'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

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Savage Sword of Conan: Issue # (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.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Hawks of Outremer (2010)

I hope everyone in the US and Canada had good holiday weekends. Today i've got something a little different for you. A review of an older title. I learned about this book when the cover came across my Facebook feed through one of the many Conan groups I monitor. I initially thought it might be a new title, but as it turns out it was released in 2010 physically and in 2014 digitally.

Hawks of Outremer was published as a 4 part miniseries by BOOM! I picked it up on Comixology on Sunday to give it a read with my coffee. I picked it up as the compiled trade book.

Adaption: Michael Alan Nelson
Writer: Robert E Howard
Artist: Damian Couceiro
Colorist: Juan Manuel Tumburus
Letterer: Johhny Lowe
Cover Artist: Joe Jusko

Cover Price: $6.99
Pages: 90+

As usual, the cover of these books is the easiest place to start. Joe Jusko is maybe best known for his John Carter of Mars, Conan or Tarzan depictions. No matter how you know his work, it is generally of high quality. He is without a doubt one of the Masters of fantasy painting working today. These covers are good and fit the narratives well, although I am not sure they are Joe's best work. Whether it is or not they are all good and all evocative of the narrative found within the pages.

The 90 pages of panels and story drawn by Damian Couceiro and colored by Juan Manel Tumburus are excellent and fit the story being told quite well. From the small panels to the epic, from the mundane to the violent, this book does not disappoint.

I had not read the story by Robert E Howard when I picked up the comic, so all I had to go on was the comic itself. This means the comic got a fair shake regardless of what I thought of Howard's writing. In the end, I quite enjoyed the book and would recommend it to people interested in Howard, pulp fiction or action tales.

Arriving at the end of the book, which I devoured in a single sitting (100 comic pages doesn't take that long), I found an afterword by Mark Finn. I didn't read all of Mark's words, but he seemed to be suggesting this was a good adaption. He even makes the comment that Michael Alan Nelson had quite often used Howard's own words within the pages instead of trying to do it better. You can find the story online at Gutenberg and also in Del Rey's "Sword Woman and Other Historical Adventures".

I have since picked the story up and read a little of it to see how I felt it seemed to match and I can tell you the opening scenes are well done.

The story itself is a fairly straight forward tale of vengeance with a slight mystery about what is going on. It is an action-packed romp set against the crusades. On the surface, Cormac is similar to Conan. Both are forces of nature, skilled at combat and very definitely their own man. If we had more time to develop and explore the character I am sure we would see many, many differences between the two.

Normally I would talk about how well I think the story hits the Sword and Sorcery notes for me, but this isn't a sword and sorcery tale, it is historical fiction. So instead of the weird, we will talk of the mundane. The historical flavor of this piece is good. Crusaders and Moslems and the peace of Saladin. We have iron-clad men of Europe in battle against each other as well as the Moslems of the holy land. Besides the art lending the historical flavor of the setting, the use of actual places all lend to bring the reader into a time of European powers carving small kingdoms into the holy land.

Without further discussion, let's see how many skulls of my enemies I think the warrior of the grinning skull deserves!

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Historical Flavor:


A solid 4.5 out 5 skulls!

I really liked this adaption. It felt good to me and was a fun read. I was happy to find it was a solid adaption of Howard's work. If you are a fan of Howard and haven't read Hawks, in either this form or in the prose form, I recommend getting out and finding a copy. If you use Comixology in the US, it is available under the Unlimited level.

One final note, after reading this tale I went and found a copy at AbeBooks at the Book Depository and ordered a physical copy of it.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Conan the Barbarian: Issue #7 (2019) "Barbarian Love"

Another Wednesday morning relaxing before work with a black cup of coffee and the newest issue of Conan the Barbarian! That's right, The Barbarian is back after a little bit of a break!


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

Cover Price: $3.99

It is no secret that I have liked Mahmud's run on this book. This issue is no exception. As before we have some lovely art colored by Matt Wilson, sprinkled with a few epic images of Conan kicking ass. We have had this formula all the way back to #1 with Conan fighting in the pit. I have yet to grow weary of flipping the page to find a full page of the Cimmerian doing what he does best.

Esar's cover is likewise exceptional and in the flavor of the story, which is a win for me. I feel the cover helps to bring the reader initially into the story, so having one that is part of that story is critical to me. I would be remiss to not mention that several people in the social media world have commented on Conan's face in this cover looks like either a caveman, a troll, or something similar. I do agree this isn't my favorite rendering of our hero, but certainly not trollish, but I can see where they get neanderthal from.

I feel the story is a little out of canon timeline wise, but can't directly address why without leaving spoilers. In addition this is another tale without anything weird in it. It is simply a basic story of Conan plotting and executing revenge.

I know some people will dislike this story for various reasons, I didn't dislike it. It moved at a fairly steady pace, although they could have added some weirdness and cut out the aspects that place it out of timeline for me and had a story I loved a lot more. Either way in this new line of comics with basic non-weird stuff in it, it is a fine issue.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


My rating this month is 3.5 out of 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

This issue had many of the hallmarks of Conan: strong women, swordplay, and treasure. It was lacking anything to fill the sorcery aspect of the genre (I feel like a broken record here), but overall told a decently fun story if somewhat out of Howard canon for me. I'll note that being out of the timeline isn't the end of the world. Howard's timeline isn't set in stone and there are many many plausible reasons that stories might not all fit together neatly.

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!

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram!

Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today!

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

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