When Marvel Comics revealed Conan the Barbarian would be interacting with their superheroes, I gasped. Then they revealed Conan 2099 was coming in November and I fell out of my chair. By Crom, what on Earth is this publisher up to? It’s a wild concept and one Gerry Duggan and Roge Antonio introduce in the one-shot out this week. This is one of the most unexpected stories and because of that one of the most exciting to read.
This is a story of the cursed traveler. I’ll say no more to avoid spoilers, but Duggan and Antonio do a good job establishing Conan’s plight in the first quarter of the book and then follow him from there. This story spans great stretches of time, which plays into Conan’s ability to never submit or let the enemy win. Conan’s stubbornness is a big part of why this book works if you’re a Conan fan. It’s a major characteristic of the character and a big reason why he works in this story.
It also works thanks to the ways it connects to the main universe. Fans of other Marvel characters that are brought up or details brought to light about characters will dig what Duggan is up to here. He’s done a good job establishing where the 2099 universe is and where Conan fits into it. By the end, I dare anyone to not want more. This comic also stands alone quite well. While there is reference made to him in 2099 Alpha you don’t need to read that to enjoy this. That increases the likelihood someone can pick this up and enjoy it for what it does.
Antonio does a good job here revealing the twists and turns nicely with colors by Erick Arciniega that suit the 2099 timeline and the scenes of the past too. There are a lot of things depicted in this tale that show off great use of light, perfectly timed cutaways, and interesting reveals. Much of this story hangs on interesting plot twists which require the art to be clear and also look good while doing it. It excels in that area.
I will say the story lacks action, which I was surprised to find. There’s certainly some sword-swinging to be found, but there isn’t an action scene that lasts longer than a page. This is a story more about Conan reflecting on the things he sees and it’s unfortunate there’s no monster to vanquish since I think expectations will be expecting it. This isn’t a story that plays to expectations though, and I’d argue the deeper message at work here is a strong one well worth hanging the narrative on.
This is exciting comics largely because it takes an extremely unexpected combination and makes it work. Duggan and Antonio have essentially proven you can make anything work when you apply good ideas and strong execution.
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