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Conan The Barbarian Epic Collection: The Original Marvel Years - Hawks From The Sea (Conan The Barbarian (1970-1993)) Kindle Edition
- ASIN : B08R18ZTL2
- Publisher : Marvel (10 March 2021)
- Language : English
- File size : 491625 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Not Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Print length : 267 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #767,423 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from other countries
This edition features issues 14 to 26, which the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed include the first two of the John Buscema issues. This is necessary, because Buscema’s first task was to complete the story Smith had started in 19 (the siege of Makkalet) before he jumped ship. As with Neal Adams, who deserted the Avengers Skrull-Kree war at the last post, it’s always aggravating when an artist can’t, or won’t, complete a job of work; as good as Buscema is, his brawny, musclebound Conan is very differently drawn from Smith’s lithe, lean version, and the king, queen, and wizard also all change in appearance. I also feel that it wasn’t Thomas’ original intention (although he remains the writer) that the scheming queen didn’t know the purpose of the wizard’s armlet (or amulet as it mistakenly becomes in everyone’s memories), one twist too many, turning originality in 21 into cliche in 26.
This is also an absurdly lean volume, hardly deserving the label ‘Epic Collection’. Smith did other Conan stories for the black and white Savage Tales and/or Savage Sword of Conan, I seem to recall, and it would also have been useful to include some of those, particularly, for comparison, “The Frost Giant’s Daughter”, which endured heavy censorship by the Comics Code people for its colour appearance here (Steve Englehart saved the comical but depressing correspondence on the subject, which is reprinted in the extras without comment). Or, the editors could have done the obvious in the first place, and put the first 26 issues into one volume, instead of milking the mooing faithful into paying double (it’s amazing how 23 dismal sub-standard issues of 1960s X-Men plus filler or 34 lame Human Torch stories can be jammed into a 500 page book, but Conan 1—26 spans two). This volume, which comes in at around 270 pages, is so thin that the lettering on the spine has had to be shrunk, so spoiling our Epic Collection display in the bookcase somewhat, the final insult… Naughty. Bad karma, boys.
At least the end product is worth having, the Thomas/Smith Conan stories have never been so beautifully presented than here, it’s just a shame we’re being so transparently taken advantage of. I appreciate Marvel are in business to make money, but we’ve been loyally throwing it into the pot, and deserve better treatment than this; after all, most of us bought X-Men volume two, as well as three…
Aaaaanyhow… contents. Illustrating my point, there is little to add that wasn’t said gushing about volume one. This volume is a little more variable, starting well with Conan’s encounter with Michael Moorcock’s Elric and the aforementioned Frost Giant, but flagging a little as Smith struggles with the schedules of a monthly deadline and we are subjected to jarring, conflicting art styles as other hands pitch in. Issues 17 and 18 are turned over to Gil Kane, 19 and 20 by Smith are superb, and 21, the cover ironically boasting of an award for excellence, is a rush job, with several inkers jumping in to finish Smith’s pencils on “The Monster of the Monoliths”, a particularly gruesome and downbeat story. Smith's head start on 19 and 20 lost, it is crystal clear this title should be bi-monthly.
Thomas was mortified to have to run a reprint of Conan number 1 in 22, the cover already printed with Smith’s “Shadow of the Vulture”, but worse was that the story had to appear in 23 with a wretchedly poor substitute the following month. Couldn’t they use 22’s cover again, but perhaps re-coloured? Despite the missing pages (I think) being recovered, 23 is an even busier mix ’n match of art, inking, and even letterers, that only Thomas’ superb storytelling holds together. On some pages, Smith is barely there at all, but Sal Buscema most assuredly is… Page 181 is particularly grating.
24 sees Smith back with a vengeance, doing pencils, inks, and even colours, but it is also his last issue. The final two chapters of the sprawling saga that begun in 17 are the work of the more professional but less exciting John Buscema, and mark the start of his lengthy tenure on the title from hereon. I am still uncertain if I will purchase further volumes; I admire Buscema, but didn’t care for his chunkier, snarling Conan, and hated Ernie Chua’s inks, but Thomas’ stories and the telling of them are so good that I may be swayed. We’ll see how hungry I am…
With the exception of 17 and the particularly crass 18, both adorning the Kane issues, the covers are absolutely stunning, 16, 19, 20, and 24 beautifully and unusually coloured by Smith himself in warm ochres, purples, and pinks, giving them a very exotic and middle eastern flavour at odds with other Marvel product at the time. I’d have put 20 on the cover, with 24 on the back.
Smith went out in style with issue 24, his swan song, a lusty, sexy story introducing the Red Sonja character. It was heavily censored by the butt-clenched prudes of the Comics Code Authority, poor babies, as the extras demonstrate, but Britisher Smith had the wicked satisfaction of sneaking a uniquely British and very Code-unfriendly epithet into the dialogue that, although cut later in reprints, survives in this edition (poor Thomas, tricked into including it, had to apologise later on the letters page, as I recall). Enjoy it on page 201. The pain in the gut of then seeing issue 25 hit the stands was literally physical. 25’s first page was particularly depressing, everything the previous 24 issues had avoided. That was that for Conan. I empathise with those who have given four stars, but I'll give five for the issues Smith turned up...
