The Chronicles of Conan: Tower of the Elephant
Robert E. Howard's 'Conan the Barbarian' is almost as influential on the fantasy genre as Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Take hobbits and elves out of the swords-and-sorcery equation and you'll conjure up images of bare-chested barbarians heaving heavy swords, stealing jewels from temples and falling for buxom wenches. The fact that it's such a cliché is testament to Howard's relevance.
The Chronicles of Conan collects together the first eight issues of the comics inspired by Howard's hero and published by Marvel in the early 1970s. However, the artwork has undergone the comic equivalent of a digital remastering, having been recoloured by computer to help its transition into the modern era.
In this collection, Thomas has taken ideas originally developed by Howard and turned them into comics without losing, for better or worse, any of the pulp style originally instilled by Howard. There's none of Tolkien's pomposity here - just high adventure with a minimum of fuss. Thomas links individual episodes to a timeline by providing Conan with a flash-forward to his own regal future in the first episode, then cross-referencing individual episodes to each other.
The artwork is occasionally rough around the edges, especially towards the beginning of the book. However, the modern recolouring does a lot to smooth these issues out and has done wonders for the overall look of Windsor-Smith's work.
This is a genre comic to the extreme - a Marvel title that jumped out of the superhero frying pan, straight into the swords-and-sorcery fire. Still, if fantasy is a genre that interests you - and if the box office figures of The Lord of the Rings movies are anything to go by you're not alone - then this is an interesting flash-back to a classic series of award-winning comics.
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Dark Horse Comics (US)