Comic Review: Conan the Barbarian: The Original Marvel Years Omnibus, Vol. 1

Published: January 29th, 2019
Written by: Roy Thomas
Art by: Barry Windsor-Smith, Gil Kane, John Buscema
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 776 Pages

Review:

I read this collection of the first 26 issues of Marvel’s original Conan the Barbarian run because I had just read Roy Thomas’ book where he gives in-depth commentary on the first 51 issues.

Also, I’m a big Conan fan but I hadn’t read most of these issues yet, as some of the earliest ones are really expensive now and because I didn’t start collecting Conan comics until this series was well over a hundred issues. I wasn’t born until the very end of ’78 and didn’t really get into buying and collecting comics until ’89.

Anyway, this was really cool to read and just about every issue was a great story with superb art, whether it was the illustration work of Barry Smith, Gil Kane or John Buscema. The book is mostly dominated by the work of Smith and I found his art here to be some of his absolute best.

What’s especially neat about these stories is that some of them are actually adapted from the works of Robert E. Howard and some are original stories made to fit within Howard’s already established universe that predates the comics by about forty years.

Not all of the Howard material that was adapted was actually Conan stories, specifically. Some of them were taken from other characters like Howard’s Kull and then retrofitted into Conan tales.

This collection of issues includes some first appearances and a crossover as well. This is where we see evil sorcerer Thoth-Amon debut, as well as the most popular female sword and sorcery hero of all-time, Red Sonja. As for the crossover, in this book Conan meets Elric of Melniboné, a popular fantasy character that was created by Michael Moorcock in 1961. Elric has gone on to have his own multimedia franchise in the same vein as Conan.

The price tag on this omnibus is pretty hefty but it’s a 700-plus page hardcover and it still costs less than trying to round up all these issues, individually.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Conan and sword and sorcery comics penned by Roy Thomas.

Book Review: ‘Barbarian Life: A Literary Biography of Conan the Barbarian, Vol. 1’ by Roy Thomas

Man, this was a really cool book to read. Any fan of the ’70s Marvel Conan the Barbarian comics should love this, as it gives deep insight into every one of the first 51 issues.

The best part, is all this insight is given by Roy Thomas, the man who wrote and managed the creation of each of these issues.

Each chapter in this book covers a single issue. Each chapter is also typically four-to-five pages, which really is a lot when looking at the bigger picture. In fact, I’m surprised that Roy Thomas was even able to remember so many details, even with the help of his own notes.

I mean, I’m in a field where I create art every day and even on the biggest brands I’ve designed, I can’t remember all the reasons why I made certain creative choices. And I’m a lot younger than Thomas and my work wasn’t done decades ago.

This is a fun and impressive read. It gives you Thomas’ point-of-view on the character, the mythos and how to stay as true as possible to Robert E. Howard’s vision when there isn’t enough material to use over a lengthy amount of time creating monthly Conan stories.

Also, this book is labeled as a “volume one”. So I guess there is more coming. I hope so, because this was so enjoyable. But I also hope that I don’t have to wait too long for “volume two”.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Roy Thomas’ historic run on Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian.

Comic Review: Avengers, Issue #6 – First Appearance of Baron Zemo & The Masters of Evil

Published: July 8th, 1964
Written by: Stan Lee
Art by: Jack Kirby, Chic Stone

Marvel Comics, 24 Pages

Review:

I recently read Avengers issue #8, the first appearance of Kang the Conqueror and I really enjoyed it. And since I actually now own a high quality original issue of this comic, the first appearance of the original Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil, I figured that I’d read this one too.

Granted, the comic I own is graded and slabbed, so I read this digitally. It’s actually free for Comixology Unlimited members.

I’ve got to say, I enjoyed this issue immensely. Even more so than the Kang issue.

This was a pretty high energy issue that was mostly action, as the Avengers didn’t fight one big villain but instead, fought a group of villains that were very aware of each hero’s weakness.

The story also ties back to the death of Bucky and how personal that tragedy was for Captain America. We learn that Zemo was behind Bucky’s death and that gives some added emotional weight to the story, cementing him, immediately, as one of Cap’s greatest rivals.

I loved Stan Lee’s writing here, especially his dialogue. I also appreciated the extra layers added to the plot that called back to past events that existed before Stan was even writing comics.

This is, of course, all enhanced by the stupendous artwork of Jack Kirby, who is still my favorite person ever to draw Captain America. He also really gives Zemo a presence and style that no one else has been able to replicate with the same sort of impact.

For those of you that just like old school comics when stories were told over just one issue, this is a great representation of that bygone narrative style.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Stan Lee and Jack Kirby era Marvel stuff, especially The Avengers and Fantastic Four.

Vids I Dig 169: For the Love of Comics: ‘Akira’ Edition Comparison: Marvel/Epic Comics Vs. Kodansha 35th Anniversary Hardcovers

From For the Love of Comics’ YouTube description: A quick comparison between the new 35th Anniversary Edition of Akira and the ‘88 Epic Comics edition, focusing on: production and content differences.

