THE STORY: Before there was King Conan, there was the Barbarian, the Slayer. Our story opens to a battled, bloodied, and weary Conan, being persued across the barren desert sands by a roving band of marauders, the Turanians. Finding himself wedged into a situation of inevitability after his compatriots are felled by enemy steel, Conan makes a final stand. With silent trepidation, Conan puts rock at his back and sword in his hand to meet death on the sand demanding to take the lives of his oppressors with him. However, Crom has not has his finish of the Cimmerian, and sees fit to find Conan victorious over his enemies, yet even worse for the wear. Crom is a cruel God. Limping ever onward, he stumbles upon an encampment. Too battle broken to evade capture, the Barbarian finds himself subdued and helpless as old enemies close in and new adversaries interrogate him. In true Robert E. Howard fashion, Conan finds camaraderie in the most unexpected of places.
THE SCRIBE: Cullen Bunn continues to solidify his reputation as one of the most accomplished and talented writers in the world of comics. A man of many hats, Bunn is a literary gladiator in any given arena wether it is corporate work-for-hire like Magneto, Lobo, or Conan, or his creator owned projects like The Sixth Gun, Harrow County, and Wolf Moon.
Cullen brings his flare for horror into the testosterone fueled, hyper-violent world of Conan comics in a way that would make Roy Thomas proud. Carrying on a media-spanning legacy, Bunn skillfully gives voice to a narrator familiar to longtime Conan fans while remaining approachable to new comers who aren’t familiar with the long running legend of Conan. The story is indifferent from previously written titles, but it doesn’t feel stale, and is active enough to keep audiences entertained without challenging the canon or the enshrined sword and sorcery themes that are a necessity in a true Conan story. Relying heavily on foreshadowing, Bunn telegraphs many of this ongoing story’s next moves in order to establish a foundation on which to build his arc. From the hooded figure tracking the corpses left in Conan’s wake, to the building clash between Mykylo’s tribe of Kosaks and the Turanian invaders, readers are given a roadmap to what might be expected in further issues.
THE STYLE: If there is a who’s who of modern fantasy artists, Sergio Davila is doing his best to see his name at or near the top of the list. He’s done pencils for some of the industries biggest, most well known pulp fantasy and adventure comics, mostly working for Dynamite on titles like Red Sonya and most notably Gail Simone’s female-centric crossover series, Swords of Sorrow.
Davila has definitely studied the work of his predecessors in the field. His lines and body builds are a modern throwback to the Conan art of John Buscema. The ripped features of characters and the intricate details of weapons and armor stand out from simplistic landscapes, or no landscapes at all. Davila continuously switches up his panel layouts, preferring to let the wandering eye add another element of movement to the vivacity of the page.
Michael Atiyeh’s colors serve to set the mood of the book. Using drab hues, he brings an arid and thirsty feeling of the desert. The page feels dry. He breaks the muted tones with bright pops of red throughout, be it from blood splatter to gleaming rubies to the crimson sashes of warriors and warlords. The colors do well to convey emotion and draw the eyes to all of the right details without being overly distracting from the story.
THE SENTENCE: The first issue of Conan the Slayer is a solid B of a book. It’s an exciting and spirited kickoff to a story that is sure to please long time readers and fans of the pop culture icon, as well as follower’s of Cullen Bunn who are just stopping in to see what he can do with the licensed property. While it won’t revolutionize the title, this may be the beginning of the next noteworthy chapter in the Conan saga.