Review - Conan the Slayer #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"...hither came Conan...marching, ever forward."

Conan the Barbarian earned his name through plenty of violent actions. Many of those actions involved the slaying of countless foes which could prompt people to refer to him as Conan the Slayer. That's what Dark Horse Comics is going with in Conan the Slayer #1. The issue is written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Sergio Dávila, colored by Michael Atiyeh and lettered by Richard Starkings and Comicraft.

Alone, battle weary, and with nothing but his sword, Conan of Cimmeria faces his inevitable death in the arid wastes...but instead stumbles into a camp of Kozaki raiders. With a knife at his throat and a band of Turanian hunters at his back, will the half-dead barbarian find a new ally in the Kozaki chief?

It's not often that Conan is shown in a vulnerable state, but Bunn makes it work exceptionally well in Conan the Slayer #1. The issue opens with Conan staggering through the desert after his latest bout while being pursued by even more opponents and Bunn uses this to set-up the rest of the issue (and series). Having Conan find himself in a subdued position could have backfired spectacularly, but Bunn uses it to his advantage to breathe some fresh air into the concept of Conan. Make no mistake--Conan is still fiercely formidable even when vulnerable (as evidenced by his brashness when exchanging barbs with a Kozaki chief) and Bunn successfully marries the two seemingly opposite concepts of Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Barbarian Who Needs a Break Every Now and Then. The dialogue is perfect for such a characterization with Bunn offering spirited exchanges throughout that mitigate the need for ever encounter to end in swordplay.

Conan is a hulking bruiser and Dávila captures that look very well with his artwork in Conan the Slayer #1. There's enough of an emphasis on Conan's massive frame even if Dávila doesn't draw him as overtly muscular or even massive for that matter. Dávila presents Conan as a cunning and capable warrior, thanks to panels that capture the frenetic pacing of a the heat of battle. And placing the panels amidst empty gutters sort of isolates the action in a way that helps the reader to feel as if they're alone in the desert with Conan. Reds splash against earthier tones as Atiyeh seeks to emphasize the desolate desert landscape and its inhabitants who share a similar coloring.

Conan the Slayer #1 is savagely fantastic. Conan has always relied on his sword and brute strength first, but in Conan the Slayer #1 he's forced to rely on his wits as well. Bunn's grasp of the character is perfect and his portrayal of Conan is deeper than what readers typically get out of Conan. Dávila's artwork is the right amount of pacifist and violent interactions to give the book a proper ebb and flow. Conan the Slayer #1 reads very well and offers a slightly under-served side of Conan in his tactical intelligence.

Conan the Slayer #1 is in stores July 13.