Conan the Barbarian #1 (Marvel Comics)
Like Star Wars before him, the mighty Conan has made his return to Marvel Comics from Dark Horse. And also like Star Wars, he’s got Jason Aaron writing his new adventures. But that’s where the similarities end, because make no mistake, Conan The Barbarian, featuring art by Mahmud Asrar, is a truly brutal book, and marks a triumphant return to the publisher that made him famous in comics.
Spanning decades of Conan’s life, Conan The Barbarian #1 tells the story of the Cimmerian’s encounter with the Crimson Witch, a mystical creature that can control the dead. Believing that the Cimmerian’s blood is what is required to unleash her dark master upon the world, the Crimson Witch tricks a young Conan by appearing to him as an attractive woman and attempts to sacrifice him after poisoning him. Naturally, that doesn’t work out so well for her, and after Conan not only defeats her undead minions, but beheads her as well, he believes the matter to be settled. But decades later, when an older Conan is now King Conan, two children arrive, looking to finish the work the Crimson Witch started…
Jason Aaron’s a long time Conan fan, and it comes through in this book. As someone who’s read all of the original Robert E Howard stories, there’s a lot of similarities between this opening issue and those stories, but at no point does Aaron’s script seem like he’s ripping off or retelling any of Conan’s original adventures. In fact, Aaron’s script reads like something Howard wrote and never published. It’s both a familiar story for Conan fans, and yet has a enough new elements and perspective that it still feels new as well.
Mahmud Asrar made a name for himself on various X-Men titles, so putting him on a book like Conan The Barbarian is a bit a of a surprise, especially when Esad Ribic is handling the covers. While I’ll admit to thinking he may not be a great choice for the series at first, I happily ate my words when I saw the final results. Asrar delivers the goods, giving us a book that lives up to the title character. His Conan is brimming with power, and looks like he’s going to burst with violence at any moment. Asrar’s action sequences are fantastic too, and the small amount of creatures we see in this issue hint at the artist delivering some truly cool designs later on.
As someone who’s read the original Howard Conan stories and not much else, I didn’t really know what to expect from Marvel’s relaunch. But I’m happy to report that it’s a very solid start to what could be a unique series. While Dark Horse certainly used the Conan license to it’s full potential, Marvel is already showing that they’re not going to sit on the character either by having Jason Aaron write the series. While they’ve already announced too many Conan side series, having this type of comic from the publisher is pretty cool, and gives them the some title diversity that they desperately need. If you want some old school sword and sorcery in your comics, look no further than Conan The Barbarian.