Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I hope everyone has something like Hastings in their neighborhood: a regional chain where you can pick up some new or used books on the cheap. Like today's book! From Dark Horse, the 2008 trade Conan: The Blood-Stained Crown and Other Stories, written by Kurt Busiek (with Fabian Nicieza on "Helm") and art by Eric Powell, John Severin, Timothy Truman, Bruce Timm, and others.

In the introduction, Busiek explains that since regular Conan artist Cary Nord wasn't going to be able to draw twelve issues a year, they scheduled "Born on the Battlefield," stories of Conan's youth, with other artists. But they ended up with other issues as well, that would be considered fill-in issues if they weren't so good! Eric Powell draws a tribute to Robert E. Howard called "Storyteller," where a young man thought to be touched in the head is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice for an ungrateful, and unknowing, village. Tim Truman draws "Seeds of Empire" and the titular story, where a young prince reads conflicting versions of Conan's time leading hill raiders. "In the Tower of Tara-Teth" Conan fights his way through said tower for a prize that could save a village, but he's not the only one. (Art by Rafael Kayanan.)

My favorites of this one, though, are "The Helm," following Conan's lost horned helmet, as it passes from wearer to wearer on its unknowing way back to the Cimmerian. Then, clocking in at an efficient four pages, Bruce Timm draws "Conan's Favorite Joke," which Busiek credits to John and Paul--no, not those two, John Buscema and Paul Smith. It's great, although I certainly wouldn't mind seeing those other two artists versions either.

I've read Busiek's Conan only sporadically: I've enjoyed the issues I've read, but he always seems...I don't want to say "too good," but maybe too polished? Not pulpy enough? That's what I thought before, but I could be wrong; it may have just seemed that way in Busiek's adaptations of Howard stories I had seen before like "The Frost Giant's Daughter." I was glad to pick this one up for $2.99, which more than covers any flaws, real or imagined.

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