Comic Review: The Adventures of Red Sonja, Vol. 1

Published: September 6th, 2007
Written by: Roy Thomas, various
Art by: Dick Giordano, Frank Thorne, various
Based on: Red Sonya by Robert E. Howard, Red Sonja by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith

Marvel Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, 137 Pages

Review:

This collects Red Sonja’s first solo stories, which appeared in Marvel Feature before she’d go on to have her own self-titled comic book.

Overall, this is great. I’ve never read these stories and it was nice filling in the blanks between her first appearance in the pages of Conan the Barbarian and the first Red Sonja title. Plus, this also brings her and Conan back together and throws in Bêlit, who has become one of my favorite Conan companions.

Conan and Bêlit don’t come in until the last two chapters of this collection and unfortunately, that story ends on a cliffhanger without the finale in this volume. But it’s still cool seeing them together, as well as seeing Bêlit’s first impression of Sonja.

This is quintessential ’70s Marvel sword and sorcery without Conan as the focal point and it’s just a really cool, energetic read with incredible art and great stories by Roy Thomas, as well as others. It also includes some adaptations of Robert E. Howard’s original literary work.

For fans of ’70s Marvel, sword and sorcery, general fantasy, great writing, great art or all of the above, this should definitely be a pleasing experience.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel era Red Sonja comics, as well as other crossovers with Conan.

Comic Review: Conan the Barbarian: The Devourer of Souls

Published: January, 1987 – November, 1987
Written by: Jim Owsley
Art by: Val Semeiks, Geof Isherwood
Based on: Conan the Barbarian and other characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 476 Pages

Review:

The title The Devourer of Souls isn’t the official title of this story. In fact, this is just what I call the larger story arc that takes place from Conan the Barbarian issues 190 through 200, plus the 12th annual.

This stretch of issues is actually several smaller stories but they all connect into a larger narrative around the antagonist referred to as “The Devourer of Souls” a.k.a. Wrarrl.

Outside of the classic Roy Thomas era, this is my favorite section of the original Marvel Conan the Barbarian run. It was a real high point and this is actually where I started reading the series when I was a kid.

What makes this so good and actually kind of epic is that it features the best villain in the Conan comics, as well as bringing in other Robert E. Howard characters: Red Sonja, Kull and Thulsa Doom.

Fans of the villainous Thulsa Doom might really dig this, as he actually works alongside Conan and the other heroes in their attempt to defeat the super powerful and immensely dangerous Wrarrl.

The plot by Jim Owsley is well constructed with great pacing and clever twists that prevent this great tale from being predictable or too derivative of previous Marvel sword and sorcery books.

I also love the art by Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood, which was a perfect marriage of pencils, inks and colors.

Reading this entire saga might seem like a big undertaking but it’s well worth the time invested into it. It’s hands down one of the best stretches on the premiere Conan title and one of the greatest fantasy stories in the comic book medium.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Conan and Red Sonja stories from their classic Marvel runs.

Vids I Dig 345: Comic Tropes: John Buscema: More Than a Jack Kirby Clone

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: John Buscema is one of the all-time great illustrators in Marvel Comics’ history. He worked on over 200 issues of Conan comics and had celebrated runs on Avengers under three different writers: Roy Thomas, Steve Engleheart, and Roger Stern. Yet there are critics who will say he’s simply a clone of Jack Kirby. I believe this accusation is unfair and in this episode we look at Big John’s history and techniques. We pay close attention to the evolution of his artwork including key turning points in the Silver Age and on Silver Surfer #4.

Film Review: Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Release Date: August 11th, 2011 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Marcus Nispel
Written by: Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer, Sean Hood
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Tyler Bates
Cast: Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan, Saïd Taghmaoui, Leo Howard, Bob Sapp, Ron Perlman, Nathan Jones, Morgan Freeman (narrator)

Lionsgate, Millennium Films, Cinema Vehicle Services, 113 Minutes

Review:

“I live, I love, I slay, and I am content.” – Conan

I put off watching this for a really long time. But finally, after nine years of ignoring this movie, I said, “fuck it!” and fired it up because it was free on Prime Video and because I’m a hardcore fan of the Conan franchise. Also, I believe that this is the only film based off of Robert E. Howard’s literary work that I hadn’t seen.

It’s actually not as bad as people led me to believe but it is far from a good movie and it’s honestly, really fucking boring.

Jason Momoa was a decent choice for the role of Conan but I feel like he was chosen a few years too early, as he hadn’t reached the level of fame that he has now and because he hadn’t developed more as an actor. He’s got some of his charm here but it is nowhere near as much as it was in 2018’s Aquaman.

That being said, if they made a Conan movie with him now, I’m pretty sure it would do really well. And hopefully, it would be better than this was, as it didn’t seem to understand what it needed to be to be successful.

