CONAN THE BARBARIAN #15/ Script by JIM ZUB/ Art by ROGE ANTONIO/ Colors by ISRAEL SILVA/ Letters by VC’S TRAVIS LANHAM/ Covers by E.M. GIST & SKAN/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Conan of Cimmeria had come to like the festivals of the civilized lands, though he needed no excuse to make merry. Still, he took it in stride when his victory in one of the innumerable tests of strength at one festival led to his being named Champion of the People. It was a position that, unbeknownst to Conan, usually ended in the champion being sacrificed for the glory of the city.
Cast into a labyrinth along with other champions and convicted criminals, Conan quickly allied himself with some of his fellow prisoners, though there can only be one victor in the final test of the dungeon called The Crucible. Now, with only four of his party surviving including himself, Conan must make his way to the city arena and the final challenge, as Conan becomes a suspect in the murder of one of their party!
It’s been nearly six months since I’ve held a new issue of Conan The Barbarian, yet I was able to jump into this issue as if it had been yesterday. This is a testament to Jim Zub’s skill as a writer and his ability to make every chapter of a story accessible to newcomers, in keeping with the classic Stan Lee dictum that all comics should be written as if they were somebody’s first. That same skill brings complexity to a tale that, in abstract, sounds like as common a fantasy adventure as one might find in the bargain bin at Ye Old Game Shoppe. Yet under Zub’s pen, stock characters of cardboard take on a semblance of true life, becoming as vital as Conan himself.
Roge Antonio’s art continues to impress, showing a unique sense of motion throughout the issue. Even when speaking in a static conversation the characters seem to be continually in motion, like wary predators circling their prey. The colors by Israel Silva are well chosen, with moments of high action punctuated by warm colors in contrast to the cold tones used for most of the scenes set in the dreary dungeon.
Those who are not already fans of Conan or dungeon-based fantasy adventures will probably not be swayed by this story. That is their loss. For those who are bold and enjoy a good ripping yarn shall find this issue to be as refreshing as Aquilonian brandy.