Conan the Barbarian is celebrating his 300th issue this week, and Marvel Comics is bringing in their big guns. Some of the biggest writers in comics are contributing stories, including Larry Hama, Christopher Priest, Dan Slott, and Jim Zub. There are stories here of the older King Conan, of amazing fantasy adventures, and the war-born hero on the battlefield too.
This isn’t the first celebration Marvel has thrown for everyone’s favorite Cimmerian, as they celebrated his 50th year in comics last December with a similar albeit shorter anthology series. All told, each writer brings a different flavor of Conan while supplying impressive art to go with it. From Cory Smith to Paul Davidson, to Marcos Martin, and finally Roberto De La Torre, each artist manages to capture the heroic and steadfast Conan.
This collection opens with a story by Zub and Smith with inks by Roberto Poggi and colors by Israel Silva. If you’ve been enjoying Zub’s run on the series, you’ll dig this story. It features prose-style captions that draw the reader in with some fantastical ideas at work. The preview for this issue doesn’t give you much, but it does show Conan is on an archeological-style adventure. It takes some twists and turns and features a trope of the hero fighting hero kind that works well here.
Next is Hama and Davidson’s story cast on the snowy battlefield with colors by Neeraj Menon. The snowy setting is so iconic for Conan and it works splendidly here, especially when heads get lopped off and insanely detailed armor appears on the page. Davidson’s art is incredibly well rendered and Menon’s colors add a grounded look to armor and furs adorning the figures. There is a compelling commentary about humanity’s obsession with civilization and society that Hama uses that suits Conan and actually makes some sense.
Possibly the most unique story of the bunch is by Slott and Martin with colors by Muntsa Vicente. Told via wide panels and not a single bit of dialogue, it’s an exceptional story. Titled “Night of Oblivion”, it’s about one crazy night for Conan and shows how the hero can do some amazing feats while inebriated. Martin’s art is super clean and highly enjoyable, drawing your focus to the center of the page as if we are experiencing the moments.
Wrapping up the book is Christopher Priest (who goes by Priest F.K.A. Jim Owsley here) and De La Torre’s King Conan story with colors by Java Tartaglia. It’s an intriguing concept that suits the pulpy art style. Conan the Barbarian has lived through many adventures, but even he can have a nightmare. This story is also cast in the cold snowy mountains and has a storybook feel.
The only weakness of this issue might be that the stories don’t feature a wider range of Conan the Barbarian story types. It’s clearly not trying to thoroughly capture every Conan the Barbarian story, like the pirate life he lived, or that of the thief or even the clever adventurer, for instance. All told though, Conan the Barbarian #25 is an entertaining collection with clever ideas and entertaining action.
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