Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jim Zub
Artwork: Patch Zircher
Colours: Java Tartaglia
Release Date: 10th July 2019
Apparently attempting to transform this comic’s titular character into “Conan the Gambler”, at least according to editor Mark Basso, Jim Zub’s narrative for issue seven of The Savage Sword of Conan must have bemused many of its 23,020 readers with its somewhat surreal explanation as to the intricacies of the “deceptively simple card game”, Serpent’s Bluff. Indeed, considering that this comic contains an advertisement for any interested parties to actually buy a physical copy of the game developed by the folks at Monster Fight Club, it probably entered some uncharitable bibliophiles’ heads that this entire twenty-page periodical was little more than a sales pitch.
However, there is much more to the Canadian writer’s tale of political intrigue, set within the deadly streets of Shadizar the Wicked, than a simple marketing ploy, as the gory demise of some black-hearted knaves-turned-assassins attests to within this book’s opening scene; “Twist yer gaze an’ move on, or you’ll get one in the gut right next!” As blood-soaked as it is shockingly violent, the young Cimmerian’s liberation of Maraudus Mahtir could arguably have been lifted straight from the pages of a Robert E. Howard novel, especially when it’s clear the barbarian is at least partially motivated by the gold he is promised for saving the bearded merchant’s life, rather than just a basic desire to rescue any hapless fool he might drunkenly stumble upon.
Zub’s detailed description of the hearty yet potentially lethal Demon’s Den, resplendent with its ‘spicy incense wafting through the air’ and ‘glittering dancers writhing to strange music’, is also arguably well worth this publication’s cover price. It is very easy to imagine the still somewhat unsophisticated adventurer’s awe at seeing so decadent a gambling hall as that which his “brother” brings him to, when Conan momentarily witnesses both its pleasurable and terrifying entertainments within the space of just a few well-drawn panels.
Providing this comic with plenty of visual stimulus is Patch Zircher’s artwork, which helps to imbue the somewhat sedentary nature of Mahtir’s card game against Kero the Callous with all the tension so serious a confrontation could warrant. The American artist’s pencilling proves particularly prodigious when it comes to illustrating Jim’s description of the various special cards that add complications to the high-stakes game of chance, and the subtle touch of the story’s mysterious killer who leaves the sword and sorcery hero “trapped and confused” upon Maraudus’ shockingly sudden death.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]