CONAN: SERPENT WAR #1 & MORE! [Reviews]

Conan Serpent War #1 CoverCONAN: SERPENT WAR #1/ Script by JIM ZUB/ Pencils by SCOTT EATON/ Inks by SCOTT HANNA/ Colors by FRANK D’ARMATA/ Art for James Allison Sequences by VANESA R. DEL REY/ Colors for James Allison Sequences by JEAN-FRANCOIS BEAULIEU/ Letters by VC’s TRAVIS LANHAM/ Published by MARVEL COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

Cross Plains, Texas. 1936. A writer named James Allison, who has visions of ancient times and places which he’s turned into his stories, is tormented by a strange illness and stranger visions. This unlikely man may hold the key to saving humanity from a dark god who seeks its destruction, somehow summoning four heroes from across time to join forces in a battle against the serpent men of Set.

While I’ve seen more unlikely ways of getting a crossover event started, I can’t fault Conan: Serpent War for its economy. The opening text by Jim Zub and art by Vanesa R. Del Rey and Jean-Francois Beaulieu is a spirited tribute to Robert E. Howard, whom James Allison is clearly meant to represent, and evokes the feeling of an old EC Comics horror tale as well as Howard’s own weird works. The rest of the book, ably illustrated by Scott Eaton, Scott Hanna and Frank D’Armata also looks good, sporting a more traditional comic book style as well as some fantastic two-page montages detailing the exploits of the various heroes. I think Solomon Kane and Dark Agnes might have benefited from more explanation of their backgrounds, but we will presumably get to see them expanded upon in later issues.

Apart from that, this is a far better comic than I was expecting. A Conan/Moon Knight team-up is an inspired pairing given both characters indirect ties to Egyptian mythology vis a vis battling Set and it isn’t too much of a stretch to pit Solomon Kane or Dark Agnes against such cultists. Though the Howard purists may turn their noses up at it, this is a spirited team-up book that introduces new readers to Howard’s heroes wonderfully.

4-5

 

Doctor Doom #3 CoverDOCTOR DOOM #3/ Script by CHRISTOPHER CANTWELL/ Art by SALVADOR LARROCA/ Colors by GURU-FX/ Letters by VC’s CORY PETIT/ Published by MARVEL COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

Victor Von Doom is dead and in Hell. This would be the end of the story for most mortals, but Doom has a destiny to fulfill and a world to save. As an enemy nation marches on Latveria and the rest of the world turns a blind eye to the atrocities that are about to unfold in the name of reparations for a crime that Doom and his people did not commit, Doom must convince the least sympathetic person in Hell that he deserves a second chance at life.

There is but one flaw to this issue, in so far as I can see and that is the deus ex machina that arranges for Doom’s escape from Hell. A piddling point, to be sure, but I had hoped to see Doom win free of Hell on his own terms. Still, I can’t complain too much about a comic which sees Doctor Doom die, wind up in Hell, shrug and go on to slap Mephisto silly the moment he launches into a “Your soul is mine now!” monologue. It’s a perfectly crafted image by Salvador Larroca and Guru-FX and I suspect the real reason that Doom is ultimately freed is that the forces running Hell are afraid he’ll take over. Regardless, this remains  a wonderful series and a perfect exploration of Doom’s character.

4-5

 

The Dreaming #16 CoverTHE DREAMING #16/ Script by SIMON SPURRIER/ Art and Colors by MARGUERITE SAUVAGE/ Letters by SIMON BOWLAND/ Published by DC BLACK LABEL

Review by MATT MORRISON

The good news is Dora has found the man responsible for taking away her memories and changing what she is meant to be. The bad news is that man is also responsible for the current troubles in the realm of dreams and his plans have gone far beyond his control. Possibly beyond anyone’s ability to control.

With a single stroke, Simon Spurrier manages to explain away all the various subplots that have run amok since The Dreaming started. It’s a masterful bit of writing worthy of Neil Gaiman himself. The artwork by Marguerite Sauvage (a favorite of mine since her run on Red Sonja) proves a perfect partner in bringing the script to life, crafting what I feel may be the best artwork this series has ever seen. The only flaw in this work is that you have to have been reading this series since the beginning to fully appreciate the craft of it all.  Take that as your cue to start tracking down the back-issues, if you haven’t been reading it.

5-5

 

Red Sonja #11 CoverRED SONJA #11/ Script by MARK RUSSELL/ Art by MIRKO COLAK/ Colors by DEARBHLA KELLY/ Letters by HASSAN OTSEMANE-ELHAOU/ Published by DYNAMITE COMICS

Review by MATT MORRISON

With Sonja’s armies scattered and the former Queen of Hyrkania on the run, the victory of Emperor Dragan The Magnificent is all but assured. Yet while victorious the Emperor and his forces lie weakened thanks to Sonja’s scorched-earth tactics and their only hope of not starving to death in the wretched land of rubes and horse dung that they gave all to conquer lies across a single bridge…

There’s not much else to say about this storyline as it goes into its penultimate chapter. I’m far from alone in this based on the other reviews I’ve read by other critics, but I’ve enjoyed Mark Russell’s humorous take on the sword-and-sorcery mythos in this series and look forward to seeing how it all comes to an end next month. I’ve enjoyed Mirko Colak’s artwork, which plays the subject matter completely straight even at its most ludicrous, with Emperor Dragan donning a series of increasingly and improbably large hats to show his importance as his empire expands. This hasn’t been your typical Red Sonja comic and for that we can all give thanks.

4-5

About Matt Morrison

Matt "Starman" Morrison is The Grand Exalted High Macha of Raspur - a non-existent but real-sounding country. He has been writing about comics since before the word "blogging" was coined. He enjoys acting, role-playing, movie-riffing and sarcasm. You can follow his adventures on Twitter, @GeekyGeekyWays.

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