Conan: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories Review
Conan The Frost Giant’s Daughter
Written by: Kurt Busiek
Art by: Cary Nord
Inks by: Thomas Yeates
Colors by: Dave Stewart
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Were there more pressing books to review this week? Probably.
Did I read them? Not at all.
Why am I doing a Conan review? Cause I felt like it.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s give a little bit of background. Conan the Barbarian was created by writer Robert E. Howard in 1932 for the magazine Weird Tales (the magazine that also published most of H.P. Lovecraft’s work) and, over the decades, has earned various other stories by other writers, as well as many adaptations.
Some of Conan’s longest lasting work comes from comics, and while I could look at the extremely famous Roy Thomas run, I’m instead going to review the first volume of the book released by Dark Horse, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Cary Nord.
This volume focuses on Conan making friends with a tribe of people called the Aesir, who are at war with the Vanir, and the many weird adventures he has while palling around with them or a little bit after.
That summary is very vague, but that’s due to the structure of Conan stories. Typically, Conan stories are short and self-contained, some adventure where he deals with a thing, and then the story is over. The comic varies that up a bit by having Conan hang out with the Aesir and most of the things that happen to him in this volume are directly correlated to them, so it feels like we’re seeing more of Conan’s life than usual. This isn’t just some “Arrive, Kill, Leave” type of situation, he actually gets to spend time with these people and gets to know them.
I’m a recent Conan fan (in fact, Kurt Busiek’s run was my introduction) and one of the things I always wondered was “What is the appeal of Conan?”. Looking from the outside in, all I saw was a guy in a loincloth killing other guys in loincloths and getting some hot babes in the process.
What I found out is that I’m only partially right. For one, Conan doesn’t really fight other guys in loincloths, which might not seem relevant but it is. He’s a Cimmerian, a very simple people who are defined by their strength and ability to subsist on very little. A lot of Conan’s stories have to do with the way he faces a civilized society and how his upbringing influences his interactions. Conan is a really simple guy, just looking for women, food and fights and, from what I’ve seen, a lot of his stories paint the apparently civilized society as just barely disguising rampant corruption and violence. Conan might be a brute, but he’s at least upfront about it.
Of course, the other aspect to Conan is the weirdness. It was a really nice surprise, reading moving along this volume, seeing Conan have his little fights and what have you. Then, you get to Chapter 2 and Boom, here come the Frost Giants.
The volume is named after that story and (according to what I’ve been told) it’s one of the most famous Conan stories out there, and I can understand why. It’s a very simple thing: Conan is fighting out in the snow, an ethereally beautiful woman appears and lures him to her Frost Giant brothers. Conan defeats them and before he can get revenge, the woman pleads with her gods for them to take her away, which they do.
It’s a very simple story, but what it does is present something very essential to Conan that Pop Culture has forgotten: Conan is freaking weird. Oh sure, there are stories about fighting armored dudes with swords and pillaging and all of that, but there’re also stories about Conan meeting wizards or snake dudes or aliens.
The best part about it though, is that there are really no explanations to most things. Conan lives in what is ostensibly a semi realistic medieval world, but then in pop the demons and immortals, without much explanations of what they actually are or how they got there. It’s really cool and it gives Conan (and, by extension, this book) an almost Lovecraftian feel (I mean, they were friends). Especially once the Hyperboreans get here.
Of course, the writing is one thing, but the art really pushes the book into the realm of the spectacular. Cary Nord’s style is sketchy and loose sometimes, but with the right image, inker and colorist, he makes the book look amazing. As I hope the pages I’ve spread throughout this review show, the man is top notch when it comes to bringing the awe out of an image, especially when he’s got a one page splash.
Shame about his recent work though. Don’t know what happened there.
If you’ve never read Conan before, this probably won’t be the place you start, because it’s out of print. However, Marvel has republished this and a couple of other volumes in Epic Collections, so you should pick those up. This book is epic, beautiful looking and awe striking. If you’ve never read Conan, I could hardly think of a better place to start.