'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 Marvel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marvel. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Conan: Serpent War #1 (2019)

The first issue of "Serpent War" is on the shelf today! I couldn't wait to get to the store so grabbed a digital copy to read with my morning coffee.


Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Scot Eaton: Penciler, Scott Hanna: Inker
Colorist: Frank D'armata
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Carlos Pacheo, Aneke & Frank D'armata

James Allison Sequence Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Cover Price: $4.99
Pages: 26 of story.
Prose: Solomon Kane 1 of 4.

There are extreme Howard purists who range from not liking any of Howard's characters being done but anyone by him to more Conan centric purists who feel Conan MUST be in the Hyborian Age, anything that strays from this is bad.

Me? I consider myself a Howard purist, but to the point where I have Howard's work in one silo, and everything else in various other silos. I accept and LIKE others doing work with his characters. This work keeps them alive and keeps them in the public eye. No one expects Superman to stay in the world of his creation, but Howard's work? Hands off for many many people.

As you can expect these extreme purists have no love for these Marvel stories. Also as you can expect, I am not one of these. I was looking forward to this adventure because it not only includes Conan but also includes two other, less well known, Howard characters: Solomon Kane and Dark Agnes. Bringing two of Howard's characters to the light is a good thing, especially when one is not that well known. In short, I am happy to see Dark Agnes reborn for an audience that has probably not heard of her.

Art
I generally liked the art in this book, the big spreads introducing Agnes and Kane are great. Seeing them on the big page in a modern print comic gave me a little thrill. I also found using a different team to do the James Allison opening to be excellent. It made it stand apart from the other charcters in the story. It is an excellent use of art to tell a tale in my opinion.

Story
Apart from the addition of Moon Knight, because Howard wouldn't have known about him, this story, at least so far, isn't beyond what Howard could have written. Like most stories of this nature the first issue works to lay the ground work of what is to come and to introduce us to the characters. The most obvious of these two that need introductions are of course Kane and Agnes, but both Conan and Moon Knight are explained as well. As a Moon Knight fan who knows nothing about Conan you will have a basic foundation. As well as a Conan fan who knows nothing about Moon Knight, I have a basic idea as well.

Cover
My biggest complaint about the cover is the sword. Although it isn't a direct copy of the Atlantean sword from the 82 film it is clearly influenced by it. As much as I love the movie this sword belongs in the 82 Conan the Barbarian silo for me. With that being said the cover shows us the main characters and is in my opinion well executed.

Some of the variant covers are incredible. My favorite of these is Conan depicted with Moon Knight done by David Finch. My single complaint about it, especially since it is so bad ass, is that it only includes Conan and Moon Knight. Maybe Issues 2 will have an equally bad ass variant cover from him with Kane and Agnes?


Sword & Sorcery & Guns
Two of the characters are weilder of guns so I thought I would throw that in there as well. Although they are simply laying groundwork and introducing the characters, some of that groundwork is to introduce the threat. That threat is clearly sorcerous and weird in nature. In addition we also get scenese of the characters kicking ass and taking names, so this checks all of these boxes for me.

Overall Thoughts
When they announce stories like this I am always hopeful, but always unsure. Jim Zub has been on social media talking about this for a while, but the proof is in the pudding as they say. I think the whole team has done a great job on this book right down to the Howard underpinnings across the whole thing. Using James Allison, a perhaps even MORE obscure character as the glue to hold this all together is pretty brilliant, and it puts more of the James Allison tales on my reading list, right after I finish "Chessmen of Mars" by Burroughs.

Overall recommendation: Go pick this up.

My rating this month is 4.5 out of 5 Skulls of My Enemies!



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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, 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.

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