Review: Conan Comes Home

buscema conanI was introduced to Conan of Cimmeria through Marvel Comics, and Roy Thomas’ adaptations of the character left me craving more, and thus I was led to the source — Robert E. Howard’s kinetic prose of an age undreamed of.

I became, in that distant epoch known as the seventies, a life-long worshiper at Crom’s altar.

I have followed the tales of Conan from comic to pulp to pastiche and more. I am, at the heart of it, a Howard purist, but have always been willing to embrace whatever form the barbarian’s adventures were available to me.

Yes, I’ve played the video games, delved into the board and roleplaying games, watched the unfortunate movies, read my way through mostly wretched novels by a whole host of would-be Howards who scarcely deserved to be mentioned in the same breath as the man from Cross Plains.

But there were diamonds scattered amongst the ruin.

As for the comics, my first love was Savage Sword, particularly that from Thomas, John Buscema, and Alfredo Alcala. The mothership, Conan the Barbarian, was brilliant in its own right, at least into the mid-eighties, and I enjoy a large part of Dark Horse’s take on our favorite Cimmerian.

But now, Conan has returned to Marvel.

My Thoughts on Conan the Barbarian #1

Shall we discuss what I don’t like about the title before delving into what I do?

First of all, it’s sloppy. The photoshopped montage of past Conan adventures from the House of Ideas was not planned out very well. Old text should have been removed, presenting a cleaner image. Nit-picky? Maybe. But I expect better from a professional comic book entity.

The same could be said of Mahmud Asar’s inks. Not on every panel, but there are instances where the art seems muddy. The same could be said of the underlying framework. 90% of the book is penciled solid enough, but there are panels where I’m left scratching my head, wondering how some of the awkward poses slipped past a critical eye.

conan int3

The writing is mostly okay. I like Jason Aaron’s work a lot, and the lion’s share of the issue is fine. Not breathtaking, but serviceable.

The worst offender in this issue is Travis Lanham. The lettering is indicative of modern comics and their reliance on computers to do the heavy-lifting. It just does not work on any level for me, totally taking me out of the book. It just doesn’t fit.

Based on the above, you probably think I didn’t care for this comic. Well, the fact of the matter is, I enjoyed it very much. The cover art is cracking good stuff from Esad Ribic and really sets the tone for what is to come after.

conan int2

The plot is great and faithful to Howard’s vision for the most part. Aaron does a great job of giving us what you would expect from a Conan tale and then delivers a nice twist in the final pages.

The editorial page was concise and a pleasant read. The creators’ enthusiasm for the project is refreshing and encouraging.

The highlight for me, however, was the first installment of John C Hocking’s Black Starlight, a serialized Conan tale which will be a part of the Aaron/Asar 12-issue run.

Hocking paints an interesting picture, with plenty of atmosphere. I have high hopes for where this story may go.

All in all, a solid debut for Conan’s return to Marvel’s fold. While not perfect, we are given an entertaining sword & sorcery yarn and the promise of much more to come.

On a scale of 1-10 skulls of my enemies, I would rate this worthy of 7.

— Bob Freeman

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