'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Conan the Barbarian: Issue #9 (2019) , "The God Below"

Wednesday and another Conan the Barbarian to read. So let's make some coffee and get down to what I thought of this issue.


Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Esar Ribic

Cover Price: $3.99

Esad's cover hints at what we might find within the pages, although not why we might find it there. The covers on these issues continue to be great at what they do, whet our appetites for the story within the pages. As always his covers are first-rate, although I think this is one of the weaker covers he has done for the series.

Asrar's work is again excellent, especially on the large panels, and there are more than a few in this issue, these combined with Wilson's colors make some truly excellent images. If I had to echo any concern for the art within the pages it would be that the small panels are a little simple, especially when held up against the full or double-page spreads, although they still clearly get their point across.

Story-wise, this issue has its share of Conan kicking ass, both with and without a sword. It also contains plenty of the weird within its pages, which we have lacked in recent issues. There is however at least one spot where the story kind of jumps and we see a consequence without a reason, and I always find it a little jarring. This wasn't something that affected the overall story, just made me go back and make sure I hadn't missed anything. I also had an issue with one of the opponents Conan has to fight within its pages, I wonder if anyone else will pick it up as well? The ending of the story probably won't come as any great surprise, but this is pulp action and adventure, not the great twisting passages of a dark thriller.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


My rating this month is 4 out of 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

After the last few issues lacked anything overtly weird and I was beginning to wonder if they remembered this was Sword & SORCERY, but this one is centered around the "Weird", and it was nice to see. Despite a few weak places in the story, I liked it overall and it felt like a pretty good one-shot, even if it could have used another couple of pages to help tie things together in a smoother fashion.

I think this issue is worth taking a look at, even if you have not read the last few issues.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Age of Conan: Valeria #1

I have been away on vacation visiting the beautiful province of Newfoundland! I had intended on reading Valeria #1 and Conan: Exodus on the airplane on the way back, but that didn't happen. I did see a few reviews of Valeria #1, and while I didn't read them, the headlines lead me to believe the reviewers didn't like the book. I finally got a chance to read it on the train this morning.


Writer: Meredith Finch
Artist: Aneke
Colorist: Andy Troy
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Jay Anacleto & Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Cover Price: $3.99cad

When they released Belit #1, many of us were keen to see new tales of the Hyborian Age focused on some of our favorite characters besides Conan. What we got was a book that was not aimed, at the generally male, core fan base. This caused many reviewers to not get it, and to give it poor reviews. In general, the book was decent and clearly aimed at a different fan base, which I think is awesome. The more the merrier! Still, I hoped Valeria #1 would be different and maybe be aimed a little closer at the core fan base, call me selfish. I wanted to enjoy reading some more conventional stories about Valeria of the Red Brotherhood! The reviews, however, pointed towards something more like what we got with Belit.

Upon reading it I admit I was a little confused. Certainly, this might appeal to a woman reading it as the main hero is a heroine, but it wasn't what we saw in Belit. Valeria is fully formed and on a quest for vengeance, and while we do get some flashbacks to her as a young girl, outlining her character and reasons for wanting what she does, it isn't a tale of her youth. Further the '82 classic film, Conan the Barbarian, likewise showed early moments from Conan's life, even if it's not the main part of the tale. In my mind, it isn't obviously pointed at one or the other demographic.

The story we get is another origin tale, revolving around how hard life is in the Hyborian Age. Death comes swiftly to those around our main character and she rises to become the warrior we see in Red Nails. Her desires pushed by a quest for vengeance. Nothing new here, but this is based on pulp literature, we aren't looking for exceptionally deep tales. I understand that we don't always need origin stories, and when Valeria first appears in Red Nails, we don't have one. These titles are allowing other authors to explore the characters and the world, which I again think is a pretty cool thing. Bringing REH to more people is awesome in general.

The interior art is done by Aneke. I admit to not being hugely familiar with the artist, but having a look on the internet I see a fair body of work including Red Sonja. I have mixed feelings about the art. Some of it is great, like the opening fight sequence, and other panels are nearly comical, such as this fight between a merchant and a pirate. Despite a few odd poses, I think there is more good than bad in this issue.

Excellent opening fight.
Less excellent fight between pirate and merchant.


The cover of the title doesn't really deal with the story at all, and so maybe I should take issue with it as I did with several Savage Sword covers. However, it is a beautifully rendered cover of Valeria, and although it isn't directly about the story, it doesn't seem out of place either. The issue has plenty of swords, some blood and lots of action. It, however, has no sorcery as of yet, so I have a hard time fitting this solidly into the Sword and Sorcery genre it is current form.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


And so we fill 3.5 skulls with grog and toast this initial offering for Valeria!

This was, I believe, a decent start to the adventure. Despite a few missteps with the interior art, the story looks to be a nice pulp tale of swords and vengeance. I look forward to reading Valeria #2!

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Savage Sword of Conan: Issue #7 (2019) "The Gambler" Part One

Welcome back to Starships and Steel! I feel like all I do now is review comics! With the plethora of new titles (and old titles out there), they are taking a fair bit of my blog time up. I almost didn't even review SS7, which might be evident by that the review is out a day after the title was released. This review will be a little less spoiler free that what is usual. I am not going to fully discuss the story, but story layout and something I want to draw your attention to that occurs later in the story, that I feel must be said.


Writer: Jim Zubb
Artist: Patch Zircher
Colorist: Java Tartaglia
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Marco Checchetto

Cover Price: $3.99

The issue sits at 18 pages of actual comic content plus the serial prose by Scott Oden at the back. Although I don't review the prose, I encourage you all to flip to the back and have a read!

Starting with the cover of this book, we see a well-rendered piece of art. Conan sits at a table with a woman behind him, perhaps a witch or similar? Before him lies a table covered in gold, cards, and blood! Surely a great start, and compared to the original covers that simply paid homage to older covers and had nothing to do with the story, this one hits it out of the park. Even when I think the covers are more in line with the content of the book I feel like the artists are given a basic idea behind the issue and they go off and create it. We get a relevant image, but not an actual image from the story.

This image is completely different. The cover is a depiction of the story. The cards are in the story. The woman is in the story. This seems to be a home run. Clearly, Marco has been given a lot more direction than previous cover artists.

The interior art is likewise pretty well-executed, with some fun panels. Conan is well depicted as a young man, probably some of his first forays as a thief type character. The coloring is likewise well executed with it adding to the already lovely art. Shadows and light are both used effectively and the overall tone of the panels is excellent.

The book starts with promise. Conan comes across a man in Shadizar set upon by bandits. After being promised coin, Conan intervenes and we get a pretty cool fight scene over the next couple of pages. After this though we get several pages of pretty heavy dialogue between Conan and this denizen of Shadizar. We get more dialogue than we got combat. The next three pages are pretty dialogue-heavy and for me at least slowed down the pacing a lot. It is not what I have come to expect, and I can't say I really liked it.

Once we get past the overly wordy parts of the story, we move into the meat of the tale. We are shown a gem which I hope, plays into the tale later, as it is pretty much the only "weird" thing we see. I hope we see the woman on the cover be pivotal in the tale, and I ALSO hope she does turn out to be a witch of some description. That will all come later though, in the next parts of this tale.

We are also given a couple of pages of introduction to a gambling game. Yes, they take several panels to describe the rules of how the game is played. As it turns out this game is available as a print to play and will be made available commercially later in the year. If you follow me at all you know I am a pretty large supporter of new Conan games and merchandise. The more the merrier! Let us get Conan strongly back into the public eye! And with him Robert E Howard. I will further note that the cover as well depicts these cards, which explains why this cover is so different than every previous cover we have seen in the Marvel Conan run.

For me, this is simply product placement of their own stuff. I didn't like it. It felt overly detailed and out of place and frankly distracting from the pace of the story, yet again.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


And with that, this issue lands at 3 skulls.

There is plenty to enjoy in this book, but for me the story pacing and overt product placement took me out of the hyborian age. It also lacks sword and sorcery. It would have benefitted from less talk and less card game descriptions and more fighting.

I have seen plenty of reviews now saying Jim Zubb "gets it". He understands the Hyborian Age and the character. I won't say he doesn't, I see nothing to really indicate he is working in a vacuum or that he isn't a fan of the character, but I do find it puzzling that they think that Jim gets it and no one else in the Marvel run has yet. He may get it, but he doesn't get it any better than anyone else that has written in the short life of this character at Marvel who are also fans of Conan.

So while some people think this is the *BEST* that has come out so far, I have to disagree. For me, the only thing holding it up is the art and the potential. This book as a standalone falls pretty flat for me.

If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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