Sunday, 28 May 2017

Conan The Slayer #8 - Dark Horse Comics

CONAN THE SLAYER No. 8, April 2017
Regarded by some Robert E. Howard scholars as “the weakest of the early Conan tales” due to its “plot loopholes and borrowed elements”, “The Devil In Iron” still earned its author $115 when it was first published in “Weird Tales” in August 1934. Sadly however, it is doubtful the adventure’s narrative would have generated quite so much financial reward if it had followed the lines of Cullen Bunn’s adaption for Issue Eight of “Conan The Slayer”. For whilst the North Carolina-born writer’s script initially follows Khosatral Khel’s awakening on the remote island of Xapur by “a greedy fisherman”, it soon disappointingly degenerates into depicting a non-canon brawl between Conan and Gilzan during “a parley with the Kozaks in regard to a prisoner exchange.”

Such a disorientating diversion from the original text, does admittedly provide some semblance of action, as the Cimmerian brutally bludgeons Jehungir Agha’s heavily-muscled retainer into unconsciousness with his bare fists. But ultimately, Octavia’s feigned play at being a “trollop with this barbarian”, and her subsequent successful attempt to have the titular character become the Nemedian’s “instrument of revenge against her torturer” merely proves to be little more than a rather tiringly inferior delay in the storytelling process; “This not a war… But a disagreement between a man and a coward who torments women for sport.”

This displeasing interruption also seems somewhat self-defeating later in the twenty-two page periodical, when the GLAAD media Award-winner supplements Octavia’s speechless escape from her master’s castle and harrowing headlong flight towards the deadly island, by populating each panel with Howard’s original narration. This suspenseful scene is followed by Conan’s own arrival at Xaphur, yet because Bunn has already explained the Adventurer’s presence as a result of his ‘parley punch-up’, the reader is disconcertingly subjected to two simple pages of dialogue-free, unatmospheric tedium. 

Interestingly, the inconsistent quality of Sergio Davila’s artwork for this magazine would also seem to suggest he himself felt some modicum of displeasure at Cullen’s somewhat forced additional scenes. Why else would the “Dark Horse Comics” illustrator one moment dynamically pencil a hapless fisherman, who had climbed the cliffs of Xaphur, being dramatically crushed to death by a huge bronzed giant, and then in the next offer a dearth of poorly sketched lack-lustre panels concerning Conan’s fisticuffs? Indeed, it could be argued that the Spaniard’s drawing only noticeably picks back up to its high standard once the comic book returns to Howard’s published manuscript.
Script: Cullen Bunn, Artist: Sergio Davila, and Colors: Michael Atiyeh

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