After a lengthy absence, Canan has returned to its original comic book home, Marvel Comics which first published his stories back in the 70s. Roy Thomas penned those classic tales and now Jason Aaron has taken up the writing duties to give his spin on things. It is not a reboot or even a fresh start as this first issue pretty much lays out Conan’s entire life from being born on the battlefield to eventually becoming King.
This first issue, “The Life & Death of Conan: Part One” weaves between the different eras of his life to tell of a constant nemesis to him, the Crimson Witch, who wishes to sacrifice him to bring the Red Doom back to the world of the living. She is suitably creepy and dangerous with two little helpers who also give off that evil vibe and they seem like a legitimation threat. That is something that often is missing from Conan as he is the port-type “Alpha Male” in popular literature, able to cut through rows of enemies without any real trouble.
Conan is an interesting character to bring back in this era of the “Me Too” movement, he was the original unstoppable killing machine, and the original stories are filled with actions that would not be tolerated if published today. Perhaps that is where the framing device of spanning the different eras came in, sure they show Conan younger and at his most aggressive (both in violence and sex) but also temper that by showing the growth of the characters as a King who brings fair laws to the country. It may be one of the better ways to may Conan “acceptable” to the modern audience but we will have to see how effective it is throughout an ongoing series. I did note that the first issue also uses the smaller Legacy Numbering as well and this would have been #276, this has been one of Marvel’s best ideas in years and makes it easier to track a character’s run over a series of reboots and new series launches.
The artwork is suitably aggressive for the title with artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Matthew Wilson doing a spectacular job with the gritty and often violent world that Conan is based in. There is also a nice two-page spread of panels from Marvel’s previous Conan run to bridge the gap between the old and the new. The Hyborian Page letter column returns and a letter to the editor page is always a welcome addition to a comic book. If that wasn’t enough there is also the first of twelve parts of a text-based story titled “Black Starlight” to give the Conan fan a nice bang for their buck. Overall this is a great start to his newest Marvel run and I am looking forward to seeing more of Conan in the coming months from this crew of creators.
Conan the Barbarian #1
Marvel Comics – $4.99