Conan the Barbarian is living amongst our favorite Marvel superheroes as he attempts to find his way back home. He’s likely not going to get there any sooner now that he’s in Las Vegas at the start of Saladin Ahmed and Luke Ross’s Battle for the Serpent Crown story arc. Considering this is a character who tends to find treasure in his various journeys, this is a great location to start off a new adventure.
I was blown away by this issue after finishing it. My expectations were low (“Conan goes to Las Vegas” sounds like way too much) but was honestly hanging on every panel every page of the way. Ahmed and Ross have crafted an interesting tale utilizing an unconventional character in an unconventional setting. Conan is a journeyman, but also a thief, and we get to see him show that element off here. The creators don’t let us forget the fact that Conan is also a killer as multiple times he must not kill by the request of others. What’s so cool about this first issue is how he walks right into conflict because he needs coin and he has nothing else better to do. The spirit of Conan is strong with this story.
Along the way, we’re introduced to an interesting supporting character who is also a thief, but of a different kind in our more modern world. She sets in motion a collaboration that will get a whole more complicated if the cliffhanger has anything to say about it.
If you’ve ever read the now-classic What If? with Conan you may get a similar vibe from this book. That’s thanks to seeing Conan interact with the modern world with a sense of annoyance, but also respect. Seeing him crush a few beers, or interact with modern weaponry, is an interesting sight to see. The creators use this unique perspective to make the story feel unique in itself.
The art is gorgeous, but coming from Luke Ross that’s obvious at this point. Conan is rendered well — he looks very classic with his hair and facial structure, and there’s a nice, dark atmosphere to the book. Meanwhile, Las Vegas looks incredible and vibrant. A full-page splash of Conan looking at the city helps convey the glitz, but also the dark nature of the place. Nolan Woodard colors the book which helps brighten the backgrounds when needed.
This is a book I couldn’t believe Marvel Comics was publishing, but now I’m kicking myself for doubting them. Conan in a Las Vegas adventure works well thanks to the fish-out-of-water approach, but also the well-crafted characters that surround him. This is a good example of how dropping a character in an unfamiliar setting can make them come alive in new ways.
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