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Monday, December 8, 2008

“Conan: The Hand of Nergal” Collection by Timothy Truman & Tomás Giorello (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

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ABOUT CONAN — THE HAND OF NERGAL: A mysterious curse lingers, following Conan as he attempts to return to his homeland, where a great darkness awaits in the doomed city of Yaralet

This latest collection in
Dark Horse's smart, innovative Conan series finds the young Cimmerian chased by both unfinished business from his past and a strange, mystical waif who seeks to deliver a dire warning to the wandering barbarian.

Fleshing out
Robert E. Howard’s unfinished “Hand of Nergal” tale, Timothy Truman weaves several Conan plot threads together in an ambitious culmination of ideas, and his skill at characterization is apparent in both his handling of Howard’s beloved, iconic hero and a colorful supporting cast of thieves, royalty, seasoned soldiers, magicians and demons.

Argentine artist Tomás Giorello brilliantly illustrates pulse-pounding battles as well as riveting moments of suspense and heartbreak, aided by color artists JD Mettler and
José Villarrubia.

CLASSIFICATION: Not much needs to be said here. It’s Conan after all. So expect plenty of thrilling sword & sorcery action including savage battles, copious bloodshed, monsters, dark magic, a touch of black humor, and scantily clad women…

FORMAT/INFO:Conan: The Hand of Nergal” graphic novel is 152 pages long and contains Conan issues #47-50, plus a Prologue written by
Kurt Busiek (Astro City, Avengers, Superman) and illustrated by Cary Nord. “The Hand of Nergal” is the sixth graphic novel collection—after Rogues in the House—in Dark Horse’s ongoing Conan comic book series which began in 2003 with Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord. “The Hand of Nergal” graphic novel also includes a Foreword by Mark Finn, an Afterword by Timothy Truman, a sketchbook showcasing Tomás Giorello’s stunning pencils, and a map.

Conan: The Hand of Nergal” Hardcover was released to comic book stores on September 17, 2008 in both Hardcover and Trade Paperback editions, and made available on on October 1, 2008. Conan is published by Dark Horse.

ANALYSIS: I’ve read a few of
Robert E. Howard’s stories, seen the films starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, watched some episodes of the animated television show, read some of the comics, and I’m a huge fan of Frank Frazetta’s paintings. But when it comes to Conan mythology, especially the comics, I’m hardly an expert. In fact, the last time I read a Conan comic book was back in 2003 when Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord debuted on the new ongoing series from Dark Horse—I only read 3-4 issues—and before that, I vaguely remember reading some older comics.

So, with “The Hand of Nergal”, I can hardly comment on the graphic novel’s performance compared to other Conan comic book adaptations. Nor can I really validate the accuracy of this graphic novel’s Conan in relation to
Robert E. Howard’s vision—although it does seem fairly faithful. What I can tell you though is that “The Hand of Nergal” is an all-around solid comic book experience.

In other words, both Timothy Truman’s writing and Tomás Giorello’s illustrations are duly capable in their respective areas, and seemed to complement one another well. Each is not without issues however. Of the former, I thought Timothy’s narrative prose got a bit heavy-handed at times, the characters were stereotypical, and the subplot involving Gunderman was lacking—particularly the anticlimactic meeting between the two—while the plot itself was straightforward and unoriginal, especially if you’re familiar with sword & sorcery tales or H.P. Lovecraft. As to the latter, Giorello’s illustrations are not as striking as Cary Nord’s, but a lot of that I think has to do with the dull inking & coloring which seemed to weaken Tomás’ pencils rather than enhance them.

All complaints aside, I enjoyed reading “The Hand of Nergal”. And, as an added bonus, the graphic novel reminded me why I like sword & sorcery so much in the first place, Conan in particular, and thanks to it, my interest in Conan comic books has now been renewed…


Throughout his twenty-plus-year career,
Timothy Truman has emerged as one of the most distinctive voices in comics as well as one of its most original artistic storytellers and stylists. Notable works include Grimjack, Scout, Hawksworld which received a 1991 European Haxtur Award, and Jonah Hex, his critically acclaimed collaboration with writer Joe. R. Landsdale, which received the Bram Stoker Award.

Tomás Giorello studied comics art at the Villagran Studio for nearly five years and began his career working for various Argentine publishers. In the mid-1990s he found work in the U.S. through S.Q. Productions, Chaos Comics and
Heavy Metal magazine. Since then, he has worked with Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Wizards of the Coast and is now the regular artist for the ongoing Conan series.


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