My Thoughts on Savage Sword of Conan #2

ssoc2How did the second issue of Marvel’s Savage Sword of Conan relaunch fair compared to what I deemed a disastrous debut?

To be honest, much better.

I’m still not a fan of Red Conan on the cover. Alex Ross is a brilliant illustrator and the figure is glorious, but those ruddy tones, meant to symbolize the fair-skinned barbarian’s sun-burnt flesh, is just too much and unfortunate.

As for the issue itself:

We find Conan and Suty journeying on foot into the heart of Stygia, following the implanted treasure map the Cimmerian had unlocked following their daring escape from captivity aboard a pirate ship captained by a disguised serpent-man.

Finding themselves in a “forest” of impaled and burnt corpses, the two uneasy companions stumble upon followers of the sorcerer Koga Thun. They claim to have killed all the gods, including Crom. Conan laughs and makes short work of them.

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Arriving at the Stygian city of Kheshatta, Suty tells the guard he has come to sell Conan in the slave market. Once inside, Conan has trouble navigating the city due to it being largely in ruins.

His internal map does not coincide with what he sees with his own eyes. Spotting a library, the Cimmerian tells Suty to wait outside, then stealthily scales the building and sneaks inside.

Finding a tome of maps, hoping to get his bearings, Conan is soon confronted by a library guard named Menes. As he attempts to negotiate, Suty, who did not heed the Cimmerian’s instructions, startles the guard, who shoots him through the hand with her crossbow.

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Menes explains how the sorcerer is seeking for an ancient Valusian treasure, destroying the city as his followers tear down the city’s landmarks and dig vast pits chaotically throughout. She tells them of a secret only she knows, that there are ancient catacombs beneath the streets and Conan asks her to take him there, suspecting his implanted map might coincide with this underworld.

Menes prepares to negotiate when she hears a noise. Investigating, she is apprehended by emissaries of Khoga Thun, who requires her presence.

All-in-all, a solid issue. Ron Garney continues to deliver a visceral and kinetic Conan and while his style is not usually my horn of mead, the feral nature of his heavy inks blends well with Richard Isonove’s color palette creating a Hyborian Age I can sink my teeth into.

Again, I was impressed by Travis Lanham’s lettering, which is far superior to the work being done on the sister book, Conan the Barbarian, despite his hand on both.

So, my biggest problem with issue one was Gerry Duggan’s writing. While I still have an issue with the main plot device, his characterization of Conan was much better in this issue. It felt more like the Conan I knew, especially the young Cimmerian somewhat new to the world.

odenEven better was Scott Oden’s second installment of The Shadow of Vengeance, the back-up prose tale that impressed me in the premiere issue.

Here we find Conan lead his band of kozaks into the merchant city of Djerda, the Nemedian Octavia at his side, as he looks to broker some sort of deal with Ivanos, an old acquaintance from his Red Brotherhood days.

Crom, that was delicious prose from Oden. I am not much of a fan of the vast majority of non-Howard Conan works out there, but this is an author who paints a wonderful picture, bringing the Hyborian Age to life for me.

And Conan? This is the Cimmerian that stalked out of Howard’s mind and onto the page. I can’t express how thrilled I am at the job Scott Oden is doing on this story thus far. It pains me to think this is being doled out so slowly. I want to devour it in whole straight away.

Say what you will of Marvel’s relaunch of Conan, but it goes without saying, Perilous Worlds is breathing new life into the old barbarian, and I am eager for more.

— Bob Freeman

 

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