Book Review: ‘The Conquering Sword of Conan (Book 3)’ by Robert E. Howard

This is the third and final installment of Robert E. Howard’s Conan collections in this series. It’s been a fun ride reading his Conan stuff in its entirety and this book didn’t disappoint.

After reading all three books, the quality between all these stories is pretty damn consistent and the ratings on these reviews only really reflect my own personal preferences of the stories collected in each one.

Out of the three, this one fits in the middle for me. It’s not full of just short stories and poems like the first volume or just collects a few novellas like the second, this book collects a handful of stories that fit somewhere in the middle.

The stories collected here are The Servants of Bit-Yakin, Beyond the Black River, The Black Stranger, The Man-Eaters of Zamboula and one of my favorites, Red Nails. There are some other miscellaneous things tacked on at the end.

With these stories you pretty much get what you’d expect. Conan kicks the crap out of monsters, goes on epic adventures, hunts treasure and wins over the women. Most of these, if not all of them, have been adapted into comic book stories. While I love both versions of these tales, there’s just something really cool reading them as Robert E. Howard originally wrote them.

Reading through all the Howard stories was a great experience and I’m glad that it’s a mountain I decided to finally climb in its entirety over the last few months.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Book Review: ‘The Conan Companion: A Publishing History and Collector’s Guide’ by Richard Toogood

If you remember the review I did for the book Paperbacks From Hell, this book is a lot like that one. Although, it’s focused specifically on Conan titles.

What’s cool about this, though, is that it doesn’t just go through the history of the original Robert E. Howard stories and books but it also covers the books that were written by other authors later on. It also explores the comic side of things to.

This is part history book, part reference book and part art book. Well, mostly art book, as it showcases so many great covers from the nearly century long literary history of the Conan franchise.

I loved thumbing through this as I was reminded of many book covers I had long forgotten and even more that I had never seen. When I was a kid, it was seeing these book covers in the library that really drew me to the character, even more so than the original 1982 movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Granted, the comics pulled me in too but there was just something about the paintings that adorned the covers of the paperbacks I’d come across that really captivated my imagination.

This is a pretty cool book to own if you’re a fan of fantasy art or the Conan mythos. If you’re a big fan of both, even better. 

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Paperbacks From Hell, as well as other Robert E. Howard related non-fiction books, many of which I’ve reviewed here.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 4: The Blade of Skath

Published: June 12th, 2019
Written by: Erik Burnham, Amy Chu
Art by: Carlos Gomez
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 120 Pages

Review:

I’m not sure why this series is still carrying the Worlds Away banner, as the story of Sonja traveling to modern Earth has been over since the second volume of this series. But whatever, you do you, Dynamite and Amy Chu.

This final volume in the series started out really strong and it was becoming my favorite volume in the series. But then it ended in the middle of the fucking story! What the fuck?! Why?!

I would’ve been infinitely more pissed if I had bought the trade paperback of this and not just bought the digital version during a big Comixology sale.

This started with Sonja discovering that her sword belonged to a great warrior king that lost it after killing a deadly dragon. She then seeks out this hero to return the sword only to find out that he’s a drunk and pretty useless now. As the land she’s in prepares for a big battle, she has to try and get this former king to return to his former glory and win the day. He continues to fail, drinking himself into a coma by the start of the battle. Then I don’t really know what happened because the story got prematurely cut off!

I bought and read through four volumes of this series and this is how it goes out?

Thanks, Dynamite!

Rating: 3/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 3: Hell Or Hyrkania

Published: September 26th, 2018
Written by: Amy Chu
Art by: Carlos Gomez
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 144 Pages

Review:

The main selling point of this Red Sonja series was that it took my favorite female hero and put her in the modern world. I like fish out of water stories, especially those that are part of the sword & sorcery genre. However, this third volume in Worlds Away sends Sonja back to her world. So I guess she’s no longer “Worlds Away”.

Each volume in this series has fallen off in quality. Now that the whole premise for its very reason to exist is now wiped away, it just doesn’t work for me anymore.

