Pros: Busiek's masterful writing wedded to Nord sensuous art.
Cons: None. This is a near perfect Graphic Novel.
Conan: The Tower of the Elephant by Kurt Busiek Art by Cary Nord From the stories of Robert E. Howard.
"Know, O Prince that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed of when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars....but the proudest kingdom in the world was Aquilonia, reigning supreme in the dreaming west. Hither came Conan the Cimmerian, black haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.
Young, still unschooled in the way of cities and of civilized men, Conan caroused his way across the hills of bright Corinthia like a man of bottomless fortune. In a minor town in the northern forests, though, his revels came to an end." The Nemedian Chronicles.
Black haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief....here is the crux of this collection of tales. Conan was many things, but respecter of other men's property was never among them. However, while a talented thief, he is not used to thieves, and thus, his travelling companions leave him drunk, penniless, and stuck with the bill at the inn.
Irritated, he set off in pursuit of them, cursing the ‘civilized' man's perfidy. However, losing their track at the crossroads, Conan casts about for them. What he finds instead are legends of haunted Uskuth Hill. Cross and contrarian, he beds down on that benighted spot, and discovers that all superstition is not based in lies. Carried through by strength of will, speed of arms, and a tendency to smash things without considering the consequences, he wins free of its haunted slopes and now is really p!$$ed. He determines to try his hand against Zamoria, the City of Thieves; if he can make it there he can make it anywhere.
He learns many things; compliance is a sure sign of later betrayal; sometimes you can teach a young wench to abandon old tricks, and sometimes, if you have enough enemies pursuing you, they will get in each other's way.
He also tries his hand at robbing the famed Elephant's Tower, to rob the Priest Yara of the fabulous gem, the Elephant's Heart. Therein he meets Taurus, King of Thieves, and many arcane horrors, and learns that not all monstrous beings are monsters.
Conan leaves these adventures, if not richer, then at least more skilled.
Kurt Busiek is a very gifted writer, with a talent for translating works of literature into the graphic novel format without losing that ephemeral quality of language that makes them unique and distinctive. He is one of the best of the Conan Pastiche artists, with the ability to work with his artists to carry the theme of the work into its new form unsullied. His action is tight, his pacing superb, and his dialogue could have been written by Howard himself.
Cary Nord is as skilled with the brush as Busiek is with the pen. His art is capturing more and more of the feel of the old Savage Sword of Conan Black and white magazines, but with far better anatomy and portraiture. His backgrounds are rich and detailed and very emotional evocative, setting the mood for the scene, differentiating cities by feel, just as Detroit and Seattle have different emotional vibes.
Together, they make a hero is smart, sexy, volatile, and probably a bit sociopathic. He is no one's fool, yet he is not the uber man either, never erring; he is a man full of faults and foibles and all the more entertaining for them. This series of Dark Horse published graphic novels continues to be one of the best produced pastiches of Robert E. Howard's work.
This Review, like the sullen-eyed Cimmerian himself, is Lean-N-Mean, weighing in at a concise 666 words. It is entered into the Sleeperless54 write off.
Conan, King of the Screen.
Conan the Barbarian
Conan the Destroyer
Conan in Comics:
Conan and the Songs of the Dead.
Conan and the Midnight God
Dark Horse Graphic Novels.
0.) Conan: Born on the Battlefield
1.) Conan: The Frost Giant's Daughter
2.) Conan: The God in the Bowl
3.) Conan: The Tower of the Elephant
4.) Conan: The Hall of the Dead
5.) Conan: Rogues in the House
6.) Conan: The Hand of Nergal
7.) Conan: Cimmeria