Monday, September 4, 2023

Comics Review: CONAN THE BARBARIAN #2 Made Me Say "Ugh! Na Nah Na Nah!"

TITAN COMICS/Heroic Signatures

STORY: Jim Zub
ART: Roberto de la Torre
COLORS: Dean White
LETTERS: Richard Starkings of Comicraft
EDITOR: Matt Murray
COVER: Alan Quah
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Roberto de la Torre; Gerardo Zaffino; E.M. Gist, Dan Parent
32pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (September 2023)

Suggested for mature readers

“Bound in Black Stone” Part II: “Homeland!”

Conan the Cimmerian was born in the pulp fiction of Robert E. Howard (REH), first appearing in the magazine, Weird Tales (1932).  In 1970, Marvel Comics brought Conan to the world of comic books via the title, Conan the Barbarian. With only a few pauses, Conan comic books have been published for the better part of five decades.

Titan Comics and Heroic Signatures are the new producers of Conan comic books, and they start with a new Conan the Barbarian series.  It is written by Jim Zub; drawn by Roberto de la Torre; colored by José Villarrubia; and lettered by Richard Starkings.  The new series finds Conan returned to his homeland of Cimmeria just when it faces a terrible new threat.

As Conan the Barbarian #2 (“Homeland!”) opens, Conan and Brissa of the Pictish Gurian Tribe watch from the shadows as what is left of “Hauler's Roam,” an outpost in Northern Aquilonia, is destroyed by the “Army of the Lost.”  Also known as the “Tribe of the Lost,” this band of undead Picts has unleashed other-worldly carnage … and Conan's homeland, Cimmeria, is next.

It may be too late to save Cimmeria, but Conan will try, and what he cannot save, he will brutally avenge.  However, Conan and Brissa may not be prepared to face the true darkness behind the Army of the Lost when it finally begins to reveal itself.

THE LOWDOWN:  Titan Comics has been providing me with PDF copies of their publications for review for several years now.  Conan the Barbarian #2 is the latest.

Titan Comics and Heroic Signatures' revival of the Conan the Barbarian comic book series is definitely edgier than Marvel Comics' 2019 revival.  I did not find the latter worth the cover price, although the stories were mildly amusing.  On the other hand, Titan and Heroic's revival leaves me stunned.  In Conan the Barbarian #2, writer Jim Zub has composed the best-written Conan comic book that I have read in probably a decade.  This Conan has ripped my bodice in a way not done since Tim Truman, Tómas Giorello, José Villarrubia, and Richard Starkings were putting it down hard on their comic book adaptation of Robert E. Howard's sole Conan novel, Hour of the Dragon, a decade ago.

Zub's script reads like a Conan novel, full of intimate details and pulpy, two-fisted action-adventure.  Boots are knocked, and heads are lopped off; still, the story has depth beyond the obvious thrills.

The art and storytelling by artist Roberto de la Torre brings Zub's script to comic book life with fire and black magic.  De la Torre's art here resembles of mix of the late John Buscema's Conan the Barbarian comic books and the late Joe Kubert's Tor comics.  At this rate, de la Torre will soon be in the pantheon of great Conan comic book artists and storytellers right next to Buscema, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Tómas Giorello, to name a few.  With the lovely colors of Dean White and the hoary lettering of Richard Starkings, this new Conan is visually and graphically savage.

I like Conan enough to have watched three Conan films:  Conan the Barbarian (1982), Conan the Destroyer (1984), and Conan the Barbarian (2011), many times.  So I won't lose interest in this new Conan the Barbarian comic book, and I will keep singing its praises.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of Conan comic books will want to try Titan Comics and Heroic Signatures' Conan the Barbarian.

[This comic book includes the essay, “Robert E. Howard and His Ages Undreamed Of,” by Jeffrey Shanks.]


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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