The main issue with this movie is it doesn’t feel larger than life. It relies so heavily on CGI and green screen that it lacks the scope and scale the Schwarzenegger Conan movies had. Hell, 1985’s Red Sonja looks much more grandiose than this digital cartoon that looks more like a syndicated television show than a blockbuster movie featuring one of the biggest and greatest literary and comic book heroes of all-time.

Adding to that problem, Conan only really tangles with one monster in this movie. Now it doesn’t need to be overflowing with mythic beasts but it should take more cues from the books and comics, which saw Conan come face to face with big creatures a lot more often than he does in this picture.

Now I did like the casting of Rachel Nichols as the female love interest of Conan and I thought that Nichols and Momoa had pretty good chemistry but overall, they didn’t get much to work with between the mundane script and uninspiring story.

On the other side of the coin, the villains felt completely wasted.

I just wasn’t feeling Rose McGowan as the witch character and her performance here borderlined on cringe, which I found surprising as she is typically pretty good. But I think that the script failed her, as did the overall look of the character.

As far as Stephen Lang goes, how do you take the guy that stole the show and was really the only good thing about Avatar, and make him so lame and generic? Who the fuck was this guy? Why the fuck should I care? He just looks like a boss from the second level of a side scrolling beat’em up game from the ’80s.

I also thought the mask was stupid and they could’ve come up with a much better MacGuffin than that. I mean, there are countless books and comics to pull material from and you basically come up with Gran Naniwa’s crab mask? For those that don’t know, he was a goofy comedy wrestler from Japan in the ’90s: Google that fucker. Side note: he was actually really entertaining, unlike this movie.

Conan the Barbarian was hard to get through. I wanted to turn it off just about every three minutes. I had to watch it in spurts of twenty-to-thirty minutes because it was dreadfully slow, terribly lame and didn’t feel as badass as something with the Conan name on it should.

But I am definitely not against giving Jason Momoa another shot as the character. The studio just needs to get their shit together and give fans something worthy of the Conan brand.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: other modern sword and sorcery films.

Comic Review: Conan: Serpent War

Published: April 22nd, 2020
Written by: Jim Zub
Art by: Vanesa R. Del Rey, Scot Eaton, Ig Guara, Luca Pizzari, Stephen Segovia, Carlos Pacheco (cover)
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

Conan: Serpent War is kind of a neat idea.

It probably shouldn’t give top billing to Conan though, as it is a miniseries that features four heroes: the others being Dark Agnes, Solomon Kane and the one non-Robert E. Howard creation, Marvel’s Moon Knight.

The story is about this guy who has a psychic link to all four characters, regardless of their place in time and space. He brings them all together to help stop the two serpent-like gods who are going to war with one another.

My biggest complaint is that the story is pretty thin and wonky. And also, you never really get to see them all come together in any meaningful way.

Still, it’s a mostly entertaining story, that’s a pretty quick read.

I can’t say that it failed to meet expectations, because I didn’t have any. But it certainly doesn’t exceed them either. It mostly felt like a wasted opportunity to make an actual team that’s pretty interesting and could’ve made for some compelling developments.

However, with Conan’s involvement in the Savage Avengers title, this feels pretty weak by comparison.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Conan comics Marvel has done since getting the license back.

Vids I Dig 236: Midnight’s Edge: ‘Conan The Barbarian’: One Year at Marvel Comics – In Review

From the Midnight’s Edge YouTube description: One year ago, on January 1st of 2019, Conan the Barbarian returned to Marvel comics. While the original run of Conan comics from Marvel directly lead to the movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dark Horse comics have had the Conan license the past two decades. So how has Conan fared with Marvel now that they got the license back, in this day and age?

We are about to find out, for in this video, @AndreEinherjar will give his honest review on each Conan title Marvel has released over their first year with the license in our current era, as well as his assessment on what the future might hold for Marvel at Conan, and how that in turn in may influence the future of Conan in all other media, including film, so be sure to stay for that.

Vids I Dig 198: Midnight’s Edge: The Ultimate ‘Conan The Destroyer’ Retrospective

From the Midnight’s Edge YouTube description: The 1982 feature film “Conan the Barbarian” is widely considered a classic. It’s 1984 sequel however, “Conan the Destroyer”, isn’t held in anywhere near the same regard; despite the two being made within two years of each other, by the same production company – so what changed?

In this retrospective, @AndreEinherjar will uncover just that, by first exploring the changing priorities behind the scenes, and how these manifested themselves on screen as the plot evolved from its very different original conception, to what ultimately ended up in theaters, and what impact it had on the future franchise.

Book Review: ‘Silken Swords: An Informal Guide to the Women in the Fiction of Robert E. Howard’ by Fred Blosser

This is a pretty cool book to have around for those who like Robert E. Howard’s work.

It’s all about the female badasses from his stories whether they appeared in the tales of Conan, Solomon Kane, Kull or their own stories.

