COMIC BOOKS: King Conan

·2 min read

Sep. 3—Jason Aaron employs a different narrative style in writing about Conan the Barbarian.

Unlike past Conan comic book writers who either meld numerous stories in a long chronological narrative, or present stand-alone, episodic adventures, Aaron includes numerous shorter tales within an overarching plot.

He did this with "The Life and Death of Conan" which presented several stories from throughout Conan's life from his barbaric youth to his time as king through the frame of a character called the Crimson Witch.

For his six-part "King Conan" mini-series, Aaron shapes a story about the older Conan's relationship with his heir, Prince Conn, framed with an on-going story of Conan pitted against his arch-enemy, the wizard Thoth-Amon.

Aaron creates a strong relationship between Conan and Conn. It has remarkable moments that culminate in a grand battle between father and son as Conan tries to exile Conn so the prince can gain real world experience. Powerful stuff, that makes the "super barbarian" a more three-dimensional character.

While Aaron provides a rich back story for Thoth-Amon, his use of the wizard is the weak link here. In past Conan stories, novels and comic books, Thoth-Amon is portrayed as not just a powerful wizard but a terrible, mysterious force. He's a malignant terror.

Here, Thoth-Amon borders on farce. He's a foil for Conan's next chapter after leaving behind the throne of Aquilonia but the wizard is often comic relief — an unworthy role for the character. For older readers, it's a disappointing portrayal. Conan newcomers will likely wonder why facing this character is supposed to be such a big deal.

It's akin to seeing Doctor Doom presented as one of the Three Stooges.

Work by artist Mahmud A. Asrar is a joy on this book. He creates an older, bearded Conan that keeps the character vital. His look for Thoth-Amon is far different than the ram-horned headdress of the past Marvel presentations of the character.

"King Conan" is a worthy read for fans and newcomers alike. While it may lessen the impact of Thoth-Amon, it captures the essence of Conan — the character and the stories — while giving him a worldly authenticity.