Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Conan and the Hand of Nergal

Nergal is, of course, a Babylonian god, who's cult at Cuth is mentioned briefly in the Old Testament, as a religion brought back into depopulated Israel by the now heathenized Samaritans. This meant that, like many other middle eastern heathen gods, he was demonized by early Christian writers. He's perhaps more familiar to gamers under the mangled spelling of Nurgle, where he's a chaos god of disease and decay in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 settings.

Be that as it may, under the direction of Tim Truman, Nergal is an elder, Lovecraftian god with a fondness for zombies. Truman's story came from a fragment penned (but never published) by Howard, and ignores a completely unrelated pastiche based on the same fragment written by Lin Carter... with the exception of using Carter's title.

This story, like the rest of the unofficially titled "Tale of Nestor" is a very Lovecraftian type of Conan; an almost horror story, which Howard wrote several of, but never starring Conan directly. It was an obvious direction to take, but Howard himself never quite got around to it, it seems.

The writing continues to impress me. Tim Truman is not Kurt Busiek, but I find that I don't really care. Unfortunately, Giorello is also no Cary Nord, and that I do care about more. Not that he's not a talented artist, but it isn't the Conan look that I've come to know and love, and frankly I found it occasionally distracting. Although I also have to admit that I didn't give Tomás Giorello enough credit previously; his work is very good, and his design of the undead thugs of Nergal is particularly nice. His depiction of Conan himself, the various other characters, and especially the women characters I found disappointing, however.

In any case, I'm a bit wound down on Conan. Not only can I apparently not easily get the next trade paperback from Interlibrary Loan, but I've also just read enough of them to tide me over for a while. When I get back to my Del Rey Howard collections, maybe I'll comment on them again, but for the time being, I'm not focusing on finishing the Erikson book that I've been slogging through for most of the summer, and then turning to a few of the shorter, breezier books in my collection that remain unread before attempting another doorstop of a fantasy epic.

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