Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, and Conan of Cimmeria is ill at ease indeed. Long has he sat on the throne of Aquilonia, which he claimed by his own hand many years ago. And while Conan takes his duties as king of his adopted people seriously, he longs to return to the adventures of his youth.
To the dismay of his personal guards, Conan has taken to wandering the most wretched thieves’ dens and whore pits in the capitol city of Tarantia, seeking to take a drink in peace among honest fighting men. And, more often than not, starting a brawl to prove that his arm is still as strong as ever and his reflexes just as quick. His hair may be gray and his beard long, but time has done little to change Conan.
It is here that a ragged wanderer, whom Conan recognizes as a ranger of the Thandara borderlands, finds the king and insists the two must speak. The wanderer introduces himself as Gault, Son of Hagar. He spins a tale of dark magics and great evils rising up beyond the far side of the Thunder River in the Pictish wilderness – a place where civilized men dare not go.
Even the savage Conan has second thoughts about going toward such a place, though he lusts for adventure. Yet the Cimmerian may have little choice when the ranger entrusts him with a magic artifact he stole at great risk – a great iron crown with a glowing jewel that is linked by blood to Conan’s people as well as the fiendish Picts.
Wolves Beyond The Border is shaping up to be something special for the King Conan line of comics. Timothy Truman and Tomas Giorello have adapted many of Robert E. Howard’s tales of Conan’s days as king of Aquilonia into comics but this is the first time they have tried to spin an original tale out of one of Robert E. Howard’s undeveloped story-fragments.
Adaptions are always tricky business. And Howard fans are notoriously picky about pastiche works such as this one. Thankfully, Truman remains true to the spirit of Howard’s writing in his script, with the original fragment of Wolves Beyond The Border (of which Howard wrote two drafts) being entirely enacted within this first issue. Truman further cements this story in the Howard oeuvre, by tying the story into another Howard creation – King Kull, whose people were the ancestors of the Cimmerians and fierce allies of The Picts of that age.
Tomas Giorello’s artwork remains great. Few artists have captured the weird horror of Hyboria so well as Giorello, whose work is vividly detailed without seeming cluttered. The inks enhance the original pencils rather than obscuring them. And the colors of Jose Villarrubia perfectly paint the finished artwork.
If you’ve yet to join Conan in treading the jeweled thrones of the Earth under sandalled feet, this comic would be a fine place for you to begin your adventures in the world of Hyboria. The story is great. The artwork equally so. And I cannot wait to see what Truman and Giorello have in store for us next. By Crom, this is Conan at his best!