Monday, August 10, 2009

Conan and the Frost Giant's Daughter

I didn't have this on my "What I'm Reading" sidebar, but I have also been reading the trade paperback collection of Conan stories by Darkhorse Comics, volume 1. Kurt Busiek is the writer, and Cary Nord is the penciller. Darkhorse made a stylistic decision to not ink the Conan stuff, which actually looks really good. It gives the book a slightly rougher, almost unfinished look to it, which reminds me somewhat of Frazetta's style. I've seen other books done that way (such as the Wolverine trade paperback Origin pencilled by Andy Kubert, but it doesn't have quite the same feel to it.) Cary Nord just has a better style for Conan, I think.

The best part of this is that not only does Cary Nord dig the Frazetta style, but Kurt Busiek is a brilliant writer who gets Howard better than any pastiche writer to date, in my opinion. The centerpiece of all of the trade paperbacks is an adaptation of one of Howard's actual stories, but the other stories, and framing elements and transition pieces feel seamless with them. The Howard story here is, naturally enough, "The Frost Giant's Daughter" but the opening segment, with Conan making friends of a sort with the Aesir amongst whom he's traveling, and the follow-up story of Conan enslaved by the Hyperboreans, works brilliantly as well.

This Conan isn't a dumb jock like the movie version, and he isn't a heroic figure, like past pastiches have often painted him: he's a surly, moody barbarian. He's got some nobility of spirit, but he's also a scary man in a lot of ways. The setting, too, has a ripe Howardesque, sword & sorcery feel to it. It's decadent, it's brutal, and it's sleazy.

Although I'm not adding them to my sidebars, I'm going through the next 4-5 or so trade paperbacks again---I own the first four, and I've got the next two coming via Interlibrary Loan. So, if I throw in a quick and dirty review (like this one) don't be too surprised.

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