Unbagging Conan The Barbarian
Free Comic Book Day 2023 (Conan the Barbarian)
Roberto de la Torre Regular
Release: May 06, 2023
Created by team behind the new ongoing series – Jim Zub, Roberto De La Torre & Jose Villarrubia! On the eve of his first major battle, young CONAN OF CIMMERIA pictures a life beyond the borders of his homeland and yearns for a life of adventure undreamt of in his small village. Visions of future allies and unspeakable evils he will eventually encounter throughout his fabled career fill his mind as he makes the choice to take his first fateful step into the HYBORIAN AGE! Exclusive Original Material Rating: Mature
|Artist||Roberto de la Torre|
What stories will be told of his grand adventures?
It’s time to find out.
Anyone who knows me and my affection for a certain sullen-eyed, iron-thewed Cimmerian may be surprised to learn that during the original Marvel years I didn’t actually read a whole lot of Conan the Barbarian.
Every so often I’d pick up a new issue off the stands, but more often than not if I got an issue of it at all it was via Mystery Packs.
That is not to say, however, that I didn’t read a lot of Marvel Conan content, as Conan the Barbarian was just one of three Conan books they published, and I did buy King Conan/Conan the King fairly often, and I picked up the black-and-white magazine sized The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian as regularly as I could.
As to why that was, I think it boils down to there being a limit to the number of comics I could buy in a given month. As I often had to make difficult choices, I think that preferring its more straightforward serialized storytelling – at least at the time I started reading it it regularly – coupled with the larger number of pages is why Conan the King won out over the more episodic Conan the Barbarian.
As for Savage Sword, well that was a winner just because there was so much more bang for the buck, given its size and the fact that it wasn’t constrained by the Comics Code Authority because it was a magazine.
Of course, Savage Sword was typically even less serialized than Barbarian, but it had a lot going for it, particularly in terms of the art.
While there were issues illustrated by other artists, most of the time during those years, if I picked up an issue of Conan the Barbarian, the odds were that it was drawn by John Buscema.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m a huge fan of Big John Buscema’s take on Conan and his world. If you ask me to picture Conan, what I’m going to picture is Buscema’s rendering of the Cimmerian. But Savage Sword was a visual feast, featuring so many other amazing artists who each had their own unique take on Conan.
Alcala, Chan, Nebres, Isherwood, and yes, Buscema, too – there were just so many artists who made Savage Sword a must-buy for me, and Conan fans have always been incredibly fortunate when it comes to the level of artistic talent brought to bear in bringing his adventures to the page.
In any case, that brings us to now, a point at which the Conan license has left Marvel, returned to Marvel, and left again, giving us the opportunity to start all over again with a new Conan the Barbarian series from a new publisher, one written by a familiar name.
I was bound to pick up this new series regardless, but I did enjoy Zub’s take on Conan during the most recent Marvel run, so that made it even more enticing to me, and of course the whole point of this Free Comic Book Day preview was to further entice prospective readers.
So, let’s finally get around to actually talking about that, shall we? It is, after all, what we’re ostensibly here for.
This isn’t a knock on it or damning it with faint praise, but there’s simply not a lot to it, nor would you expect there to be, as it’s just a free preview of what’s to come.
And it serves that function well with a quickness and economy. But that’s exactly why, even though it’s a well-made short comic, there’s so little to say about it, as it’s not some sprawling epic.
It’s not a meal, it’s an appetizer. A damned tasty one that whets your appetite for the main course. (Which won’t get here until July.)
Basically, we meet young Conan as he engages in his first battle. In the aftermath of the battle, we see him become restive and overtaken by wanderlust, with some brief glimpses of what lies ahead for him.
We don’t even get dialogue, just captions, because this isn’t really a story so much as it is a prologue, an adaptation of part of a story – a story within a story, really – originally told by Conan’s creator Robert E. Howard. (“Beyond the Black River”)
What really stands out about this issue is the art of Roberto de la Torre, who seems to have been born to draw Conan.
de la Torre’s art is a special kind of magic in that it immediately brings to mind Buscema while having a distinct style of his own that isn’t any way derivative. But it’s not just Buscema in there; you can see hints of so many of the other great Conan artists who have come before, both at Marvel and at Dark Horse.
It’s the kind of sorcery that would cause Conan’s hackles to rise and his superstitious barbarian heart to beat a little faster.
I’m definitely looking forward to what is to come in the full series, and I’m glad this preview motivated me to get off my lazy butt and head out to the shop for Free Comic Book Day.
If you didn’t get to a shop for Free Comic Book Day, you can get your own free digital copy of this comic here.
As always, special thanks go out to my comic shop, Comic Logic Books & Artwork. Please remember to support your local comic shop, and if you need to find one, click here.
Born and raised in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jon Maki developed an enduring love for comics at an early age.