Monday, 3 June 2013

‘Conan: Throne of Aquilonia’ – Thomas, Hawthorne, Panosian, Lucas & Jackson (Dark Horse)

Here’s something nice and simple to get me (maybe you too) into the week. It’s been a little while and I’m still finding my feet with posting and so on; some thoughts on ‘Throne of Aquilonia’ seemed like the best way forward.

If you’ve followed me in the past, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Dark Horse’s Conan output. If you didn’t… Well, now you do :o) When it’s done right (and Dark Horse do it right more often than not) it just feels so natural to see Conan’s tales told in comic book format. It’s pulpy, it’s violent and that comes across so well in this form. When it’s not done right though...? Well, it just comes across as really clunky and awkward, not the kind of thing that I want to be reading at all. I keep plugging away, in hope of more of the former than the latter, so where did ‘Throne of Aquilonia’ fall? As luck would have it, ‘Throne’ fell slap-bang in the middle with moments of pure awesome sharing the stage with moments that made me wonder why I was still reading…

Conan is still nearing the end his travels on the Road of Kings and what a way to end, drafted into a conspiracy to unseat the King of Aquilonia. Before he is done, Conan will face zombies, monstrous insects and a bloody great monster in the catacombs beneath the city.
If that wasn’t enough to be going on with, a chance encounter with a old friend will see Conan at the end of every sword in a small port city. Betrayed once again by the hypocrisy of civilised men, Conan must once again embrace his barbarism if he is to win free.

Having been a tiny bit scathing a few sentences ago, I ought to clarify things just a little bit. Roy Thomas does some pretty good work, as writer in residence, basically taking stuff that Conan always does and making it into a compelling story with lots of twists. You know how it goes… Conan’s naivety sees him being used/framed/generally messed around by civilised men with plans of their own. Conan realises too late and uses his sword to cut a bloody swathe to freedom. It can get a bit repetitive but it always makes for an entertaining read. Thomas makes it an entertaining read by springing the twists at just the right times and then throwing Conan and his friends into an underground fight with just about everything that can be thrown at them. There are also some nice little moments where Conan finds himself in charge of the little girl Albiona and his looking after her shows that he is most definitely not just about chopping heads off and getting drunk.

The encounter in Argos is also very readable with events leaving Conan in a prison cell before he’s really had a chance to find out what’s going on. This becomes a more straight forward affair, than the last story, with Conan basically doing what he does best but there’s an energy that makes this an exciting read. Nice cliff-hanger ending as well that sets things up for the next storyline (the title of which has completely escaped me…)

What annoyed me then? The artwork… I have a lot of time for Dan Panosian’s art which really captures that gritty pulp feel of the story; I’m thinking of every fight scene and that big monster (which is just ‘lizard like’ enough not to be too fantastic). I think Panosian draws a pretty good Conan as well. It was Mike Hawthorne’s artwork that let things down for me. At best it was overly cartoonish. At worst, the characters were overly cartoonish and awkwardly posed with no sense of movement in them. While Hawthorne’s art here is very crisp it really broke the flow of the story and that made for some ‘stop/start’ reading as far as I was concerned. Not so good when you’re trying to get into a story…

‘Throne of Aquilonia’ isn’t a bad read then (it has a lot going for it in fact) but I’ve got to say that I’ve read so much better from Dark Horse’s Conan line. It’s funny just what some inferior art can do…


  1. I've always been a bit iffy with Dark Horse, so I've not read much of their output at all. I might take a look at some Conan and see if it can get me into their stuff a little more.

  2. I'd definitely give it a go :o) 'Cimmeria', 'Black Colossus' and 'Free Companions' are my favourites and good places to start off.