Additionally, the more cartoony style of narrative especially doesn’t work.

Frankly, this was just pretty weak, overall, and a disappointment after how cool the first volume was. And even though the second volume wasn’t as good as the first, it at least kept Sonja in the modern world and sent her on a cross country road trip, which was kind of cool.

Here, she goes back home and helps the guy from the modern world get back. Also, she finally beats Kulan Gath in this version of the Red Sonja mythos and all seems resolved.

Granted, there’s a little seed planted at the end to extend this series into a fourth volume. It makes me wonder if this was intended to be an ongoing series and that by this point, it kind of faceplanted and got cancelled shortly thereafter, only giving us enough issues for a fourth and final volume.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite.

Book Review: ‘The Bloody Crown of Conan (Book 2)’ by Robert E. Howard

The Bloody Crown of Conan is the second collected edition of the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories. Unlike the first one, however, this isn’t chock full of short stories, poems and unfinished works. This one primarily features three full-length novellas: The People of the Black Circle, The Hour of the Dragon, and A Witch Shall Be Born. There’s some bonus stuff tacked on at the end but these three stories are the focus of this volume.

For the most part, I liked the stories included here. Before this, I had never read Robert E. Howard’s original versions of them but I do recall two of them from comic book adaptations. Knowing Roy Thomas and his run on Conan comics while writing them at Marvel, I’m sure he adapted all three of these at some point.

I enjoyed the first volume a bit more, as that collection offered up more variety and featured more well-known secondary characters in their original literary versions. Still, these bigger stories were fun, adventurous reads.

The benefit of these novella length tales is that Conan feels more realized and complete. His character is able to develop and breathe a little bit more. This is where you really feel like you get to know him beyond just his already well-known basic traits.

For fans of the character and Robert E. Howard’s work, this is definitely something that should be read. If you’re like me and haven’t experienced these stories in their original form, you need to.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Robert E. Howard collections.

Comic Review: Red Sonja: Worlds Away, Vol. 2

Published: May 2nd, 2018
Written by: Amy Chu, Erik Burnham
Art by: Carlos Gomez, Tom Mandrake
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Dynamite Entertainment, 182 Pages

Review:

This series is pretty fun and this installment, the second out of four, just solidified that for me.

I liked the first volume more but this was cool, as it took Sonja out of New York City and sent her on a road trip across America. With that, she takes down a dangerous drug cartel that stretches across the United States.

Like the first volume, a lot of things that happen are the result of plot convenience. However, it’s bothering me less now and I’ve sort of just brushed it aside, as that seems to be the writing style of this series and to make certain things happen organically and naturally would probably take up more space than this story has. So it’s actually much more fantastical than a typical Red Sonja story but I’m already looking at this with the tone of an edgy adult cartoon more than anything serious.

The art was pretty decent but Dynamite usually has decent art in their Red Sonja titles. At the same time, it’s not great or memorable but it gets the job done.

Thus far, I like this series and since I’m halfway through it, I suspect that I’ll finish it and review the other two volumes as well.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Red Sonja stories from Dynamite, as well as the Conan comic book stories that put him in the modern world and the second Beastmaster movie that sent the hero to 1990s Los Angeles.

Book Review: ‘Barbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Vol. 2’ by Roy Thomas

The first volume of this book series covered issues 1-51 of the original Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian series. This volume covers issues 52-100.

These two books are written by Roy Thomas, the legend that wrote the Conan comics. These basically serve as his commentary on his stories.

In fact, when I go back and read old issues, I’ve picked these books up to read his insight before revisiting them.

Thomas has always been one of my favorite comic book writers and the Conan franchise has always been one of my favorite IPs. So having these books is pretty damn cool and I’m actually pretty thankful that something like this was written, compiled and published.

I already reviewed the first one and all the positives I had to say about it also ring true for this volume.

All in all, these are great, resourceful books that allow you to understand Thomas’ inspiration, his stories and these characters on a level much deeper than just the comic book page.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Roy Thomas’ historic run on Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian.