Conan has traveled far in his young life and has become somewhat more comfortable with cities, if not civilization itself. Still, there is one aspect of cities that Conan can appreciate; festivals. Not that Conan needs much excuse to drink or dally with damsels but he won’t say no to those who wish to make a big deal of doing so, with dancing in the street or contests and games of skill.
It is at such a festival that Conan finds himself recruited to take part in a display of strength. Despite not knowing the local language, Conan is to quick to pick up on the local customs and quicker still to secure a place among the champions of the festival.
Sadly, this turns out to be a religious festival and the chosen champions are also typically chosen sacrifices, unless they are clever and quick enough to escape the many dangers of the trap-filled labyrinth beneath the city of Garchall. Now the Cimmerian finds himself amid odd company, as well as the thieves and rogues cast into the pits as a punishment for their crimes. And they may try to kill Conan before the dangers of the pit manage it!
This may be Jim Zub’s first issue on the monthly Conan comic, but he already writes the Cimmerian like he was born to do so. Of course Zub has written Conan before and written him well, co-authoring the Conan/Red Sonja crossover with Gail Simone and, more recently, writing the Conan The Gambler arc for Savage Sword of Conan as well as the Conan: Serpent War mini-series. While the story here comes off as a sword-and-sorcery tribute to the 1997 sci-fi/horror movie Cube, Zub has Conan’s character down-pat.
The artwork matches the story quite well. I’m a fan of Roge Antonio’s work after the all-too-brief run of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey and he proves to be as skilled at drawing Hyborian cities as he was the streets of Gotham City. The color art by Israel Silva is generally quite good, though a bit more variety in the palettes might have helped in some of the panels where the same shades seem to have been used for the characters and the transitional backgrounds.
All in all, this is a fantastic first issue for the new creative team. Zub perfectly captures the adventurous spirit of the original Robert E. Howard stories and, with Antonio’s art, waves together a book that feels like you’re watching an old-school Dungeons and Dragons dungeon crawl play out. That might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it made me want to pick up some dice and roll up a new barbarian character.