The Heart of Yag Kosha is the second Epic Collection of stories originally published by Dark Horse, continuing their chronological run from Out of the Darksome Hills, and is slightly the less cohesive collection for being crafted by far more creators. As before, a pair of Robert E. Howard adaptations feature.

It’s Mike Mignola who adapts ‘The Hall of the Dead’, with Cary Nord on art, as he is for 75% of the content. Mignola follows Kurt Busiek’s approach of prefacing the adaptation with a couple of stories leading Conan’s path to where it’s needed, and taking the opportunity to introduce some familiar motifs from his own material, not least frogs. Busiek adapts ‘The Tower of the Elephant’ over two chapters, and while the version drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith might be more decorative, Nord’s interpretation has room to breathe and therefore more effectively set the tension.

Timothy Truman is the other main writer, also drawing one of Busiek’s stories before taking over. There’s more likely to be trickery and subterfuge in a Busiek story, where all may not be as it seems, but if your preference for Conan is a less complicated a to z form of storytelling then Truman supplies it. Both methods work, and while the ideal collection might have mixed them about a little more, there’s also sense to presenting the stories in the order they were originally released, although that has its drawbacks. Busiek dips in and out of themes and characters, so there are a couple more chapters of the Greg Ruth-drawn look at Conan’s youth, but they don’t conclude until the following volume. Fans of the ongoing tale of the Prince and the Wazir will be pleased to see more of them here, and Truman continues their use as a framing device.

There were a few misgivings about Nord’s art to begin with, but he rapidly settled into Conan, and beyond a few strips that could possibly be improved for more backgrounds, there’s little to quibble about. Nord’s style evolves story by story, with tighter pencils on some strips. A particularly effective version of that is found on ‘The Hall of the Dead’, providing the sample page. With the addition of Dave Stewart’s colouring it’s not far removed from Richard Corben.

John Severin, Paul Lee and Rafael Kayanan all deliver great Conan, and a special treat is Eric Powell on a sentimental tale about the importance of storytellers. Lee illustrates the only story about Conan’s time as king, and that features music as a motif, always tricky in comics that come with no soundtrack.

It’s difficult to imagine Conan fans being disappointed with this selection merging a couple of Howard’s stories with original material that always delivers. It’s a competitively pricey selection, but if a smaller sample is more desirable, most of the content can be found in earlier Dark Horse paperbacks The Tower of the Elephant, The God in the Bowl, and The Blood-Stained Crown, while all the Busiek-written stories are in the more expensive Conan by Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord Omnibus.