Monday, 16 November 2020

Conan The Barbarian #15 - Marvel Comics

CONAN THE BARBARIAN No. 15, December 2020
Featuring a truly ferocious encounter with a giant aquatic predator, as well as an epic gladiatorial contest between the titular character and a “worthy warrior” armed with a deadly doubled-handed axe, Jim Zub’s narrative for Issue Fifteen of “Conan The Barbarian” must surely have proved well worth the wait for the vast majority of its readers in late October 2020. Indeed, crammed full of treachery, numerous death-traps, passionate love-making and the adventurer’s unconquerable will to survive, many fans of Robert E. Howard’s work could arguably have believed that the incredibly atmospheric “Into The Crucible” was actually an adaption of some long-lost manuscript from the Thirties rather than a modern-day interpretation of the “fictional sword and sorcery hero.”

To begin with, the Canadian author shows the Cimmerian facing off against one of the ongoing series’ most memorable monsters in the form of a Great Garfish. This enormous crocodile is as absolutely terrifying as it is multi-fanged, and initially seems almost unbeatable considering that an already tired Conan is fighting the beast underwater whilst armed with just a simple sword. However, rather than fall into the trap so many less fruitful writers have fallen prey to, Zub doesn’t simply show the nearly naked fighter besting the brute because he’s an unstoppable killing machine, but rather expands upon the man’s fighting savvy and use of his tightly confined environment to help him win the day.

Rather enjoyably, the Toronto-based art professor also successfully describes how the barbarian defeats Naru-Li and the blood-raged Banti. These one-on-one duels could easily have been penned as straightforward no contests, yet instead the audience are given an insight into Conan’s keen fighting mind as “he keeps her blade at bay, waiting for an opportunity” to strike rather than somewhat tediously just hacking his foes apart without a moment’s thought; “Banti is… as spirited and savage as Conan himself. Perhaps, in another life, they would have been allies, friends, maybe even lovers. But not here. Not now.”

Also greatly adding to this twenty-page periodical’s enthralling sense of adventure are Roge Antonio’s layouts, which do a terrific job of depicting both the decadence of Garchall, with its population’s slavish subservience to the God of Many-Deaths, and the claustrophobic grimness of the labyrinthine Crucible beneath the city’s streets. In addition, the Brazilian artist can clearly pencil a scintillating display of sword play, with the sound of the Cimmerian’s blade literally singing out of every panel in which it is swung.

Writer: Jim Zub, Artist: Roge Antonio, and Colorist: Israel Silva

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