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Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Savage Sword of Conan. Volume Six. Dark Horse Comics (2009)

This volume collects issues 61 to 71 of The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian black & white magazine. It includes all the original covers as well as the various pin ups from each issue. The volume is packed with great stories and outstanding art.
The stories are written by Roy Thomas, Michael Fleisher and Bruce Jones all of who understood how to manage the story formula with skill and care. The mixture between sword and sorcery is a delicate one and requires subtle skill to bring off successfully. The ingredients are obvious, scheming politicians, kings and queens, power hungry wizards, beautiful women and lots of fighting. The hinge of the stories is that Conan with his taste for wine, women and swordplay and his instinctive dread of magic is also possessed of a sophisticated understanding of how power works. His wits and observation are as quick as his sword arm and knowing how and when to highlight one or the other is the craft in these stories. With the extended length provided by the magazine format and no requirement for issue to issue continuity the writers had the scope to mix plot and character to great effect.
The art is the most obviously striking aspect to the stories, it is as subtle and sophisticated as the stories, providing a nuanced and detailed flow for the stories that draws the reader in. My favourite artists on the stories are John Buscema and Ernie Chan, together they have a detail and texture that is unrivalled. In the "The Lurker in the Labyrinth" there is a single panel of a brawl in a tavern that shimmers with action, the details are crisp and clear, the physical reality of Conan's world is made plain. This volume is a slab of unadulterated pleasure.

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