1-84023-983-2

Also available The Dweller in the Pool, 168pp, ISBN 1-84576-028-X. These are volumes six and seven of the Dark Horse reprints of the classic Conan the Barbarian series. Curse contains issues 35-42 and Dweller has 43-51. Vol.6 in addition to John Buscema has the talents of Neal Adams and Rich Buckler, as well as the superb inking of Ernie Chan (Chua as was), and vol.7 features inks from 'The Crusty Bunkers' (Neal Adams' studio), Joe Sinnott, Dan Adkins, and the excellent Dick Giordano. The real stars, in many ways, are the guys responsible for re-colouring the original material, All Thumbs Creative (Peter Dawes, Ian Sokoliwski, Dennis Kashton and Wil Glass), although the re-lettering (Sno-Cone Studios) is shoddy in places - lots of transposed letters. It is still, in relative terms, early in Conan's career, so we see him become more proficient in horsemanship, archery and other skills, but otherwise it's the usual fights with sorcerors and brigands. Most of the adaptations are still of Robert E Howard stories (though they were not necessarily Conan tales to begin with), but the Rich Buckler fill-in tale in vol.6 is based on a plot by Michael Resnick, and vol.7 features Red Sonja in a freely-adapted story of David A English, while the latter part of that book is a free-adaptation of Gardner Fox's novel Kothar and the Conjuror's Curse. The slight continuity hiccup between volumes is explained in Roy Thomas's ongoing essays in the back of the books, and involves a tale that appeared in the black and white mag The Savage Sword of Conan (which it would be nice to see reprints of - more Neal Adams!). By his own admission, Roy Thomas feels the stories in vol.7 to be 'pot-boilers', but the art carries the book and features its own gags. For instance, the vagina-faced slug in the Adams-drawn 'Curse of the Golden Skull' inspires the testicularly-antennaed monster in 'The Last Ballad of Laza-Lanti'. These volumes continue to be beautifully presented, and it's a lot cheaper than trying to pick up the original issues of Conan the Barbarian, and I heartily recommend them to comics and Conan fans.

Tony Chester

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