REVIEW: Conan the Barbarian #2 by Jim Zub (W) and Roberto De La Torre (A)

The second issue of Titan Comics’ Conan the Barbarian begins in the ashes of Aquilonian frontier outpost Hauler’s Roam. Conan and the Pictish scout Brissa watch from hiding as the undead “Tribe of the Lost” wordlessly gather together the bodies of their savaged victims. Loading the corpses into a net they drag behind them, the rotting horde heads north, crossing the border into Conan’s homeland of Cimmeria. Sole survivors of the supernatural raid, Conan and Brissa follow in pursuit, hoping both to warn Cimmerian warriors of the encroaching threat and learn the location of the larger army of zombies. Along the way Conan and Brissa learn more about one another, with initial mistrust eventually giving way to camaraderie.

Conan The BarbarianThe artwork for this issue is the best seen thus far. For Conan the Barbarian #1 I commented that the reader’s viewpoint often felt a bit too distant from the action, obscuring facial expressions and other fine details. Issue #2 displays a marked improvement on that front. Not only are we given a clearer look at character’s faces, they are good faces as well. As to be expected given the situation, Conan mostly wears an expression of grim determination throughout the issue, but Roberto De La Torre avoids stone-faced monotony through subtle attention to Conan’s eyes. Now that we’re able to get a better look at her face, we can see that Brissa is rendered in a style that would not be out of place alongside Belit, Valeria, Red Sonja, and other warrior women and love interests from the 1970s issues of Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian, rather than a more modern standard for comic book heroines. This consistency with the classic artwork is appreciated. While the characters and fight scenes take center stage, De La Torre’s art also does a quietly effective job showcasing the rugged wilderness of Cimmeria.

There’s more narration than dialogue in Conan the Barbarian #2, but Jim Zub continues to take a light hand with the text. He mostly lets the artwork speak for itself, using brief and evocative language as needed to communicate the less visual aspects of the story. Most of this issue is taken up by overland travel, but there are some nice character moments as Brissa and Conan—thrown together by circumstance—gradually feel each other out. The Tribe of the Lost and the unseen power commanding it remain mysterious, but some intriguing hints are revealed.

There has been a small amount of grumbling from canon purists about the coziness of comic book Conan’s relationship with the Pict Brissa. In “The Black Stranger,” one of the original short stories by Robert E. Howard, Conan takes considerable umbrage at another character’s suggestion that he has been living among the Picts: “Even a Zingaran ought to know there’s never been peace between Picts and Cimmerians, and never will be.” The comic book Conan is much younger than the one depicted in “The Black Stranger,” and I’m curious to see if this long-standing feud between Cimmerians and Picts will be reflected in the plot developments of subsequent issues of Conan the Barbarian.

Conan scholar Jeffrey Shanks’ brief article for this issue takes no position on “Pictgate”; instead he draws a connection between Zub’s comic character Brissa and the lineage of Howard’s Pictish characters Brule the Spear-slayer and Bran Mak Morn. The issue concludes with a letters column, in which Zub reiterates a statement he has made in interviews, that his intent for Titan Comics’ Conan the Barbarian is to focus on creating new tales, rather than retell classic adventures. A laudable goal, in this reader’s opinion.

Enthusiasm remains high regarding Conan’s comic revival, with Conan the Barbarian #1 reportedly outselling all Titan Comics releases to date. A third printing of the first issue is in the works, and Titan reports that this second issue is already back at the printers for a second run. Conan the Barbarian #2 maintains the high standard of quality seen in #1 and the Free Comic Book Day issue #0 and is an easy recommendation for fans of dark fantasy comics.

Read Conan the Barbarian #2 by Jim Zub (W) and Roberto De La Torre (A)

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Robin Marx

Robin Marx

Born in Spain and raised in the United States, Robin Marx has lived in Japan for more than two decades. He works in the video game industry, handling localization and international licensing. In addition to over a dozen video games, his writing has appeared in a number of role-playing game supplements. He lives with his wife and their two daughters. You can link up with Robin over at: https://mastodon.social/@RobinMarx