The Cimmerian: Red Nails – By Crom a Review!
The Cimmerian: Red Nails
Adapted by Regis Hautiere
Illustrated by Olivier Vatine and Didier Cassegrain
Published by Ablaze Publishing
By Crom! What a first issue! When I first heard that someone other than Marvel was going to be producing new Conan comics I asked, how? Well, after reading the first issue of Ablaze’s new Conan series I don’t give a damn. With the promise of delivering a more authentic Conan, one that’s closer to the character as he originally appeared in Robert E. Howard’s pulp adventures, I was a little skeptical. Like a Pict shield, my fears have been shattered.
Ablaze’s Conan feels like Howard’s Conan. How did they do this you ask? First off, it seems as if Hautiere and company have slavishly stayed true to the original stories. So much so that I may actually break out my copy of Red Nails and dive into it. Ablaze even reprints the first couple of chapters of Red Nails as it appeared in Weird Tales at the end of the issue. It’s there almost as a dare. It says read the original and see where we deviated. This is the kind of gusto that most publishers couldn’t stomach.
The story opens with Conan having left the Free Companions by following Valeria into the forest of the Darfar region. There upon finding the fleeing Valaria he sets her mind at ease,
“If I had followed him, I would not be here. Zarallo patrols seek you north, west and east of Sukhemt but none dared venture into the Darfar…Not to mention that you have better to offer than the reward promised by Zarallo…”
With that Conan and Valaria forge an uneasy alliance as they flee the Dragons who plague the forests of Dafar. Eventually finding themselves in an abandoned city stalked by the Xotalancas.
In adapting the story Hautiere sticks close to the source material, only taking what he needs to move the issue forward. Likewise, the dialogue is brisk and reminds me of Conan’s voice. Hautiere does this by pairing down the lengthy dialogue in the original story into small comic size bites. Thankfully, these bites do not diminish the story nor detract from it. Hautiere leans on Vatine and Cassegrain to do a lot of the heavy lifting for him with the art. This allows the story to flow easily as it moves from point to point.
While Vatine and Cassegrain’s art provides a lot of unspoken dialogue their art does so much more. Here Conan is depicted as more of an everyman. His proportions remain well within the realms of what one would think would be attainable. Vatine and Cassegrain’s Conan is not the man Buscema’s was and that is not a bad thing. Here, Conan lacks a hard ink line reminding me of Cary Nord’s work at Dark Horse. The coloring for the issue relies heavily on muted tones and a lighter pallet bordering on pastel reminiscent of Parrish giving it a classic look.
Additionally, it seems as if Vatine and Cassegrain refuse to be a slave to perspective. Stone work curves and twists providing a sense of perspective and unease. This twisting of perspective continues in the depictions of Conan and Valaria as foreshortening creates drama within the panels. This drama continues in the way Vatine and Cassegrain lay out scenes within the issue. Extreme vistas followed by close ups give the issue a storyboard feel.
Overall, this is the way Conan was meant to be! Howard’s barbarian at his most savage and ruthless. Conan has always been one of my favorite characters in comics and I’ve often referred to the Marvel fare as Conan lite. Ablaze’s Conan full and robust. If you’ve never read the original stories you may have to take it in small doses. But once you’ve gotten used to it by the gods! There isn’t anything better.
The Cimmerian: Red Nails