Know O’ Reader, that between the years when King Kirby left for the Distinguished Competition and the time that Toy Biz saved The House of Ideas from bankruptcy, there was an Age undreamed of! Hither came Conan the Cimmerian – a thief, a reaver, a slayer and a hero unlike any seen in comic books since before the days of the Comics Code Authority. Long were the tales of his exploits told in the House of Ideas. And now, the tales of the days of high adventure stand ready to be told again at Marvel Comics!
The best thing about Conan The Barbarian #1 is that it is a classic sword-and-sorcery story in the grand tradition of Robert E. Howard. This is also the worst thing about Conan The Barbarian #1. If you like tales of muscular warriors slashing nameless mooks into mincemeat, passionate embraces with busty, scantily clad wenches and last-minute escapes and daring rescues from cursed temples devoted to forgotten gods, you’re going to love this book. If you’re not already a fan of low fantasy in general or Conan in specific, this book is unlikely to make you into one.
Jason Aaron isn’t out to redefine the character of Conan or update him for the 21st century comic reader. The story here is Classic Barbarian Fantasy 101. See Conan. See Conan Crush His Enemies. Crush, Conan, Crush. See Conan Meet Pretty Woman. See Pretty Woman Seduce Conan. Seduce, Pretty Woman, Seduce. See Pretty Woman Have Other Motives For Seducing Conan, That Get Conan Into Trouble. Escape, Conan, Escape!
To Aaron’s credit, he does try to defy convention somewhat with the opening and conclusion of this first issue. Normally I’d try to avoid a spoiler on this point, but since the title of this story is “The Life and Death of Conan” and the introduction tells us that this is the story of how Conan dies, there seems little point. I am skeptical this will depict the true death of Conan or that he’ll even so much as have to fight his way out of Hell, but Aaron is at least trying something unique while proving that he can write Conan true to form.
My feelings on the artwork for the issue are similarly mixed. I’ve enjoyed Mahmud A. Asrar’s work on Supergirl and X-Men: Red in the past and he generally does a great job here. The only sticking point is a few panels where the perspective is a bit strange as Conan is swinging his sword and his arms move at weird angles relative to the rest of his body. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between, yet are still jarring when they occur.
Still, there is plenty of bloodshed to be seen and Asrar does a fantastic job depicting the beautiful women, rugged warriors and horrible monsters one expects to see in a Conan story. The colors by Matthew Wilson are also skillfully handled, giving the finished artwork the appearance of being slightly faded and tinted, as if it were being found in an old comic yellowed with age or on a scroll in some forgotten library.
Bottom Line? Conan is back, by Crom! This new book is unlikely to win-over the uninitiated, but loyal subjects of the King of Aquilonia will find this new series to their liking.
Conan The Barbarian #1 releases on January 2, 2019!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.