Conan Omnibus Volume 5: Piracy & Passion – Brian Wood, Roy Thomas, Becky Cloonan & James Harren (Dark Horse Comics)

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More high adventure ad dark sorcery from the apparently bottomless story vaults of everyone’s favourite Cimmerian toe rag. This volume kicks off with Throne Of Aquilonia the blood curdling conclusion to Roy Thomas Road Of Kings series. Roy’s name attached to ANY Conan property is guaranteed to have me sprinting to the comic book store in quick time. I mean the guy wrote HUNDREDS of Conan strips back in the Savage Sword… days at Marvel. Needless to say Thomas returning to write a character that he more or less defined in the seventies and eighties was big news for any true fan. And whilst it didn’t disappoint, Throne Of Aquilona didn’t really blow my hair back either. All the adventure and intrigue and bloodthirsty sword slinging is present as you might expect, with Conan finding himself up to his neck in a plot to murder a king. Underground adventures follow battling through zombie infested catacombs as the city above them teeters on the brink of civil war.

Enjoyable stuff and great to see Thomas writing Conan again but the real treat in this volume was Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s  adaptation of  Robert E Howard’s original story Queen Of The Black Coast.

This story takes Conan away from the wandering swordsman phase of his character and into his pirate aspect. Rightly regarded by Howard scholars as essential part of the canon, we get to see a different side to the barbarian. His ship and crew ambushed and slain by reavers, Conan takes up with the pirate queen Bêlit and the pair commence upon a doomed romance that cuts a bloody swathe across the ocean.

Woods script is superb. Terse, punchy and full of blood and thunder his work on Northlanders standing him in good stead for this piece. Cloonan’s art matches the intensity of the words flawlessly. Her panels capture all the brooding, the insane violence and the fiery passions that distinguish The Queen Of the Black Coast as something more than just another tale of sword and sorcery. This one is special. You should treat yourself. Nathan Bean

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