Despite his prominence as a hero, Conan has been out of commission at Marvel comics for decades. Conan’s return to The House of Ideas was heralded as a huge success for the publisher. Marvel was quick to capitalize on his return with an ongoing series from the biggest, best creative team they could assemble. Writer Jason Aaron is paired with artist Mahmud Asrar for the core series. However, Marvel isn’t satisfied with just one ongoing series. “Savage Sword of Conan” is the second big debut with rising star Gerry Duggan taking over scripting duties alongside artist Ron Garney managing the interior art. With the appeal of Conan the Barbarian skewing stronger towards an older group of fans, can the world of Conan can support a second ongoing series?
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrator by Ron Garney
Colored by Richard Isanove
Lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
THE ANCIENT CULT OF KOGA THUN. A MYSTICAL TREASURE. AND THE ONLY MAN WHO CAN SAVE THE HYBORIAN AGE! Adrift at sea. No food. No weapons. Death surely awaits him. But the lionhearted CONAN is not so easily subdued, by Crom! When Conan finds himself captured, he unleashes his might on an unsuspecting pirate crew…one whose dark secrets will plunge Conan on the trail of an ancient treasure that may prove to be his undoing! An all-new age of SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN begins with a five-part tale of swords and sorcery by Gerry Duggan (DEADPOOL, INFINITY WARS) and illustrated by legendary artist Ron Garney (DAREDEVIL, THOR: GOD OF THUNDER) with covers by the incomparable Alex Ross! Welcome to the deadly Hyborian Age—hope you survive the experience!
For readers worried about whether the character could support a second title, “Savage Sword of Conan” makes a strong argument for why both books should be published. The issue explores a supernatural angle, shipwrecking Conan with a group of undead pirates where they take him in as a prisoner. The title does a great job immersing readers in the world of Conan with the various pirates and creators he comes into contact with. The script takes a dip in quality when the caption boxes and prose come in. The tension and rhythm that the issue built up previously comes to a halt as the captions describe and add more context to Conan’s surroundings.
Ron Garney’s art is perfect for the series. Garney’s line work does a great job paying homage to creators like Barry Windsor-Smith who had worked on Conan when it was originally published Marvel comics. The surreal color palette for his interiors also do a great job transporting readers to another time. Despite what era the work is published in, Conan should feel like a man out of time and out of place. With Garney’s line work and Duggan’s script, Conan is captured and portrayed like an outsider and an icon. The supernatural elements of the title also coalesce with the main story with ease.
Garney’s depiction of the supernatural creatures adds an important visual shake-up to the narrative. Readers see Conan pulled into some desperate straights and the level of shadow and darkness lingering in the background pulls readers into his current mental state. Garney’s sparse backgrounds enrich Duggan’s script and the two creators have an impressive level of chemistry. The splash page foreshadowing a future of the narrative is a wonderful artistic moment and the highlight of the book that serves to widen the scope of the narrative.
One of the best sequences of the narrative is the first portion serving to disorient readers and introduce the tone of the book. The moment is a great example of showing and not telling in the medium of comics, portraying a hallucination Conan is having in real time. Unfortunately, this great visual sequence is broken up by text which destroys some of the immersion that was previously established. Comics are a visual medium and having a few captions can serve to greater flesh out the world, but adding too many can leave the script and pacing of an issue feeling unbalanced.
Duggan makes a strong argument for the future direction of the series thanks to the foreshadowing from the end of the book. Similar to the core Conan title, this book is also devoted to playing the long game and fleshing out the character for a full ongoing series. I hope future issues will be able to continue establishing a supporting cast and group of villains to keep the narrative truly interesting.
While it is hard to say whether the market can support two ongoing series starring one character, “Savage Sword of Conan” has an excellent level of ambition and a strong supernatural direction. The issue fleshes out the character of Conan in a manner that sets him apart from the main series. Garney’s sharp lines are an excellent match for grim, yet quirky nature of the title. The installment also strikes an interesting level of cohesion with the core series. The tone of the book and personality of Conan are intact across both titles. While each title is different enough, I hope both books will be able to craft a stronger, more distinctive narrative in the future.
Final Verdict: 7.4 – “Savage Sword of Conan” #1 is a solid, yet familiar debut for Conan’s second ongoing series.