Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artwork: Mahmud Asrar
Colours: Matthew Wilson
Lettering: VC’s Travis Lanham
Release Date: 2nd January 2019
This past Wednesday saw the eagerly anticipated return of Conan the Barbarian to the pages of Marvel Comics with a brand new series from creators Jason Aaron, Mahmud Asrar and Matthew Wilson. And, after a slight delay, we were finally able to get our hands on a copy of the first issue to see what all the fuss was about.
The story in itself is standard enough Conan fare, but the passionate execution by the creative team helps raise this new series to something rather special indeed. Spanning several key moments in Conan’s life, the story introduces a new ongoing magical threat in the form of a menacing Witch determined to use his blood to raise her demonic master.
The scope and scale of the larger world is hinted at throughout, but Aaron intentionally keeps this feeling like a deeply personal story, with the focus staying fixed squarely on Conan himself. Wars are waged, nations rise and fall, but through it all Conan remains his stoic, surly self.
With big-time properties like Conan, there can sometimes be a temptation for a new writer to try and deliver their own unique take on a character, often at the expense of what made the character so popular in the first place. Thankfully Aaron shows an appropriate degree of reverence for the rich history of Conan, delivering a story that both celebrates and expands upon the work of all the stellar writers that have come before.
On the visual side of things, Asrar appears to be every bit as passionate as Aaron about the subject matter, and works seamlessly alongside Wilson to deliver a detailed, dynamic and visceral look at the Hyborian Age. The bawdy tone and the frequently shocking nature of the violence sets this new series apart from the bulk of Marvel’s current output, carving its own unique niche, with Asrar and Wilson helping to beautifully recreate this dark fantasy world with all its sinister monsters and violent skirmishes.
The final pages, set in the more advanced years of Conan’s life, keep the storyline thread going by introducing a new wrinkle to the supernatural threat and delivering an eye-widening cliff-hanger which should all but guarantee that readers head out and pick up the second issue as soon it goes on sale in a couple of weeks.
A scintillating start to what looks set to be a triumphant return to Marvel by the world’s most famous barbarian. By Crom, you truly owe it to yourself to pick this one up!