CONAN THE BARBARIAN #0/ Script by JIM ZUB / Art by ROB DE LA TORRE/ Colors by JOSE VILLARRUBIA/ Letters by RICHARD STARKINGS/ Published by TITAN COMICS
While I usually try and make it out to the shops for Free Comic Book Day, that journey took on a special urgency this year, thanks to the release of Conan The Barbarian #0. I’m something of an expert on all things sword and sorcery and a fan of Conan in particular. Also, while I did enjoy most of the offerings produced by Marvel Comics after they briefly took control of the Conan license in 2019, even the best of those stories was somewhat muted by the need to stick to a 15 and up rating.
Thankfully, Titan Comics and Heroic Signatures have returned the character to his dark pulp fiction roots. They have also wisely recruited Jim Zub – writer of many great fantasy comics, including the best of the recent Marvel Conan tales – to write the new monthly title. Beyond having a clear respect and knowledge of the source material, Zub also writes a mean ripping yarn in the finest tradition of Robert E. Howard.
For this first issue, Zub goes back to the origins of Conan and his first adventure at the Battle of Venarium. Chronologically this was the first battle Conan participated in, according to Robert E. Howard. It was also where he made the fateful decision to journey south from the misty hills of Cimmeria and into the whole wide world. The tone is pitch perfect, from the opening quote of The Nemedian Chronicles to the action-packed moments where Conan first risks certain death and “the beckoning of oblivion.”
Zub’s text is well matched by some equally amazing artwork. Rob De La Torre perfectly captures the grit and grimness of the Hyborian setting with a style that evokes memories of the late and great John Buscema. The colors of Jose Villarrubia add to the somber aura that dominates the Cimmerian landscapes, with subtle shifts of color that make Conan’s thoughts of his grandfather’s stories of the lands to the south all the more vivid. The lettering of Richard Starkings is clear and unobtrusive, conveying the text without distracting from the art, despite largely appearing in those classic bright yellow Marvel Comics narration boxes.
The Conan comics franchise is in good hands based on this first outing. I’ll be looking forward to the first official issue come July and I doubt I’ll be alone in that. If you’ve never read Conan the Barbarian, this is the place to start, by Crom! And if you can’t get a copy at your local store, you can download it for free at Amazon.com.
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