By Crom, this near seven hundred page tome is a weighty vessel filled with four colour riches beyond compare that linger, and continue to play out, in the mind long after the last page is finished with and the book has been closed. Celebrating Conan’s adventures and world, The Conan Reader is filled with tales of dark magic, errant priests, demons, lost cities, dread keeps and terrible towers, wizards, foul things from realms unseen, forgotten battles, conquest, the greed of evil men and women, fantastical quests and unrivalled ambition that revolve around the legendary barbarian. Comprised of one shots and the most celebrated of Conan tales that emerged during the time that Dark Horse was responsible for his fate, The Conan Reader is not only the sort of book that fans of the Cimmerian warrior dream about, it also serves as a perfect introduction to the character for anyone unfamiliar with his storied, and vast, history.
Told by a veritable who’s who of authors and artists, all of whom at some point in their lives have had their hearts and imaginations stolen by Robert E Howard’s stories of Conan, each tale is a testament to the character’s longevity and the devislihly creative ingenuity and inventiveness of the man, the aforementioned Robert E. Howard, who originally gave him life. Attempting to single any one tale out is nigh on impossible, especially when the line-up of talent involved includes a number of my favourite writers and artists, namely Kurt Busiek, Ariel Olivett, Timothy Truman, Fred Van Lente, Kelley Jones and Eric Powell, but there are number of stories which I keep returning to time and time again, such as The People of the Black Circle, Storyteller, Book of Thoth, The Jewels of Gwahlur, Helm and Seeds of Empire all of which are more than worth the cover price in their own right. Many are the tales told of Conan by a legion of scribes, who picked up the warriors mantle when his literary father succumbed to his own monsters, across a variety of mediums, but for me, the stories contained in the pages of The Conan Reader are easily some of the best that have ever appeared in comics. This isn’t a book that you simply want or desire, it’s one that you need. Welcome to the days of high adventure… Tim Cundle