Conan the Barbarian: The Life and Death of Conan

Conan the Barbarian

Marvel has made Conan the Barbarian fun again.

Calling a character who is described as "a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies" fun may seem a bit off but Conan is also described as having "gigantic mirth."

But Marvel's new "Conan the Barbarian" is fun and writer Jason Aaron's handling of the character is brilliant.

Marvel's landmark "Conan the Barbarian" comic released about 50 years ago and the more recent Dark Horse Comics Conan series each told the story in chronological order.

Sure, each title mentioned Conan would do many things, even become king of a great nation, but they both started with a teen Conan leaving his barbaric homeland of Cimmeria traveling south to the civilized lands of the Hyborian Age.

With the first collection of the monthly comic, "Conan the Barbarian: The Life and Death of Conan," Aaron opens the title with a look at the teen Conan and the aged King Conan. He ties both periods of Conan's life together through the Crimson Witch.

And so, it continues through the next handful of issues. A middle-aged Conan as a ranger in the Pictish frontier outside of Aquilonia; Conan the pirate alone on a ship filled with dead men; young Conan the thief, captured, facing punishment for his crimes; King Conan ill from too little action and too much civilization; young adult Conan surviving routs to rise as a commander of the armies of the Turanian empire.

All tied together with Crimson Witch and her spawn seeking to capture Conan throughout his life.

During his long run on "Thor," Aaron has proven a master of characterization while juggling the past, present and future. He proves his mettle again with "Conan the Barbarian."

Long-time readers will enjoy the familiar places mentioned throughout Conan's life as well as the many references to other stories that have appeared in Marvel. For newcomers, "The Life and Death of Conan" proves to be a great introduction to the character."

For both, the storytelling style should be a welcome change from the chronological approach, which would have meant years of stories involving teen Conan as a youth learning his way and being a thief.

Instead, the first story arc of Marvel's new Conan follows the same approach that Robert E. Howard took when penning the Conan tales for the pulp magazine "Weird Tales" in the 1930s. Howard never wrote his Conan stories in chronological order; he wrote the stories as they came to him during various times in Conan's life and career.

With the Crimson Witch story thread, Aaron and artists Mahmud Asrar and Gerardo Zaffino bring Conan and his adventurous career to life. The Crimson Witch storyline is not resolved in this first trade paperback edition but if it continues this current path through Conan's life that's OK.

Hopefully, the storyline will last for a long time.

And keep Conan fun.

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