The Cimmerian Vol. 2

Writer / Artist
The Cimmerian Vol. 2
The Cimmerian Vol. 2 review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Ablaze - 978-1-95091-234-6
  • Volume No.: 2
  • Release date: 2018, 2019
  • English language release date: 2021
  • UPC: 9781950912346
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

This second volume of The Cimmerian follows the pattern of the first in presenting two adaptations selected from Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories originally published in France. There’s no continuity, with Conan the only recurring character, and the stories dip back and forth through Conan’s chronology.

‘People of the Magic Circle’ occurs with Conan leading a people regularly having border skirmishes with their neighbours, as delivered by adapter Sylvain Runberg with Jae Kwan Park’s art. Before the king dies he suspects sorcery, and his sister subsequently confirms the truth along with who’s responsible. Conan’s involvement comes because she can’t risk taking her forces across his territory without being attacked, so some agreement must be reached. Explaining the relatively complex set-up requires a considerable amount of word balloons and caption boxes over the opening dozen pages, and it’s relevant to know that the Black Circle are an order of magicians. Beyond that it’s an adventure of multiple ambitions that never quite comes to life as it should.

That’s partly down to Park’s art which is great with movement and battle, and offers a wealth of detail, in places not looking too far removed from the fantastic busy art of Sana Takeda on Monstress. However, while there details stand out when the colour palette is also murky, Hiroyuki Ooshima’s colouring does Park no favours. It obscures the detail and while the darkness helps the use of magic manifest, this brightly coloured, the effect isn’t worth the remaining gloom.

It’s a rare tale of magic in Conan’s world that ever bothers to explain some mechanics, but this does, going into the desires of sorcerers and what it takes to deal with them. That’s a maguffin, but well handled and not the immediate solution hoped for. Overall, then, eventually a stirring adventure, but distinctly hampered by the colours.

‘The Frost Giant’s Daughter’ is perhaps hampered by reputation. Howard’s original story is presented after the comic adaptation, and it’s a mere six pages. Quite the stretch, then, to expand to over sixty pages of comic art as supplied by Robin Recht. Recht is a contributor to the well received European versions of Elric adaptations (see recommendations).

It’s set very early in Conan’s career as he ventures into the wintery territory of Norse warriors only to meet, as the story title tells us, the Frost Giant’s daughter, who cavorts naked in the snow, unaffected by the cold. Recht remains true to Howard’s story while expanding the subtexts. The Cimmerian Vol. 1 promised uncensored versions of Howard’s stories, but until Recht there’s been little increase in the level of erotica. His woman, though, is wanton and unconcerned with human propriety when it comes to her sexual desires. Even without this Recht’s art is stunning, and the colour here emphasises rather than diminishes. Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith served up a first rate adaptation in 1971, but perhaps the time has come to pass the torch.

Vol. 2 is uneven, but Recht’s work deserves a look from any fantasy fan. Two further Howard adaptations await in Vol. 3.