I suppose I will forgive the mercenary Epic Collection brigands for this flagrant and shameless cash-grab if they will get on with Tower of Shadows/Chamber of Darkness, My Love/Our Love Story, Colan and Kane’s Captain Marvel, and Ka-Zar…
The reproduction is mostly okay, although I wish they had used an uncoated stock, as the colours look a bit garish as compared with how they would have appeared on newsprint.
If you want your graphic novels to look pristine on the shelf, you might order through a local comic shop in preference to Amazon. My copy was not shipped in a cardboard mailer and arrived with damage to the spine and cover.
This volume contains some of the most famous Conan comic stories of all time and features the legendary artist Barry Windsor Smith at the peak of his early powers. It ends with the first issue of the also-legendary John Buscema run on the title. And writer Roy Thomas continues to deliver the best sword and sorcery stories (and adaptations of Robert E Howard stories) that Marvel ever produced. As far as the content is concerned, this is a must-have. But...
This volume is HALF the size of other Marvel Epic Collection volumes. I set it beside another volume released this month, X-Men volume 7, and it contains half the pages of the X-Men book. But the price was only $5 less than the bigger book at $40. There is no excuse for charging 7/8 the price for 1/2 the pages. (If you want a cheaper alternative, consider the Dark Horse reprint series "Chronicles of Conan." The coloring has been modernized but you might find them for half the price of this volume.) I don't expect to buy any more of these if the price isn't more reasonable in the future.
And it doesn't help that Amazon has all but quit offering low pre-order prices. These comic collections are not being discounted until AFTER they go on sale. So if you pre-order, you are guaranteed to pay the full retail price. If you wait till after they go on sale you have a strong chance of seeing a price reduction. It's been this way for a year or more now.
Conan the Barbarian Epic Collection, Vol. 2 collects issues #14-26 of the legendary early Conan the Barbarian comics written by Roy Thomas. Issue #24 "The Song of Red Sonja" closes out Barry Windsor-Smith's run as illustrator.
This collection is a lot of fun. The art and writing are top-notch for this genre. I cannot help but ask myself "What if Hollywood had adapted the Vilayet Sea stories?" This would have been a better Conan film than any of the three we have gotten so far. This ten-story cycle begins with #17 "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth" and runs through #26 "The Hour of the Griffin!"
Highlights of this collection include:
Issue #14 "A Sword Called Stormbringer!" and #15 “The Green Empress of Melniboné” feature Michael Moorcock's literary character Elric of Melniboné teaming up with Conan on an adventure. This is an interesting choice because Elric represents a nuanced, morally ambivalent sword-and-sorcery hero intended to stand in contrast to Robert E. Howard's clear-cut creation of thirty years previous. The story is a bit clunky in getting Elric from his universe to ours, but from then on the action is furious and the artwork is some of Barry Windsor-Smith's finest. The script emphasizes the vastly different worldviews of the sorcerer-king who embraces chaos magic and the barbarian who puts his faith only in his sword.
Issue #15 also includes the introduction of Kulan Gath, a minor sorcerer who appears briefly before being unceremoniously dispatched. However, he was resurrected for a Spider-Man/Red Sonja crossover in 1979. He became a recurring villain across several titles, most notably X-Men and Savage Avengers.
Issue #16 adapts one of my favorite Conan stories "The Frost Giant's Daughter". The art is fantastic but for the absurd choice to have Conan running around in snow-covered mountains wearing only a loincloth. In the prose story, he wore thick furs. Also, despite the northern clime, the colorist continues to use the darker "peachy" skin tone for Conan that originated in the middle of issue #13 to denote his pale skin had darkened under the desert sun.
(A black and white version of this same comic had appeared a year earlier in the 'Mature'-rated Savage Tales #1. In order to comply with the Comics Code Authority, many of the risqué panels had to be altered for the more family-friendly format.)
Issue #22 was a reprint of #1 but included here is the cover, which erroneously promises the next adventure "The Shadow of the Vulture".
Issues #23-24 introduce Red Sonja, the "red-haired she-devil more beautiful than the flames of hell" who of course has become a long-running popular comics character with numerous series of her own. She was loosely inspired by another Robert E. Howard character, but in the books she was a 16th century Polish-Ukranian warrior, not a contemporary of Conan.
[Note: The events of "The Song of Red Sonja" are recounted from Red Sonja's point of view in Marvel Feature: Red Sonja #1 (1975). This is worth reading. Readers learn what happens after she rides away from Makkalet under the cover of black night. Includes Conan in a brief flashback cameo.]
Some issues feature loose adaptations of Robert E. Howard's non-Conan stories that have been reworked to make Conan the hero: Issues #17-18 adapt "The Gods of Bal-Sagoth". Issue #21 adapts "The Black Stone". Issue #23 adapts "The Shadow of the Vulture". Issue #25 adapts "The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune".
This volume is light on bonus features:
• Includes a map of Conan's journey through the first 26 issues. Originally created for a special Conan Treasury Edition reprint.
• Includes covers for two reprints: The Essential Conan Vol. 1 and Conan: The Original Marvel Years Omnibus Vol. 1
• The letter from the CCA attorney demanding edits to "Frost Giant's Daughter". I am disappointed this book does not include the original uncensored black and white version from Savage Tales #1 for comparison purposes.
• Facsimiles of several pages of Windsor-Smith's uncolored art
It's not terrible. A little more effort and it would be worth the price.