Conan the Barbarian is a character that’ll likely live on forever, even when massive fantasy series like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones do big numbers yearly. That’s because Conan’s adventurer’s spirit is unique, a warrior who faces impossible odds alone. Heck, even his god wants him to fail. Recently regaining the license for Conan (and soon losing it to Titan in 2023), Marvel has been releasing the classic series in trade paperback, including the Marvel Years series of collections.
Following Of Once And Future Kings, Vengeance In Asgalun collects Conan the Barbarian #72-88. This collection opens and closes with Conan’s romantic partner and pirate, Bêlit. Conan gets a bit off track fighting giant lizards and giant men in the middle portion, but she’s back with Conan by the end. One of the outstanding elements of this series is how Bêlit is written, who is never weak or a damsel for Conan to rescue. Far from it – she ends up saving Conan more often than not!
In the opening issue, we see Conan and Bêlit manning a crew of pirates who seek to plunder and take out the enemy. Bêlit gives the order to let any man who surrenders life, but one of her top guys quickly murders a man in cold blood. She’s pissed, and this scene plays a part in a twist later in the issue. As the story continues, Bêlit and Conan leave the ship to find Bêlit’s father. Soon they’re double-crossed and capturing occurs, but you can’t hold these two characters down for long.
Along the way, they are captured, forced to fight giant lizards, and Conan even gets to ride a giant falcon. There are weird oddities, like a giant gray man or the falcon rider who is blue. Some visual ideas and environments are familiar to our world, but the fantastical creeps in just enough to make this world seems unique and unforgettable. I didn’t even mention that Red Sonja gets an appearance in one issue!
The art is mainly by John Buscema, the master, Howard Chaykin also supplies pencils. Another reason why Conan the Barbarian will live on forever is how rich and atmospheric the artists make these worlds. Conan might ride a horse into a swamp, and the layers of vines and trees in front and behind him create a sense of awe. The art is very good at capturing your imagination, be it how Conan swings a sword and guts a baddie or how he scales a rocky mountain.
As far as Epic Collections go, this trade paperback is only 328 pages, but main writer Roy Thomas packs a lot into the pages. The pace and plotting are excellent throughout, always ensuring we’re aware Conan is either about to hatch a plan or is in peril. The general mix of human enemies, creatures, and oddities is solid, always mixing things up. Conan can’t just fight men, but giant lizards too, dammit! Since the book opens with a pirate adventure, then moves to a city, then to the wilds of the countryside, the overall feel is quite varied. You often get one or two locations or general themes with Conan the Barbarian comics collections, but this book mixes it up.
Conan The Barbarian Epic Collection: The Original Marvel Years – Vengeance In Asgalun is a good chunk of comic storytelling featuring plenty of adventures for Conan and Bêlit to escape. The varied approach, be it pirate Conan or wanderer Conan make this a delight from cover to cover.
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