Monday, December 10, 2018

The Colossal Conan

 Now this is an omnibus!

 I've been sitting on this book for over five years now, and the time finally seemed right to crack it open. Conan's profile is higher now than it has been since Dark Horse first started publishing him in the early 2000's, thanks to Marvel acquiring the license. Marvel will start publishing new and reprinted Conan material in January of 2019, and Dark Horse has been frantically milking the license for all it's worth in the last months of 2018, publishing collected edition after collected edition. So the time seemed ripe to finally sit down with this massive tome, and get my fill of barbarism.

 THE COLOSSAL CONAN collects Dark Horse's inaugural Conan series in full, issues 0-50, and is quite an impressive omnibus, both physically and content-wise.

 The series was a huge hit when it premiered, thanks to the pairing of superstar writer Kurt Busiek and hot artist Cary Nord, whose work was printed without inks, giving it a raw, unfinished look. Busiek has a brilliant hook on which to hang a Conan series, and it works wonderfully: The stories are framed by tales of a young Prince and his sinister advisor, who, hundreds of years after Conan's passing, find and read a series of scrolls that chronicle the life and times of King Conan of Aquilonia. Longtime fans of Conan might immediately suspect who this mysterious Wazir is, but Busiek teases the mystery along perfectly.

 Dark Horse has created a perfect omnibus here, storywise. While Busiek leaves about halfway through the collection, he is ably replaced by the legendary Timothy Truman, who details the circumstances surrounding Busiek's departure in his excellent afterword. Busiek left on good terms, and worked with Truman and Dark Horse to ensure a seamless transition. Busiek's storylines play out the way that he intended, so we get a full, rich reading experience, and the collection has a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Things get a little choppier and more episodic under Truman's reign, but that can easily be put off as The Prince reading The Nemedian Chronicles out of order. (There are a few issues that come out of left field, and feel like inventory stories published to avoid blown deadlines.)

 There is some spectacular writing and artwork on display in this collection, by luminaries such as Kurt Busiek, Timothy Truman, Cary Nord, Mike Mignola, Thomas Yeates, Tom Mandrake, Tomas Giorello, Paul Lee, Tony Harris, Ladronn, Michael Wm. Kaluta, Rafael Kayanan, Joseph Michael Linsner, Fabian Nicieza, Eric Powell, Greg Ruth, Leinil Frances Yu, and Bruce Timm. This is, hands-down, the largest book that I own, at over 1,200 pages, and weighing in at a whopping thirteen pounds.

 As always, Dark Horse continues their maddening trend of not including variant covers in their collections, and there is the curious omission of the 2006 Free Comic Book Day Conan story, "The Spear". The decision to not include that story is an especially curious one, considering that it was the first Conan story written by Timothy Truman, and the cover for it is included in the back of the book, as the one and only extra. It's hard to complain in an instance like this, though...for all I know, including any more pages might have been impossible, considering the fact that the book is over four inches thick. Dark Horse did not skimp on the paper stock, that's for sure, and the binding is extremely sturdy. As a completest, the missing variant covers and story do rankle....for $150.00, this should be THE final word on Dark Horse's original Conan series.

 THE COLOSSAL CONAN earns a barbaric eight out of ten wenches:

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