You may remember me saying at the beginning of Fred Van Lente and Eduardo Francisco’s run on Conan the Avenger that I was lukewarm on the series, and that it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere. This is me cutting a large slice of humble pie with a side of crow, and eating it, because I was young, foolish, and mistaken when I said those things.
Van Lente and Francisco cap off their first arc on Conan with an almost-literal explosion from every plot thread. The entire city has been bubbling over the fire until it all comes to a head; leaders are overthrown, the meek inherit the earth, and a witchfinder pulls one last crazy trick. It’s all really well pulled-off, and it has a full two pages and change of Conan and his big-ass sword fighting a giant warthog monster. There’s very little I need from a comic to entertain me, and two pages of fighting monster animals with a sword fits the bill quite nicely.
The stage has been set at the end of this issue for Conan and his merry band of bastards, as well as his silent partner, Diana. Spoiler alert: they’re going on a fucking desert treasure hunt, which sounds like the perfect Conan story. If it’s just the movie Three Kings but with Conan instead of Clooney, I’ll be okay with that, but after this finale, I trust Van Lente to deliver the goods in an even bigger way.
As an addendum to my newfound trust in Van Lente, I think it springs from the way he was able to organically finish and start a story in the same scene. A lot of serialized stories will finish one story and something completely unrelated will happen that makes you go, “Oh yeah, that’s gonna be the next arc.” Van Lente finishes off the storylines in this issue, and the way those storylines finish is what leads into his next arc in natural flow, instead of a chop-and-drop new villain or something. The best comparison that I can make is that sometimes two arcs are like A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back; the story felt complete at the end of the first one, but there’s more in the universe to be told, so that continues. Sometimes, they’re like The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi; the story ties itself up by telling you what the new goals of the characters are that need to be accomplished next time. I’m gushing, and I know. I just loved it a lot.
Francisco’s art in this one was pretty phenomenal. Not only does he deliver the goods for giant warthog monster fights, but he makes the torture scenes brutal, and he makes the crowd scenes overwhelming. He chooses his angles well, and he gives weight to every object in the panel in a way that really draws you in. He’s fantastic, and I hope he’s back for the next arc; he and Van Lente work really well together.
If you haven’t been reading this series, and it was because of my recommendations early on, that’s my bad. I’m owning that. But if you have skipped it, check out the trade and tune in next month to see where Conan’s headed off to. I think it’ll be a great time all around.
Writer: Fred Van Lente Artist: Eduardo Francisco Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 9/24/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital