The thing about a fictional character as well-known as Conan is that his entire life has already been chronicled. He was born in blood on the battlefield, and died a king. So Conan the Barbarian’s approach to telling some of the unknown stories of his life has been a great take on the Cimmerian’s life.
Jason Aaron, Mahmud Asrar, Matthew Wilson and Travis Lanham tell the earliest tale of Conan’s life so far in the series. It returns to his days as a thief but that doesn’t mean Conan is any less formidable. It’s also an exploration of a certain aspect of Conan as a person.
In this issue, Conan is a convicted thief in the gold mining town of Red Tree Hill–named for the hanging tree stained with the blood of convicted thieves and killers. Conan brings down the tree mid-execution, whipping the town into a frenzy. This leads to a brutal confrontation with the town, and the gods.
I didn’t quite catch this last issue, but Aaron clearly establishes the theme of this arc in this issue–this is an exploration of each core tenet of Conan’s personality. #1 was his pride, #2 was his loyalty, and this issue is his religion (or lack thereof). It’s a great approach, all while telling an intense and engaging story.
Asrar and Wilson continue to tell an engaging visual story. The executions are vivid and shocking, thanks to both the grasp of anatomy Asrar has, and the colors that Wilson brings to human faces. The issue progresses continually that way, whether it’s the chilling quiet of Conan in prison or the vivid explosion of the second attempt at execution. It’s one of the best looking issues I’ve read in a long time.
Any fan of classic sword and sorcery need to be reading this book.
Conan the Barbarian #3 is available now from Marvel Comics.