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[ADVANCE REVIEW] ‘THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #1’ IS A GRANDLY GNARLY RETURN

Read Time:5 Minute, 34 Second

The Savage Sword of Conan #1

Copy Provided for Spoiler-Free Advance Review.

Written by: John Arcudi, Jim Zub, Patrick Zircher, and Jeffery Shanks.

Art by: Max Von Fafner, Patrick Zircher, and Joe Jusko

Lettering by: Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Jimmy Betancourt

Pin-Ups by: Roberto De La Torre, Rebeca Puebla, Gerardo Zaffino, and Howard Chaykin.

Published by: Titan Comics & Heroic Signatures

 

Cover A by Joe Jusko

“A cleaving wheel of metal carved its way across the guard’s thigh quicker than he could cry out. A gout of blood fanned forth as the horse bucked askew, confused and afraid, as its driver pitched forward, folding over the freshly spewing wound.

An arm strong as steel shot up to grab the man by his armored collar piece and pulled hard, forcing the wounded warrior off his saddle and down into the dirt. Another turn of the barbarian’s gleaming axe and the guard greeted the gods, his features now butchered beyond recognition.

The assault was sudden, silent, and swallowed whole by the whipping winds.”

Comic anthology magazines have always been a big part of my life.

In younger days, I spent an embarrassing amount of time trawling flea market long boxes for DC 100-Page-Giants or Marvel 2-in-One. Or perhaps, on red letter days, old, dogeared copies of Tales From The Crypt, Creepy, or House of Secrets. As I entered my teenage dirtbag years I would marvel at the lurid thrill-power of stuff like Heavy Metal, 2000AD, and Sam & Twitch: Case Files. Though, admittedly, the latter would occasionally veer away from the “loose collection of horror story hooks from Todd McFarlane’s brain” and into more serialized territory, the idea of getting a bunch of things behind one cover, likely from a collection of creatives, I’ve always loved it.

And I loved no title more than The Savage Sword of Conan. While I was too young to have experienced it’s mammoth 200+ original run on shelves, the black-and-white, constantly entertaining mag always delighted me, a life-long Robert E. Howard dork (which is practically required for us North Texans). It was cinematic and poetic and always contained just stellar artwork. Which then may or may not have found its way onto my bedroom walls and locker interiors. Every chance I got, I bought issues of Savage Sword and snapped up the infrequent collections (and more conventionally presented “revamps”), wondering always when I would get proper new issues from new creatives.

Thankfully, the good folks at Titan Comics and Heroic Signatures answered my call. Presenting a brand new Savage Sword of Conan #1. Lusciously returned to its original black-and-white magazine format. Mixing once again comics, prose, critical essays, and stunning artwork into a peak Conan experience. Though I promise to not reveal some of the issue’s best feints, I can safely say, The Savage Sword of Conan IS BACK. In a big way.

 

Cover B by Gerardo Zaffino

After an opening word from the legendary Roy Thomas, this opening issue wastes no time getting to the goods. As “Conan & The Dragon Horde” finds writer John Arcudi positioning Conan as the warband leader of an invading, “technologically-advanced” army. One that seeks to reclaim a throne lost between brothers. Naturally, Conan has no time for family squabbles. Yet catches the eye of the army’s enigmatic Engineer Ineah, who provides their patron with siege weapons and artillery support.

This opening story, lavishly rendered by artist Max Von Fafner, is classic, immensely readable Conan storytelling. We have a hostile environment. Conan in mercenary mode. And a new, totally engaging wild card element in Ineah, driving the whole story to a fever pitch. And for those wondering if the new Savage Sword will skimp on the red-spreading, this opener has enough head-choppin’, limb-crunchin’, and two-fisted swordplay to make Joe Bob Briggs smile!

From there, the issue shifts dramatically, but beautifully. Guiding the reader into a brand new Jim Zub prose story with a classic Robert E. Howard poem. Setting the stage wonderfully for “Sacrifice in the Sand”, an all-new original short from the current Conan scribe, directly inspired by the artwork of Joe Jusko. This story runs with the baton handed off by Arcudi, allowing Zub a whole new format to go wild with. Plunging our favorite Barbarian into conflict against a Stygian death-cult set against a seemingly endless sea of sand.

But this isn’t just the Conan show! God’s favorite monster-hunting cleric Solomon Kane also makes an extended appearance. Kicking off the title’s first serial “Master of the Hunt”, written and drawn by Patrick Zircher, making the jump from covers on the current ongoing to interior work. I’ll admit, the tonal shift is a bit jarring. Going from open sword-and-sorcery to more Gothic fare, it’s a leap, for sure. One of the issue’s few stumbling points. But as a fan (Solomon Kane was actually my first exposure to REH’s work!), I am happy to see the brooding puritan get such a featured spot in the issue. And with such a wooly (literally) and Hammer-flavored opening story to boot.

Cover C by Max Von Fafner

Rounding out the issue is a comprehensive essay on Kane by writer/pulp scholar Jeffery Shanks, fully proving the entertaining malleability of the new Savage Sword. Not only can it provide you action and thrills, but it can then COMMENT on those same thrills behind the same cover. Is it dorky? Is it unexpectedly academic for a mag that just showed you MULTIPLE decapitations? Both these things can be true. But what’s undenable is just how badass the whole experience of this issue is.

Not only do you get new Conan epics, but you get poster-ready artwork, classic comic production values, and the feeling of care and effort that went into the whole thing. Truly the answer to my prayers for a Savage Sword that I could call my own. If you are a long-time reader, or even a newcomer to the HyborIan Age, The Savage Sword of Conan #1 is an old-school marvel. One that goes as hard as possible to recreate the cult-classic title. Miraculously getting as close as any attempt in the recent decade.

The Savage Sword of Conan #1, from Titan Comics and Heroic Signatures, hits shelves February 28th. In case it’s unclear by now, you should absolutely buy the hell out of it. I know I will.

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0.00
9.9

Classic Conan Comics Vibes

10.0/10

Tremendous Artwork Throughout

10.0/10

More Bang For Your Buck

9.5/10

Sword-N'-Sorcery Fu

10.0/10

Thunderously Old-School

10.0/10
Justin Partridge
justin@betweenthepanels.com
Lover of table top RPGs, prog rock, and anything with Walton Goggins in it. Find his other blathering at THE COLLINSPORT HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
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