“Know, oh prince that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis…” It doesn’t matter how many times I read those lines, without fail, they always send a shiver of uncoiled excitement through my being. In my mind, they herald the arrival of Conan, the freebooter, pirate and barbarian who would eventually become a king by his own hand, and thanks to Oliver Stone, the stoic, gravel tones that always whisper those words belong to Mako, the narrator of the Cimmerian’s original cinematic adventure. And seeing them grace the pages of The Cult of Koga Thun made me aware from the very beginning of the book that even though the words and story are Gerry Duggan’s, the vision that guides him is that of Conan’s creator and the father of pulp sword and sorcery fantasy, Robert “Two-Gun Bob” Howard.
Having returned to Marvel, his first four colour home, Conan, after battling sharks and slavers and having had an ancient treasure map burned into his subconscious and with a pair of companions in tow, embarks on a perilous quest to find said treasure before it can fall into the hands of Koga Thun, a snake obsessed wizard whose heart is darker than the plague pits of Stygia. From the off, The Cult of Koga Thun is a Howard-esque tale of high adventure filled with brutal sword-play, lizard men, betrayal, loss and death that culminates in the sort of adrenaline filled, drenched in sorrow ending that helped fashion Conan into the man who was fit to sit on the jewelled throne of Aquilonia.
Duggan’s prose is drenched in the spirit of Robert E. Howard, his narrative feels like it emerged fully formed from the pages of Weird Tales and his story is one that Howard would have been proud to call his own. The Cult of Koga Thun is all that a Conan tale should be, and while Gerry Duggan’s words lie at its muscular heart, it’s Ron Garney’s stunning art and Richard Isanove’s sun drenched and dungeon shadowed colours that bring the infamous Barbarian into gloriously violent being. Wherever he is right now, old Two-Gun Bob is grinning from ear to ear, because he knows that his world weary champion is in the best of hands and that Conan’s future is brighter than it has been for a long time. By Crom… Tim Cundle