'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

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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.




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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