Review by Frank Plowright
How many women can you think of who’ve drawn Conan the Barbarian? The list isn’t long, that’s for sure, what with Conan being such an obvious male fantasy archetype. That alone would make Virginie Augustin’s adaptation of ‘Iron Shadows in the Moon’ out of the ordinary, but this is no mere anomaly, but a first rate adaptation of a possibly under-rated Robert E. Howard story.
It’s a good day when Conan meets Olivia. Not only does he acquire a willing travelling companion, but the slaver he slaughters to rescue her is a tick off his hit list. She accompanies him to a desert island where, in true Conan fashion, considerable danger awaits the unwary.
Augustin’s Conan radiates power while being thin and sinewy rather than musclebound, and she applies a great deal of effort to ensure the locations he visits are desirable environments, unless, of course, it’s not intended to be the case. One scene is set at darkness in a stunningly creepy old temple, and Augustin has a field day with what happens at night.
‘Iron Shadows’ skips from one genre to the next very entertainingly and surprising all the way through, incorporating a long section where Conan isn’t even centre stage. Roy Thomas and John Buscema produced the best known adaptation in the USA (see The Savage Sword of Conan Omnibus), but this is equally good.
Stéphane Girard operates under the alias Gess, but while his bibliography stretches back to the mid-1990s in Europe, very little of his work has been translated into English, which also makes ‘The Man-Eaters of Zamboula’ interesting. The art is intensely detailed, and broken down into small panels with a lot of effort made to create a mood. However, there’s no consistency to the figures, most notably Conan himself who varies between thin and rangy to short and stumpy. It’s a puzzling inconsistency considering the work put in elsewhere.
Conan suspects treachery at the inn he’s booked, and having dealt with that he runs into a naked woman in the street, apparently betrayed by her lover, yet there are deeper doings to be revealed as he accompanies her into danger. Gess delivers the surroundings impeccably, and makes the most of drawing a woman without clothes, presumably just as Howard imagined her, but was unable to say at the time, even in the pulps.
As before, Howard’s original stories are reproduced, enabling readers to see what might have been altered to make for smoother stories in comics form, and the book ends with a selection of the covers accompanying the serialised versions. If you like Conan, there’s little to quibble about with these European adaptations, and Vol. 4 delivers two more, or all four volumes are available combined in a slipcase.