Chronicles of Conan, v. 11: The Dance of the Skull and Other Stories
Collects: Conan the Barbarian #82-90 (1978)
Released: February 2007 (Dark Horse)
Format: 168 pages / color / $16.95 / ISBN: 9781593076368
Dark Horse’s reprints of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian keeps marching on with v. 11, The The Dance of the Skull and Other Stories.
Like the previous 10 volumes, v. 11 is written by Roy Thomas. The art is by John Buscema (five issues) and Howard Chaykin (three issues), but the strong finishes by Ernie Chan makes guest artist’s Chaykin’s work strongly resembles Buscema’s. Both the writing and art have a certain sameness compared with the previous volumes of Dark Horse’s Conan, and like many reprints of old comic material, the divisions between volumes are somewhat arbitrary. This is a bit of a problem since it prevents the book from having an identity. Why buy this volume over others? I’m not sure I can say.
Worse, the story in v. 11 begins in the middle of a storyline — and the storyline is a seemingly interminable pause in the quest of Belit, pirate queen and Conan’s lover, to discover the fate of her father. Conan is sent on several side quests, allowing Thomas to adapt several non-Conan works by Robert E. Howard and giving Conan an opportunity to pick up a sidekick. Well, Zula is more a partner than sidekick, but it’s still Conan’s book.
But it’s good to see another recurring character introduced. This is both because Belit’s subplot is quickly disposed of once Conan catches up to her and because Conan has precious few recurring characters. Zula is not a great character — he’s the last of a tribe of Blacks with a striking Mohawk — but he’s another voice, someone to contradict Conan without being evil, stupid, or petulant. Conan continually fighting mystic threats and winning through luck or bullheadedness needs some breaks.
But the plot’s the difficulty — meandering and unfocussed despite a specific goal, and no amount of princesses in slavery, Zula, or Thoth-Amon will fix that. It’s all very forgettable.
(Oh, and I still miss the original Marvel covers.)
Rating: (2 of 5)