Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Brian Ching
Release Date: 23rd April 2014
Drunk in Shumballa and with only a vague memory of where he was going, Conan the Cimmerian is on a bender. Still reeling from the death of his lady love Bêlit the pirate queen, he’s found himself in a strange city and without any purpose. Thankfully there’s a bar well stocked enough to leave him waking-in-a-rubbish-pit-in-his-undies drunk. Weird things are afoot elsewhere in Shumballa though; a monstrous reptilian baby is stillborn to local nobility and the recently widowed father suspects witchcraft is afoot.
An adaptation of an unfinished story by Conan author Robert E. Howard (only a plot synopsis and a couple of chapters were completed before Howard’s death) Shadows Over Kush has – for want of a better phrase – an unique place within the canon of Conan. Writer Fred Van Lente deftly manages to walk the tightrope of clarity for the uninitiated and a knowledge of the material for the longtime Conan fan and the story ticks along nicely even if it at times it feels a bit expositional and text heavy.
The artwork by Bryan Ching, lean and angular with plenty of detail, is slightly reminiscent of J. Scott Campbell of Danger Girl, only with added grit. This art style leads to a Conan who is more catlike and lithe than the bulky muscleman he is often portrayed as and is all the better for it, particularly in a brutally swift fight scene. Ching also has a real flair for facial expressions, with eyes that are capable of expressing mirth, terror and a powerful hangover.
A confident take on everyone’s favourite Crom worshipper, Conan the Avenger #1 sets things up nicely for its next issue. Now that all the heavy lifting has been done in terms of exposition, here’s hoping that next time Conan will show a bit more steel.
The writer of this piece was: Joe Morrison
Joe is Freelance film journalist based in Glasgow.
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