Comic Reviews: Conan The Barbarian and Alpha Flight!
Conan The Barbarian #9 (Marvel Comics)
Jason Aaron’s run on Conan The Barbarian has been a fantastic ride the usurps all expectations that one expects with the character. But for the ninth issue, Aaron and artist Mahmud Asrar finally give us a Conan adventure that fits neatly in with the original Robert E Howard stories, and in turn crafts one of the coolest issues of the series since it began.
Trapped in a mysterious cave, Conan must defeat “The God Below”, a mysterious creature that keeps sending enemies from Conan’s past to fight him. Charged with protecting a group of people who have been trapped within the monster’s grasp for years, Conan must make his way to the God Below’s lair with the help of the White Witch’s guidance. But as the challenges become harder and harder, the Barbarian is pushed to his ultimate limit. Can he destroy the God Below and help save these people? Or will the madness be too much?
Obviously you can guess the answer to those questions already, but the journey Conan goes on in this issue is pretty awesome. Jason Aaron’s love for this character and his world was apparent from the first issue of this series, but with this issue he really goes all in, embracing the history of the character in a fun way that can be enjoyed as a single issue or as part of the larger Conan universe as a whole. This issue has nearly every major thing you associate Conan with, from swords, big monsters, witches, to dungeon-like caves, and yet it’s still a fantastic time with an ending that is truly surprising.
Mahmud Asrar’s art enhances Aaron’s script by also embracing the history of the character as well. I won’t spoil any of the images he draws, but holy crap there are some splash pages that left my jaw on the floor with how awesome they were. Asrar is giving it his all with this series, and it’s truly a sight to behold when he lets loose.
Conan The Barbarian continues to be one of Marvel’s best titles, and a great example of how well they’ve bene able to utilize the brand in a new way. Instead of just rehashing old Conan stories, they’ve allowed creators to tell new ones in the same style as the original Howard tales, and so far it’s been paying off really well for them. As long as Jason Aaron and Mahmud Asrar keep cranking out awesome stories like this, I’ll be along for the ride.
Alpha Flight: True North #1 (Marvel Comics)
Not much has been done with Marvel’s heroes of the Great White North, Alpha Flight. Aside from changing the classic Canadian team to a space-patrolling force in the pages of Captain Marvel, things have been very quiet with the superhero team. But in an effort to boost interest in the team again (and probaby keep that copyright going), Marvel’s releasing Alpha Flight: True North, a special one-shot featuring tales from creators that are from our northern neighbors, and the result is a pretty good, but not entirely necessary, special issue.
Featuring tales from writers like Jim Zub, Jed McKay, and Ed Brisson, and art from Max Dunbar, Djibril Morissette-Phan, and Scott Hepburn, True North puts the spotlight on different members of the team on their own adventures. From Snowbird and Talisman investigating a mysterious creature in the wilds of Northern Canada to Vindicator and her husband reuniting, each story is a neat little one and done that has a pretty tidy feel to it, even if it seems like there are some story threads that will be picked up at some point down the road. All three artists bring their own unique styles to each story, and they all suit their individual stories really well.
It almost seems like True North is an “audition” for which creative team would be the ones to bring Alpha Flight into a new series, and honestly I could see any of these three writers and artists doing a great job of bringing these characters to life again. Whether that would make this team a hit with readers remains to be seen, but for now, True North is a nice little showcase for Marvel’s Canadian heroes that don’t get as much love as they probably should.