PopCultHQ received an advance review copy of CONAN THE BARBARIAN #4 from Marvel Comics. Available March 6th, 2019, the creative team for this issue features writing from Jason Aaron, art from Gerardo Zaffino, colors by Matthew Wilson, and lettering from VC’s Travis Lanham.
Here’s PopCultHQ’s spoiler-free review of…
Conan the Barbarian #4
Main Cover Artist: Esad Ribic
KING CONAN REIGNS AS
‘THE LIFE AND DEATH OF CONAN’ CONTINUES!
A hard-fought life has rewarded CONAN with the crown of Aquilonia…
But even a monarch must face the cold embrace of death!
The legendary adventure continues as the CRIMSON WITCH makes good on her threat to King Conan!
PLUS: The next chapter in the ALL-NEW Conan novella ‘BLACK STARLIGHT,’ begun in issue #1!
PopCultHQ’s Comic Book Review:
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #4
The time-jumping tale of Conan through the ages continues. King Conan has conquered all before him, but in victory he suffers fates far worse than any defeat a battle could threaten. Conan must free himself from his cage and discover his strength once more.
Jason Aaron isn’t just a comic book writer. He’s a hit factory. A writing industry all to himself. Who else is as prolific and consistently turns out such high level of quality across so many different ideas? He’s synonymous with modern Thor. Absolutely nailed Marvel’s Star Wars resurrection. There hasn’t been a single issue of Southern Bastards that wasn’t a totally engrossing symphony. Original Sin was almost the best summer event Marvel had since that trend became the dominant tentpole of the comic book industry.
Conan the Barbarian represents another high note in Aaron’s awe-inspiring bibliography. Full disclosure, Conan hadn’t previously appealed to me. Pulp fiction was only something I had a passing interest or an aesthetic draw to. In the 90s, when Marvel was finishing up with its license, I was too busy with superheroes who died and returned as four new versions, or broken backs and bloodthirsty protégés. I’d heard good things sporadically across the years when Conan was published under other banners. But it was Jason Aaron’s name that enticed me to check out this book.
I’m rechristened. I’m about to deep dive into Conan’s 70s heyday through the magic of collected volumes. That’s how well Jason Aaron writes these dark, barbaric, all-or-nothing times. Like Sin City set in a distant age. The violence is operatic. The character so fully realized, his world so well-fleshed out that you can breathe the danger coming in from the shores. You can feel the heat of battle under your fingertips on every page.
It’s hard to tell if Aaron is drawing on some dark inner instincts. If he’s really tapped into something primal to write something this good, about a genre I’ve cared so little for. Or if he is just at the peak of his powers and having such a good time. Jason Aaron’s words have me so invested in the experience of reading that it’s a shock to my system to put the comic down and realize I’m not actually in the Hyborian Age.
I’d only previously seen the work of Gerardo Zaffino on the covers of God Country and in the I-can’t-believe-they-made-me-care-about-Karnak series Karnak. Truth be told I’d forgotten the name. After this issue, Zaffino had me believing he was the quintessential 70s Conan artist. Come back to give his most famous work one last run. I can’t believe that isn’t the case. The level of authenticity and weight his pencils give this story is ridiculously good. The spirit is reminiscent of Kubert’s work. Pick one. Joe, Adam or Andy. But the layout and sequential storytelling marries itself so perfectly to Aaron’s words that your mind will not separate word and picture at all. The effort gone into rendering the kingdom. Every lighting choice. Every lunge and parry of battle. There is such a visceral energy with which it’s all drawn that there is literally nothing else on the shelves today that looks like it.
Matthew Wilson is the go-to colorist to stamp legitimacy on any writer’s fantasy or mythology-based work. The colorist’s work on the unforgettable Brian Azzarello/Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman run as well as illuminating Asgard on Thor, Wilson takes it to another level here.
The washes and palette used in this issue will have you believe you hold a comic from the 70s in your hands. A mint condition Conan issue from the height of his comic popularity. But it also feels stylistically modern. The muted, somber tones let you share Conan’s malaise as he battles with missing a part of himself. The furious reds will raise the temperature of your blood as the story bursts into action.
Wilson isn’t just coloring in the lines of a well-drawn adventure. He’s in the story. In between every letter and line, and his color work will pull you right in with him.
The guttural growling is unsettling. The roars are ominous and foreboding. The narrative text is presented in a way that’s instantly recognizable as being not of our time. The lettering by Travis Lanham is yet another piece of the puzzle that adds to the transportive reading experience. Not overly gregarious or bombastic like his work on Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur or The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It’s exciting to see a letterer so used to the more cartoony corners of comics be just as adept at a genre like this.
PopCultHQ’s overall assessment:
The quality of this book transcends genre, publisher, and our current times to become a complete reading experience. Whether you’ve read issues prior or this is your first taste, this book is pure quality. Jason Aaron’s guiding hand has been the perfect first touch to entrust the newly licensed character with. Marvel is really succeeding with the titles that it’s taking different turns with and this sits comfortably, if not slightly above, Immortal Hulk and Daredevil as the company’s must-read titles. With work this great, it’s no wonder there’s four other Conan titles on release.
5 out of 5 Stars
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #4 will be available at your local
comic shop and online retailers Wednesday, March 6th!
Be sure to follow the creative team!
Writer – Jason Aaron
Artist – Gerardo Zaffino
Colorist – Matthew Wilson
Letterer – Travis Lanham
Publisher – Marvel Comics