Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Comics Review: "CONAN THE BARBARIAN #5" Starts a Heist

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #5 (2023)
TITAN COMICS/Heroic Signatures

STORY: Jim Zub
ART: Doug Braithwaite
COLORS: Diego Rodriguez
LETTERS: Richard Starkings of Comicraft
EDITOR: Matt Murray
COVER: Mike Deodato
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Patch Zircher; Rebecca Puebla; Roberto de la Torre; Liam Sharp; Mike Deodato
32pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (December 2023)

Suggested for mature readers

“Thrice Marked for Death!” Part I: “The Heist”

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 launched a new Conan the Barbarian series in 2023.  The current story arc is entitled “Thrice Marked for Death!.”  It is written by Jim Zub; drawn by Doug Braithwaite; colored by Diego Rodriguez; and lettered by Richard Starkings.

Conan the Barbarian #5 (“The Heist”) opens in Shadizar where Conan drowns his sorrows in his drink.  This is some time after his high seas adventures with the female pirate, BĂȘlit, the Queen of the Black Coast, which ended tragically.  [This tale was told in the 1934 story, “Queen of the Black Coast,” written by Conan's creator, Robert E. Howard.]

Conan has taken up with a thieves guild known as “The Gloryhounds.”  Conan is mainly the muscle for the Gloryhounds apparent leader, a female thief named Chaundra, also known as “The Chat.”  Now, a mysterious religious figure, Yakur the Found, has come offering gold for a “retrieval.”  He wants them to recover a fine-cut dark stone he calls, “Tarim's Touch,” that was stolen.

It is located deep inside the Temple of Bel, with Bel being the god of thieves and trickery.  Conan and the skilled thieves of the Gloryhounds can certainly penetrate the temple.  However, none of them know just how dangerous their quarry is – none except Conan.

THE LOWDOWN:  Titan Comics has been providing me with PDF copies of their publications for review for several years now.  Conan the Barbarian #5 is a recent arrival.

I was happy to see that Titan's new Conan the Barbarian series ended its first story arc after only four issues.  If I had my way, other comic book publishers would do this more often.  I am even happier that a new story line begins because that means writer Jim Zub is going to keep throwing down like he's been throwing down.  His first Conan the Barbarian story arc was a brawny jewel true to the tradition of the weird fiction that spawned Conan over nine decades ago.  Here, Zub gets right to it with creepy-ass cults, thievery, and some flesh-rendering that damn well looks like Conan is trying to make hamburger meat out of human flesh.

Artist Doug Braithwaite joins Zub for the new story arc, and he recalls all the shadowy textures and muscular storytelling that the late great artist, John Buscema, brought to all his Conan comic books.  Braithwaite makes this first chapter, “The Heist,” dark, creepy, dirty, and nasty.  Here, the shiny kingdoms like blue mantles beneath the stars get the chamber pot treatment.  With his colors, Diego Rodriguez captures all that is odd and befouled in this opening chapter, as well as making the story pop with dark energy.

Once again, Richard Starking's letters give this Conan the Barbarian comic book an audio track and also a soundtrack of darkness.  So, dear readers, you must give this comic book a try.  Every page is a pure Conan joy to read.

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” Part Five, by Jeffrey Shanks.]

A

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


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