Writer: Jim Zub
Art: Roge Antonia and E.M Gist
Release Date: February 19th, 2020
Conan has traveled to many places and has faced many challenges. He’s been a destroyer, a barbarian, a thief, a hired hand, an outlaw, a gambler, and most recently a King! Now, as Jim Zub creates the perfect jumping-on point for any new reader interested in CONAN THE BARBARIAN, we see Conan enter an unfamiliar city called Uttara Kuru where he doesn’t speak the language and is foreign to their customs. Somehow, whether it be his boastful pride or his sheer ignorant arrogance, Conan finds himself accidentally entered into the Great Crucible. Let’s dive into CONAN THE BARBARIAN #13 by Jim Zub and see just exactly what this Great Crucible is, how Conan got himself into this mess, and if he can get himself out!
Jim Zub gets his first crack at this amazing series and this reviewer found himself at times with an unfamiliar Conan while still having a ton of fun in the process. Let me explain. Zub’s character voice of the Cimmerian just didn’t seem to hit the mark of what we’ve been used to in SAVAGE AVENGERS or CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1-12 by Jason Aaron. Now, before you condemn him for this I would like you to take notice of something very important to his narrative. Both Conan’s from the other titles listed above were mature, grown, experienced, and surprisingly used his brain more than one would think a barbarian should. My point: Zub’s Conan seems young and Rogé Antônio even draws the great Cimmerian as youthful and almost green around the gills.
As silly as this is to say, Antônio illustrates a smooth, clean, and hairless (other than his head) Barbarian with no scars, wounds, or even dirt to speak of. On the very first splash page, readers see, Conan looks like a young buck who’s just begun his journey. Furthermore, Conan is supposed to be learned and know many languages. Well, he doesn’t know the language of THIS city. Therefore, this again points this reviewer towards a young Conan that’s maybe only a few years removed from Cimmerian. A finally, Zub narrates a line that says, “how many mercenaries, soldiers, and criminals have fallen before him over the past few years since he left Cimmeria for the first time…” Readers, it is my opinion that we are examining a fresh off the block Conan and need to give Zub some grace with his portrayal and characteristics of the Crom-fearing destroyer. With age come wisdom and maturity. And thus, Zub’s Conan isn’t there yet.
That said, the narration by Zub seemed a bit off. I understand that we are looking at a young barbarian but not a young narrator. As inexperienced as Conan seemed, which this reader can accept if he’s meant to be youthful, the narrator should still come across as confident, wise, and prudent. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but the expression and dialect just don’t feel like it’s from or around the Hyborian Age. Moreover, the narrator seemed too modern in his tone and language. My expectations of a Conan-esque narrator are simply someone knowledgeable, older, and seasoned. Maybe it’s the style I’m used to or maybe it’s that from the movies I’ve heard voices like Morgan Freeman or Mako Iwamatsu as the Wizard? Either way, the narrator sounded to me like Zub himself talking which didn’t blend well with the story in my opinion.
Overall, this first issue was an entertainingly quick read that will get new readers to the heart of the story fast. It’s filled with action but not the type of action experienced fans would be looking for in a Conan comic. There isn’t a ton of violent, jaw-dropping melee that we’ve come to experience from the prior creative team but new readers will be engaged enough to come back for round two, especially with the cliffhanger. Nonetheless, it isn’t entirely what we’ve been used to recently, which may make long time fans feel a bit let down for Zub’s inaugural take on CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Given that Zub is obliviously trying to provide fans with a different interpretation on the character AND since we just came off Jason Aaron’s killer series where Conan basically died AND fought Crom, I think we need to give this new creative team some latitude as they introduce their story. For now, I’m all in for the first couple of issues to see where this story takes me. I think new and old fans alike should do the same.