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Conan: The Frost-Giant's Daughter & Other Tales
Review by James W. Powell

Conan Frost-Giant's Daughter Review: Cover Image
Conan: The Frost-Giant's Daughter

Cary Nord and
Thomas Yeates
Dave Stewart
Richard Starkings

Dark Horse
Hardcover Collection
Publish Date
March 16, 2005
Cover Price
By Crom, sword and sorcery hasn’t been so thrilling in ages. In Conan: The Frost-Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories, writer Kurt Busiek captures the very essence of adventure and heightens its impact by a factor of ten. Adapting stories by Conan’s creator, Robert E. Howard, while putting his own spin on the character, Busiek creates a breathtaking world of maidens and barbarians, magic and swords, blood and conquest.

When a young Conan walks from the woods to save an innocent woman and her child from the pillaging Vanirmen, we immediately see that this isn’t the cookie cutter version of the barbarian. He’s a blood-thirsty brute, to be certain, but Conan is a leader of men, a lover of women, and a friend to those who are worthy. By helping the men and woman who just saw their village decimated, the young warrior finds companions on his quest to find Hyperboria, a land of endless summer his grandfather often spoke of.

As the story progresses, Busiek showcases Conan’s talent with the sword. Fierce battles seem to follow him like a dog at his heal, and Busiek captures the tension of warfare by not shying away from the death and destruction. More importantly, however, the writer humanizes the Cimmerian in such a way to stay true to the classic, cold-natured brute you might expect, while giving him a hint of compassion and enough loyalty so readers can relate to him even during the fantastic, other-worldly battles. In one telling scene, Conan fixes his battered helmet instead of simply getting a new one because of the ties it has with his father.

Instead of jumping from one pointless fight to another, this Conan tale, which collects issues 0-7 of the Dark Horse comic, has a definite narrative. The young traveler is out seeking the wonders of the world, and the story follows his journey to the Northern lands that promise fine wine and women, but instead only brings more danger. His travels thrust him in front of sexy yet deadly women, ax-wielding giants, and hoards of other warriors. It is a perfectly paced, gripping tale of one man’s adventures as he travels the globe.

For those worried about picking up a collection of serialized fiction because of the possibility of finding an incomplete story, have no fear. This graphic depiction of Conan definitely has a recognizable beginning, middle, and end. And for those looking for more, it also manages to lead perfectly into the next installment.

Busiek’s take on Conan is one any adventure or sword and sorcery fan will enjoy. It’s fierce. It’s brutal. And it’s the best adventure tale to come along in a very long time.

Conan Frost Giant's Daughter Review: Interior ImageIn a word: stunning. Cary Nord, Thomas Yeates, and Dave Stewart have created the most breathtaking imagery in comics today. The colors-over-raw-pencils gives the panels the feel of painted canvas, which in turn creates the perfect look for such a powerful sword and sorcery tale. The combination of detailed pencils and a wonderfully deep color palette lets the readers step into Conan’s world, allowing all senses to come into play: the swords are heavy, the winter wind bites deep, and the cries of pain are heard echoing through the expansive landscape.

Each panel is its own work of art worthy of admiration, but each panel also works masterfully as the story and art merge into one. As one panel comes to life, the next is there before the emotion can fade, creating a seamless narrative that makes it easy for the reader to fill in the gap between panels.

Yet even the letters play an important part of making this Conan an epic for the ages. Richard Starkings uses a lettering style that brings to mind ancient manuscripts, which only heightens the sense of barbaric days gone by. The text really helps tighten the bond between words and imagery created by the artists.

Bonus Features
The Conan: The Frost-Giant’s Daughter hardcover edition is loaded with bonus features that truly make it a valuable addition to anyone’s bookshelf. The first item of note is also the most overlooked: the autograph. Kurt Busiek signed the title page of each of the limited-edition hardcovers, a nice touch for those willing to pay a few extra dollars for the hardcover upgrade. Busiek also wrote a short yet personal forward that details how the writer was introduced to Conan through comics.

Of course, the bulk of the extra goodies comes after the story. “Robert E. Howard: Lone Star Fantasist” is an excellent mini-biography by Mark Finn with impressive illustrations from Cary Nord’s sketchbook. Although only a few pages long, Finn manages to personify the popular author’s character while detailing his bibliographical timeline.

Lastly there’s Nord’s three-page audition, a rendition of a brief Busiek tale that won the artist the job on the ongoing Conan series. The pencils are outstanding, and getting a quick glimpse at Nord’s first Conan piece is a real treat.

It should also be noted that Joseph Michael Linsner’s covers from the ongoing series are reproduced in this volume as chapter breaks.

Final Words

Conan: The Frost-Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories is the complete package. Busiek has written a Conan that die-hard followers of Robert E. Howard will find impossible to ignore, while Nord, Yeates, and Stewart have created a look that belongs next to the giants of fantasy art. With such a great story and a wealth of additional goodies not seen in the serialized version of the title, this hardcover is definitely worth picking up.

Highest Possible Recommendation

James has written for such fine web sites as DVDtalk, Broken Frontier, and Paperback Reader. He lives in Denver with his lovely wife and two cats who wake him up at 3 a.m.
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