Conan: The Jewels Of Gwahlur And Other Stories collects a number of graphic novels and one-shot comics originally published by Dark Horse Comics, now reprinted by Marvel Comics. One of these stories, the title tale, is based on a short story by Conan the Barbarian’s creator, Robert E. Howard. The rest are all original tales of high adventure, born of the same heroic spirit.
“The Jewels of Gwahlur” finds Conan in the jungles of Keshan, seeking an abandoned temple and the oracle goddess that is said to wait within. Conan came to Keshan seeking honest employment as a general while searching for the legendary Jewels of Gwahlur, only to find an old enemy manipulating the king and seeking to start a war while securing the sacred treasure for himself. Deciding the only way to thwart his foe and save his skin was to steal the jewels first, Conan seeks out the temple before the king’s spiritual advisor can consult the oracle, only to discover another plot involving an enslaved actress posing as the oracle and the bestial servants of Bit-Yakin, the priest who once tended the temple.
Craig Russell stays close to Howard’s original text for “The Servants of Bit-Yakin” (his original title for what became known as “The Jewels Of Gwahlur”) and utilizes much of the dialogue from the original story. This seems to be a wise choice as Howard, formulaic as he may have been at times, had a good ear for language and made everything his characters said sound interesting. The artwork is where this adaptation truly flourishes, however, with Russell’s aesthetic proving a good match for Howard’s prose. While Russell’s artwork is stylized to the point of cartoonish-ness, it still possesses a certain sense of darkness that suits the story well.
“The Daughters of Midora” sees Conan recruited by the titular king to rescue his beloved daughter Hannah from the young wizard he passed over for promotion to his chief advisor. Conan is accompanied in this quest by Valensa; King Midora’s other daughter, who favors the sword to statecraft and was largely ignored by her father, who doted on Hannah as he planned for her to inherit his throne.
Jimmy Palmiotti spins a rousing tale with several twists and turns. Unfortunately, the artwork by Mark Texeira is sloppy by comparison and more concerned with fan service than action. This isn’t helped by Texeira’s decision to dress Valensa in a skimpy belly-baring halter and skirt combo that are as brief as the garments worn by the dancing girls Conan ogles in the opening scene, despite being a princess of the realm and a warrior!
The final story, “The Weight of the Crown,” finds Conan as a soldier of fortune serving under the so-called Mad King of Gaul. When the king dies and his subjects are wowed by Conan’s skill of arms in defending the kingdom, they decide to offer him the crown instead of the rightful heir. Conan gladly accepts the title and the riches and power that come with it, but soon discovers that being a great warrior does not give one the skills needed to be a great king. Darick Robertson (best known for his work as the artist on Transmetropolitan and The Boys) has a fantastic turn here as writer and artist. While the story is simple, it is exciting, and Robertson portrays it with all the grisly detail one would expect from his work elsewhere.
Conan: The Jewels Of Gwahlur And Other Stories carries a well-deserved Parental Advisory rating from Marvel Comics, rating it for Adult Audiences. These stories are full of bloody violence, rampant sexuality and ample nudity. Doubtlessly this will please fans of the sword and sorcery genre but it must be said this book is not safe for children or sensitive souls.
Conan: The Jewels of Gwahlur and Other Stories
By Jimmy Palmiotti, Darick Robertson and Craig Russell,
Art by Darick Robertson, Craig Russell and Mark Texeira
Marvel Comics, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Parental Advisory (17+)
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)