Friday, 22 April 2011

‘Conan Volume 7: Cimmeria’ – Truman, Corben & Giorello (Dark Horse Books)

If you scroll down the page a bit you’ll see that this week has been a great week for reading (mine!) here on the blog. Being honest though, I’ve got to say that the cumulative affects of lack of sleep (over the last few days) meant that I found myself naturally gravitating towards the stuff that I knew I’d enjoy. That’s just the way it goes round here sometimes and I wouldn’t be too surprised if you saw more of the same in the future.
 Anyway... I was looking for something to read that would end the week on a high and ‘Cimmeria’ seemed like the best way forwards here. I’ve been enjoying Truman and Giorello’s run on ‘Conan’ for a while now and ‘Cimmeria’ was a great way to fill in some of the gaps that inevitably occurred while I was collecting the comics a year or two back.
Well the gaps can now well and truly be considered filled in as far as this storyline goes. The artwork is as lovely as ever (even more so at times) but the plot itself didn’t seem up to the same high standards this time round...

Weary of the duplicity of so called civilisation, Conan finds his feet taking back towards his dark and misty homeland of Cimmeri, where a foe would never dishonour himself by stabbing you in the back and life is so much straightfoward. After so long away, Conan wants the kind of honesty that only his homeland can offer. Cimmeria has it’s own internal bickering though and Conan must swiftly come to terms with this if he is to protect the woman that he first loved. A raiding party of Aesir hint at a truce in danger of being broken and Conan’s first love Caollan lies at the heart of it all…

‘Cimmeria’ is split into two tales, Conan’s return to his homeland and the journey that his Grandfather Connacht made when he left. The two plots dovetail well and not only is this a nice way of getting two stories for the price of one but Cimmeria as a country is shown to exert a very strong pull on it’s countrymen. You get a really clear picture of what it means to be Cimmerian. I’m no scholar of Robert E. Howard and couldn’t tell you how much of Connacht’s story is based on what Howard actually wrote (my suspicion is very little if any). It does however remain a very interesting story that suggests where Conan got his own wanderlust as well as showing us Conan’s world through a set of fresh eyes. You can’t argue with that and Connacht’s story was the highlight of the book for me, especially how it is rendered through Richard Corben’s striking artwork. There is no way that you will get the two tales mixed up here…

It’s a shame then that the same cannot be said for Conan’s own story (although Tomas Giorello comes up trumps again with his artwork and has pretty much supplied the definitive Conan as far as I’m concerned).
Conan’s tale is an expansion of the Robert E. Howard poem ‘Cimmeria’ and those initial lines (coupled with Giorello’s art) really take you into the setting itself. I’m finding out more and more about Howard at the moment and I can add ‘writes a mean poem’ to that list. The rest of the story doesn’t quite capture that same feel though; Truman’s writing here (good though it is, intrigue and blood drenched action in equal measure) fails to maintain this feeling and suffers for it. What you have is a story with atmosphere but not the atmosphere we were promised right at the start…

‘Cimmeria’ is visually stunning but very much a book of two slightly uneven halves that affect the flow of the story as a whole. This won’t stop me reading though, the ‘Conan’ books, from Dark Horse, are well worth your time.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

1 comment:

Taranaich said...

Here's the extent of information we have on Conan's grandfather, from Howard's letter to P.S. Miller:

...Conan was of mixed blood, although a purebred Cimmerian. His grandfather was a member of a southern tribe who had fled from his own people because of a blood-feud and after long wanderings, eventually taken refuge with the people of the north. He had taken part in many raids into the Hyborian nations in his youth, before his flight, and perhaps it was the tales he told of those softer countries which roused in Conan, as a child, a desire to see them.

No names, physical descriptions or other details, but a compelling core for a character instrumental to Conan's early upbringing. We actually know more about Conan's grandfather than his own parents!

I preferred Truman's conception of Cimmeria to Busiek's in Born on the Battlefield, though I'm not a big fan of Caollan. The introduction with "Cimmeria" was particularly triumphant.