ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘King Conan,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

King Conan #1 - But Why Tho

King Conan #1 is the start of a new miniseries published by Marvel Comics. Written by Jason Aaron with art by Mahmud Asrar. The colour artist is Matthew Wilson, though Asrar colours pages 11-14. The letterer is Travis Lanham.

After many years of championing Cimmeria, Conan became its king. And yet this story begins as he washes up on a violent and vicious island. There he finds a new foe, Thoth-Amon. This brutal sorcerer is out for Conan’s blood, sparking a severe battle. But there are secrets of Conan’s own that may lead him to more danger.

The plot of this first issue is disjointed. At its core is this battle between Conan and a new foe. And relatively speaking, it is straightforward. It is an intense and prolonged brawl as the two fighters are taken across the island, spouting venom at each other and driving their weapons deep into the flesh of their enemy. It’s an exciting conflict. But there are these flashbacks that detail parts of Conan’s past, with huge time jumps. These factors are purposely confusing. The structure of the plot and its placement OF the protagonists is respectful and intentional. The editor’s letter remarks on the fact that the original creator of Conan, Robert E. Howard, never wrote his own stories in chronological order. And it appears that Aaron and the other writers of the Conan books are honouring Howard by using the same concept. With this knowledge, the appreciation of how the storytelling unfolds grows.

Conan is an incredibly likeable hero for the readers to follow. This is due to his simplicity as a raw, violent killer. He is very similar to other action heroes like Kratos from God of War or Hercules, They are brawlers, armed with one weapon usually, and the person they face is usually left as a bloody mess when they leave. But there is a mystery within King Conan #1. Conan is no longer on the throne and the reasons why remain to be seen. The menace that he battles inside this issue is a fantastic villain. Thoth-Amon is as one-dimensional as it gets, solely focused on slaughtering anyone he faces, but in a Conan comic that is what the reader requests.

The art is also sensational. Asrar ensures that the hostility of the island Conan has landed on is evident on every page. Not just from what is on it, but how the danger is drawn. A heavy emphasis on shadows and thin line weights allows for shapes to either twist or be obscured. At times, it takes a moment to deduce what an object is. Conan’s hair is a thick curtain of black, sometimes blocking much of the hero’s face. What isn’t hidden is the snarls of pain and rage from his teeth. The choreography of the fight perfectly relays the respective styles of the combatants, with nasty grimace-inducing injuries as a result. And there are a plethora of brilliant creatures on the island.

The colours are gorgeous and suit the fantasy genre that this comic sits in. Wilson designs the colour of both characters in a way that no colours clash between Conan and Thoth-Amon. One is predominantly red and bronze, whilst the other is green and purple. Most of the shades are faded, apart from when magic is cast or blood or drawn. This directs attention to battle-altering changes. In one flashback, Asrar colours the pages himself. It’s a painted style that is extremely different in tone to Wilson’s. This notifies the reader that it is a separate point in time.

The letters are the same house style that can be found in the other Conan book since his return to Marvel. The font that is synonymous with fantasy characters is now a staple, but can sometimes be criticised for being difficult to read.

King Conan #1 starts as it means to go on. Opening with a savage and extended battle, it is clear that Conan’s path to victory will be difficult. Aaron writing this character is a stroke of genius, as the loud action hero fits his wheelhouse perfectly. But there is a story behind it, with depth and twists that show that it isn’t just a monster hunter series. And with a superstar art team, it will look spectacular too.

King Conan #1 is available where comics are sold December 22nd.


King Conan #1
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TL;DR

King Conan #1 starts as it means to go on. Opening with a savage and extended battle, it is clear that Conan’s path to victory will be difficult. Aaron writing this character is a stroke of genius, as the loud action hero fits his wheelhouse perfectly. But there is a story behind it, with depth and twists that show that it isn’t just a monster hunter series. And with a superstar art team, it will look spectacular too.

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