“Conan the Cimmerian” #20 continues the “Kozaki” story, which explains how Conan, leading an army of roaming raiders, managed to lead the group to ruin and find himself on the run, sick and poisoned. The downfall of Conan and his band of marauders was teased last issue, but it seemed less than likely until this issue showed how Conan’s pride and arrogance resulted in his downfall, a lesson you’d think he would have learned by now. Still, this issue is an entertaining read with some great art.
Tomás Giorello and José Villarrubia craft some gorgeous pages in this issue, delivering some very Gene Colan- and Sal Buschema-esque art where Giorello’s pencils are the focus. It looks like the art was colored directly from the pencils, giving shading a look not seen in a lot of other books with that sketchier pencil look. Villarrubia’s colors also have a pencil look like he used pencil crayons to color the art, giving it a strong sense of unity. Together with Giorello’s strong, angular figures, the art has a classical look to it that suits a title like “Conan the Cimmerian.” While it looks like a modern comic, it seems to have one foot in the ‘70s Marvel style of art, alluding to the era when Conan was at his most popular in comics.
Timothy Truman’s writing doesn’t quite keep up with the art, but it does service it by allowing Giorello and Villarrubia to illustrate large battles and covert discussions by firelight. The story is a basic one where Conan and his army of thugs have encroached on the territory of another crew of bandits, some of whom used to be a part of the army Conan now leads. They offer a compromise to the problem of both groups attacking the same cities, but Conan refuses, causing them to plot against him and his group by working with the local authorities. There are some nice reversals and double-crosses, but the outcome is known ahead of time.
Truman’s dialogue and narration are a little heavy-handed, but fitting with the tone of a Conan story. The progression of the plot is brisk, things constantly moving, and he manages to create a few surprises despite the final outcome being known. A scene where Conan and one of his archers call their targets, betting off who can hit the most is entertaining, especially when Conan misses a headshot (he hits the gut) and tosses the bow away in favor of this sword, playing off a comment from last issue.
“Conan the Cimmerian” #20 is a solid issue that continues to tell one of the most popular Conan stories: his greed and pride leading to his downfall. However, with some gorgeous art and Truman’s capable writing, it’s still entertaining and, even, surprising in places.