Title: Conan: The Damned Horde TPB
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Brian Ching
Colorist: Michael Atiyeh
Letterers: Richard Starkings and ComicCraft’s Jimmy Bentacourt
Cover Artist: Brian Ching and Darryl Mandryk
I always forget why I love Conan. I find that the movie reboot does not do a proper respresentation of the barbarian part of Conan. He is such the barbarian that he has an entire philosophy on why civilization is just all bad. It’s not that Conan is an anti hero. Conan doesn’t care about anything but Conan. He doesn’t even care about Crom even though it seems like Crom looks out for Conan as much he wouldn’t like to meet.
If you haven’t been following Conan, he leads the formal Royal Guardsman of Kush, now known as Amra’s Bastards, out of Shumballa and into the mercenary life. Conan taught them how to live off the land and rely on their wits and warrior skills. Although the Royal Guardsman are “led” by Commander Katak, they all listen to Conan since he is the expert in all ways barbarian. Because Conan has this laizzez faire approach to leadership, this small army continues to fall under misfortune after misfortune. Ironically, Amra’s Bastards have adopted Conan’s free fall warrior ethos and tend to shrug off the misfortune.
The crazy part about Conan and probably the thing that I love the most, is that the villains he does not kill always come back to give him some problems. The thing is that if Conan shows up to your barbeque, people are dying. For some reason, the people who should die never do and always return for revenge. Oftentimes, like in The Damned Horde, these villains stumble upon Conan by chance. Usually Conan gets the opportunity to dispatch these foes. The final part about Conan is that he gets out of more traps than Batman did in the sixties. You get a few of these throughout the story. Unfortunately, his allies don’t have the same luck.
Fred Van Lente is a great writer. He is one of those writers that churns out great stories but is never mentioned when it comes to comic book writing. He has written loads of stuff for Marvel and Image. He does not deviate from the Conan persona but adds much color to the overall story line. Van Lente’s Conan is much more comical and it really works. The pacing works well with the plot twists. Van Lente’s talent really shines. If you are unfamiliar with his work, this is a great starting off point.
I have loved Brian Ching since Star Wars when it was on Dark Horse. Ching can draw action and his panels blend well. His experience shows. The reader will be able to keep up with the story. While there are many pencillers who have done great work on Conan, I think Ching is up there with the best of them. I enjoyed the facial expressions he drew on Conan. This added to Van Lente’s humor. Overall, the chemistry was there. As usual, Dark Horse has put out another quality product. I look forward to the continuation of this Dark Horse Conan series and hope they keep Van Lente and Ching.