Conan #28 (Dark Horse)

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Busiek respectfully lionizes a man who should have died as bravely as the heroes he dreamed into being. Visually, Powell and Stewart do no less, bringing a cartoonish flair to a story that is true in spirit if not in fact.

(Dark Horse; 32 pgs FC; $2.99)

(W: Kurt Busiek; A: Eric Powell, Dave Stewart)

Let me tell you, my friends, of a man of high adventure. Robert Ervin Howard was born one hundred years ago in 1906. For a man whose work dealt with millenniums, e’en untold aeons of time, a century doesn’t seem that long. Luckily, Howard’s work has a timelessness all its own. A troubled man who took his own life at the age of thirty, Robert E. Howard is best remembered as the creator of Conan and, perhaps, the preeminent writer of adventure fiction. Conan #28 is a memorial to Howard and the legacy of adventure he has bequeathed to his fans around the world. Wedged somewhat jerkily into the continuity of earlier issues, the story focuses not upon the bold warriors and sultry women that populate Howard’s worlds, but rather upon Rovann, a misunderstood young man derided by his fellow villagers even as they drunkenly cheer on his tall tales. Rovann is clearly Howard and the story is a sad, but heartfelt elegy for a prodigious talent that, perhaps, burned too brightly. So what happens when demons attack the village and only Rovann knows they have found a way in? Howard’s fate is only hinted at in Rovann’s tragically unsung end. "And none who knew him would ever know the true story. How could they... when there was no one to tell it?" Busiek respectfully lionizes a man who should have died as bravely as the heroes he dreamed into being. Visually, Powell and Stewart do no less, bringing a cartoonish flair to a story that is true in spirit if not in fact. The art is full of weighty lines and lively caricatures that evoke memories of Eisner, all enhanced by muted colors lending the smokey haze of a campfire yarn to the whole. Fittingly, the best tribute to Howard is the boon of a well-told tale.

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