Comic Review: Devil Dinosaur – The Jack Kirby Era

Published: 1978-1979
Written by: Jack Kirby
Art by: Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

I always thought that Jack Kirby’s Devil Dinosaur looked like a cool comic book for its time. Mainly, because it featured a badass red T-Rex-looking dino with a little caveman dude riding on his back. I never picked up and actually read any of these until now, though.

So working my way towards being a Kirby completist, at least with his Marvel and DC work, I figured that reading Devil Dinosaur was long overdue. Plus, the entire run is only nine issues and clocks in at just 165 pages – a nice afternoon read.

What I wasn’t expecting but found surprising is that this feels like a sort of spiritual successor to some of the ideas, concepts and narrative style of Kirby’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, a comic series that went beyond just the story of the famous film and tied together stories from Earth’s prehistoric past and its possible future in the stars.

Where Machine Man spun-off from 2001, after Marvel lost the license to continue that series, Devil Dinosaur picked up where 2001 left off in how it focused on prehistoric era characters and their eventual confrontation with cool-looking aliens from outer space that were very much Kirby creations. I’d say that makes this more of a real successor to 2001 than Machine Man, which became more of a sci-fi superhero series tied to regular Marvel continuity, leaving behind its 2001 origins.

In fact, one alien group, whose story takes up three issues, are very reminiscent of the Celestials that Kirby introduced in The Eternals. So while this is directly tied to the Marvel universe, especially since the Devil Dinosaur character exists in modern continuity, it also feels tethered to The Celestials, Machine Man and again, 2001: A Space Odyssey. That all just makes Devil Dinosaur a weird, unique series.

It would’ve been interesting to see where this could have gone had it lasted more than nine issues. Hell, I wouldn’t have been shocked if this would’ve somehow crossed over with Conan or Red Sonja because it already bridges a gap between multiple franchises, even if it does so indirectly.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Jack Kirby stuff from the ’70s, specifically his work on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Comic Review: Conan 2099

Published: November 27th, 2019
Written by: Gerry Duggan
Art by: Roge Antonio, Geoff Shaw
Based on: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard

Marvel Comics, 33 Pages

Review:

I like Gerry Duggan’s Conan work. He’s written a few stories since Marvel got the famous barbarian back a year ago.

Since I kind of dug the 2099 stuff back when it all debuted in the early ’90s, the thought of a futuristic, cyberpunk-centric Conan story wasn’t something I was willing to pass up.

While this is really just a one-shot, it is part of a much larger 2099 crossover event. Not having read the other stories, I felt a bit lost here and honestly, this just made me wish that there was a Conan 2099 miniseries that was self-contained. Because it is an interesting concept but it needs its own room to breathe and space to play.

The plot here follows Conan in the future and he runs into Morgan le Fay, as well as Nova. Well… Nova is… um… huh… I won’t spoil it in case you want to read this 2099 event.

So some stuff happens, Conan is a badass in the future but ultimately, this was barely enough to whet my palate with the idea of a future Conan. And I’m sorry, I don’t want to read the whole massive crossover just to make this one comic make more sense.

The art is okay, the cover is better than the interiors but I guess that’s typical in 2019.

Honestly, if you want me to get excited for this future Conan thing, make me a series. I’ll add it to my pull list with all the other Conan titles.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: I’m assuming the other comics tied to the current Marvel 2099 event.

Comic Review: Uncanny X-Force, Vol. 6 & 7: Final Execution – Books I & II

Published: April 10th, 2013, August 29th, 2013
Written by: Rick Remender
Art by: Mike McKone, Phil Noto, Julian Totino Tedesco, Jerome Opena, David Williams

Marvel Comics, 271 Pages

Review:

Well, I have finally reached the end of Rick Remender’s highly respected Uncanny X-Force run.

I’ve got to say that this end was fairly satisfying and that the series, as a whole, was good. However, I don’t quite feel the same about it as many of the others who hyped it up for me. I mean, I’ve only heard great things about it. But I wouldn’t call it great, I’d just call it good, sometimes solid but sometimes aimless. Or, at least, sometimes it felt aimless.

And I guess that some of what seemed aimless wasn’t but not all of those things were resolved and some of them didn’t really seem to have much of a point when looking at the whole picture.

The series, I thought, ended up putting so much emphasis on Psylocke that this didn’t feel like a team book. It felt like a Psylocke book with recurring side characters. That’s not to say that Wolverine, Archangel, Nightcrawler, Fantomex, Deadpool, etc. weren’t pretty involved in the proceedings but it’s to say that sometimes I forgot they were involved unless I was reminded by them showing up in a panel.

Ultimately, this is a neat series with an ending that tied up the important bits but I don’t feel like it adds much to the X-Men mythos and that it spent more time trying to be edgy and cool than actually trying to better the X-franchise.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the earlier volumes in Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force run.