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King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword #1 comic review

By Leroy Douresseaux
April 24, 2012 - 12:41

King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword #1 Variant Covery by Gerald Parel
When it appeared in the cover-dated December 1932 issue of the famed pulp fiction magazine, Weird Tales, “The Phoenix on the Sword” became the first published story featuring the character, Conan the Barbarian.  Writer Tim Truman and artist Tomás Giorello have adapted the story in King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword, a four-issue comic book miniseries from Dark Horse Comics.  The fourth issue is scheduled to arrive in comic book shops shortly (as of this writing).

King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword #1 introduces us to a gray-haired Conan, King of Aquilonia, and to Pramis, a scribe who is chronicling the story of King Conan’s rule.  Conan tells Pramis of a time early in his reign – a time of unrest – and the story travels back to that time.

Although Conan freed Aquilonia from a despotic king, he is now despised by Aquilonians, from the common man to the elite.  Rinaldo, the poet and bard, who once sang his praises, now stirs unrest against Conan and is part of a plot to unseat Conan and replace him on the throne with a pure blood Aquilonian, Baron Dion.  The mysterious Ascalante is the ringleader, but even more mysterious is Ascalante’s companion, a long-time enemy of Conan, the wizard Thoth-Amon.

[This comic book also includes a 4-page preview of Conan the Barbarian #1 by Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, Dave Stewart, and Richard Starkings & Comicraft, with cover art by Massimo Carnevale.]

THE LOWDOWN:  I find King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword to be an unusual Conan story.  It is not as if I haven’t read a Conan story like this – one that is a conspiratorial drama, but this is not the Conan comic book norm.  There is more dark drama here than there is edgy drama; in fact, the only fight scene is Conan’s palace workout at the beginning of the story.

That is not at all a bad thing.  Tim Truman fashions a story filled with political machinations and intrigue, but at its heart, it examines what happens when you get what you thought you wanted and then find it to be a prison.  As a monarch, Conan is trapped, and the interesting twist that Truman gives this story is that his enemies may be about to get what they wanted, but in the worst way.

Truman has a wonderful collaborator in Tomás Giorello, who takes Truman’s script and transforms it into comic book art that is a tapestry of exotic backdrops, a striking cityscape, strange costumes, and shadowy backrooms (includes a fine double page spread).  This art is not only perfect for Conan, but for just about any Robert E. Howard story.  Giorello could probably deliver a stunning comic book vision of Tolkien.

POSSIBLE AUDIENCE:  Fans of Conan will want to read King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword.


Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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