Conan and the Jewels of Gwahlur #2 (2005)

I’ve never been a fan of Conan, and I’m not really sure why. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a stereotype of the character as this big, muscle-bound idiot who spent his whole life fighting bizarre monsters and going on pointless quests. I know I’m probably wrong in that opinion, and this comic shows how wrong I am.

Conan and the Jewels of Gwahlur is adapted from the original Robert E. Howard story by the legendary P. Craig Russell, a cartoonist perhaps best known for his tremendous ability to adapt operas to comics form without either medium suffering. His opera adaptations are creative, interesting, true to the source material, and, most importantly, fun to read. So who better to adapt a sword and sorcery epic than the man who brought comics the adventures of Parsifal?

This comic is a revelation for me. Russell casts all my stereotypes about Conan and his world aside. Conan in this story is smart, adventurous, mischievous and calculating; in short, he’s a great action hero. Conan’s schemes to gain a set of royal jewels are exciting and have a unique air of mystery about them. There’s a specific sub-plot about a goddess in this story that feels extremely fresh and intriguing. I wonder where the plot will lead.

Russell’s art is, as always, magnificent. Nobody draws with the grace and beauty of Craig Russell. His ornate palaces glow with grandeur. His forests are dark with mysterious light. His characters seem to completely inhabit their skin, looking as if they could step off the comic page at any time.

Once again my preconceptions are shown to be wrong. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

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