Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jim Zub
Artwork: Roge Antonio
Colours: Israel Silva
Release Date: 19th February 2020
Reading like a comic book adaption of Ian Livingstone’s 1984 Fighting Fantacy adventure gamebook “Deathtrap Dungeon”, Jim Zub’s narrative for issue #13 of Conan The Barbarian must have been an utter delight for any fantasy tabletop role-playing fans, what with its feats of forte, ferocious fist-fights and utterly ruinous snares. Indeed, such is the tension the two-time Harvey Award nominee manages to generate deep inside the underground passages and pathways of the Crucible of Strength, that the twenty-page periodical’s shocking conclusion will undoubtedly have come far too quickly for most of the book’s readers.
Admittedly, much of this publication’s sense-shattering shenanigans aren’t immediately evident, as the Canadian writer begins “The People’s Champion” with a fairly bog-standard scene depicting the Cimmerian loudly drinking and womanising on the streets of Garchall, in Uttara Kuru; “I need you to order me some wenches and wine.” Yet pretty quickly the black-haired adventurer becomes embroiled in a pulse-pounding “foolish game of brawn and bravado” with a pair of local ruffians, which rather unexpectedly leads him to the very edge of a monstrous pit “built to honour our god, the Challi-Mai.”
Once entombed inside this maze of traps and horrors things get really interesting, with Zub impressively introducing the audience to his plot’s substantial supporting cast with just a few lines from his pen, and a string of quick-fire panels proficiently pencilled by Brazilian artist Roge Antonio. This “strange group of conscripts, captives, murderers, and maniacs” immediately imbues this comic with an air of palpable apprehension, as both Conan and bibliophile alike know not who to trust, despite none of the other “honoured competitors” having “a single weapon between them.”
Similarly as successful in creating an atmosphere dripping in tautness and trepidation are Jim’s first few traps, which not only show that absolutely nothing within the cruel complex can be believed, but also demonstrates the titular character’s intelligent savvy for survival. In addition, these displays of mental acuity over brutish desire allow the author behind “fan-favourites like The Champions, Avengers: No Road Home, and the Mystery in Madripoor mini-series featuring Wolverine” to deliver an astonishingly dramatic ending, which arguably will catch many a reader completely off-guard.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Blax Kleric
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