This is basically a reference book that is organized and reads like an encyclopedia. Because of that, it’s really valuable if you like specific characters and want to know more about them and where they appear.

It still reads well if you delve into it from cover to cover and in doing that, it introduced me to a lot of characters that I hadn’t yet known about.

The only thing that I think could improve it would be to also include information about their comic book counterparts as many of these characters have found life alongside Conan, Kull and Solomon Kane since Marvel started publishing those characters in the ’70s.

For those of you that have a sword and sorcery section in your personal library, this would be a handy edition to it.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the Barbarian Life books by Roy Thomas.

Video Game Review: Conan: Exiles (PlayStation 4)

For my last video game review of the decade, I wanted to talk about something truly epic.

I bought this game without knowing much about it simply because it was a Conan the Barbarian game. I wanted to play a modern game set in that world, whether or not you could play as Conan or not.

Being that I never play multiplayer stuff online, this game, at first, felt like a waste of time. However, I found a lot to do in single player mode that made the game worth it to me and really, this game could be great or terrible depending upon what you want to get out of it.

Don’t go into this expecting a massive open world RPG with dozens upon dozens of quests like Skyrim. This is more of a survival game and it’s about living and prospering in Conan’s world more so than it is about simple adventure. But that’s not to say that adventure doesn’t exist, it does. But I’ll explain further as I work my way through this review.

The game starts with Conan sparing your life, as he unties you from a cross in the desert. From that point on, you have to figure out how to get food, water, how to make your own clothes and learn how to construct a shelter to protect you from the harsh elements of the desert wasteland.

As the game moves on, you gain experience, you get better at surviving and you discover new biomes (or environments) to explore and survive in.

Apart from survival, this is mainly a game about exploration. So if you dig survival stuff and exploring massive video game worlds, you should probably enjoy this game. It took time for me to adjust to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be clearly defined objectives or what I thought was a point to the game but when it clicks, it becomes fairly addictive.

Now getting back to what initially may feel like a lack of adventure, the game does provide it in a way.

First, exploration is an adventure and this game throws so many beasts, supernatural threats and savage men at you that traveling around is a challenge in and of itself. But man, walking from one end of the map to another is tough but it’s damn fun, as the world has a lot of different and unique challenges from biome to biome.

Also, the game may not have quests but it has great dungeons and the game’s developers are always crafting and making new ones, as the game has pretty frequent updates and tweaks, even 18 months after its release.

The game may lack a clear story or objective but each dungeon sets you on a path that pretty much serves as a one-off quest. And each dungeon feels unique and I’ve yet to play through one that wasn’t a fun experience.

On top of that, there are a ton of subterranean caves to explore, which aren’t specifically dungeons but they have their own challenges and treasures to discover.

There are also mini bosses and big bosses throughout the game. Almost every animal has a giant counterpart that is tough as nails to beat but rewarding when you do, as most have keys that open very helpful treasures.

I’ve been playing the game for a few months now and I mostly build cool cities with pyramids, castles and labyrinths but I really like going off into the wild and discovering new places. After all this time and exploring every biome, I still come across new caves and interesting locations every time I wander out beyond the safety of my multiple shelters.

Again, many people might not like this as it isn’t what most people would initially hope for in a gigantic RPG style sword and sorcery game but if you stick with it and give it a real shot, it will probably grow on you.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other open world survival RPG-type games.

 

Comic Review: Savage Sword of Conan (2019 Series)

Published: February 13th, 2019 – December 11th, 2019
Written by: Gerry Duggan, Meredith Finch, Jim Zub, Roy Thomas, Frank Tieri
Art by: Ron Garney, Luke Ross, Patch Zircher, Alan Davis, Andrea Di Vito, Alex Ross (covers), David Finch (cover), Marco Checchetto (covers), Dave Wilkins (cover)
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 336 Pages

Review:

This is the second time Marvel has done a comic book series called Savage Sword of Conan, although the original one was a black and white comic magazine while this one was a traditional color comic book. If I’m being honest, I had really hoped that this was going to be a colorless magazine but it was still pretty good, initially.

The first half dozen issues or so were written by Gerry Duggan and the story was solid and had a good flow and pace. About halfway through the twelve issue run, he went off to write Savage Avengers and the duties were then handled by four other writers all taking turns. This is where it became a bit disjointed and somewhat directionless.

Plus, Marvel had just relaunched the regular Conan the Barbarian title a month earlier, so reading both books, monthly, created a lot of confusion, as I couldn’t remember which events happened in which story arcs.

That being said, this probably reads better as a complete body of work, as opposed to reading it in one issue increments with a month of time between the chapters.

For the most part, I loved the art in every issue and am happy that Marvel are using some of their better talent on these new Conan books.

Side note: the first issue was absolutely fantastic. Everything starts to be a letdown after that.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Conan and sword and sorcery comics of the modern era.