Chronicles of Conan Vol. 7:
The Dweller in the Pool and Other Stories
By Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Neal Adams, Joe Sinnott and others
Published by Dark Horse Comics; $15.95 USD
Barry Windsor-Smith's Conan always far outshone John Buscema's to my eyes, but I have to admit that Buscema's work looks fantastic in this latest volume collecting the original Marvel Comics run of Conan The Barbarian.
Dick Giordano handles a lot of the inking on the stories collected here, with other chapters inked by Neal Adams "and the Crusty Bunkers," one by Ernie Chan, and one by Joe Sinnott. All of them work well over Buscema's muscular, energetic pencil work. The re-mastering and re-colouring that Dark Horse has done for this series of trade paperbacks looks spectacular, with vivid gardens made lush and inviting, and harsh landscapes that do indeed seem to contain the threats that Conan is always stumbling into.
Dark Horse is also re-lettering these volumes, and this one shows an improvment over earlier editions. It should be noted, though, that there are at least three errors that a proofreader should have caught -- "Conjurver" instead of "Conjurer," "Nemisis" instead of "Nemesis," and "Spitifre" instead of "spitfire." It's a shame, because these mistakes could so easily be avoided, and otherwise these volumes really make the material shine in a way that the original, crumbling comics of decades ago simply cannot match.
The book begins with an entertaining twoparter featuring Red Sonja, but she is quickly shuffled off the stage to make way for the storyline that dominates Vol. 7, an adaptation of Gardner Fox's "Kother and the Conjurer's Curse." It's a sprawling epic (that in Fox's hands had nothing to do at all with Conan, a story Thomas explains in the endnotes) that introduces Stefanya, a young woman rescued from certain death who accompanies Conan through most of the book, and who makes an interesting, beautiful companion for Conan to play off of. It will come as no surprise that she carries a secret in her near-forgotten past, but Thomas paces the revelations well, and the story-arc is one of the best Conan tales I've ever read, with a touching ending that feels honest and earned, yet is fully in keeping with the rough, hardened character of Conan. Chronicles of Conan Vol. 7: The Dweller in the Pool and Other Stories is beautifully reproduced and the story and art are well-worth the effort Dark Horse has undertaken to re-present them for modern-day readers. Grade: 4/5
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