Conan: Serpent War #1 Review

by Charles Martin on December 04, 2019

Conan: Serpent War #1 Review
Writer: Jim Zub
Penciller: Scot Eaton
Inker: Scott Hanna
Colourist: Frank D'Armata
James Allison Sequence Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey
James Allison Sequence Colourist: Jean-François Beaulieu
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Solomon Kane Prose Author: C.L. Werner
Publisher: Marvel Comics

A writer lies dying in 1936. He has spent his life connecting to past lives, sharing stories of adventurers historic and fantastic. Now, on his deathbed, he links four great heroes into a fight against a common enemy.

Moon Knight flies the Marvel flag; the other connections all draw on the canon of Robert E. Howard: Conan, Solomon Kane, Dark Agnes … and Niord, a worm-hunter who has graced the comics pages once before in Marvel's 70s Conan comics.

They're united by a common foe, Set the serpent, and they'll need to come together to defeat him. That unification just barely gets started in this issue, with the writer's magic linking Solomon to Moon Knight and Conan to Agnes in the final pages.

The balance of #1 sketches vivid portraits of each hero and threads the writers' visions around them all. It falls into a Catch-22 trap; these introductions are necessary, particularly for readers who don't have in-depth experience with Howard's creations. But they don't leave a lot of room for any of the protagonists to make forward motion on the plot.

Dark Agnes may be the biggest winner on the team so far, getting a slice of combat big enough to show off some real swashbuckling personality. She offers up hope for future issues, delivering thrilling visuals and vivid dialogue. Surely the author and the contemporary artists can bring the same spice to the whole team when it finally gets assembled.

Vanesa Del Rey and Jean-François Beaulieu deliver dreamy, impressionistic visuals covering the writer and his visions. They're beautiful, but they lean heavily on Jim Zub's narration to carry the sense of the story. 

Mr. Zub's script succeeds, perhaps too well, in mimicking the tension created by Robert E. Howard's original pulp writing. Purple prose wraps around exciting, brutal action, working hard to conjure visions of the fantastic and add noble purpose to cruel violence. 

Like a lot of comic scripts that tell Conan or Conan-esque stories, this one shortchanges its artistic resources a little. Artists who are capable of evoking the fantastic just through their visuals -- and Scot Eaton, Scott Hanna, and Frank D'Armata certainly are capable -- free the writer from the need to beat his brains out looking for filigreed language. 

Jim Zub understands this, mostly, and exercises a fair degree of restraint. But it's still a wordy comic, narrated heavily enough to draw attention to the divide between story and story-telling. 

Serpent War #1 is an atmospheric introduction to an all-star roster of Robert E. Howard heroes -- and Moon Knight. It sketches its characters in bold, pulpy strokes and delivers some passionate visuals, but the broad scope and slow pace mean that this issue doesn't develop its plot much beyond a basic premise statement.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Setting the writer's death in Cross Plains, Texas, 1936 might just be a respectful homage (check Robert E. Howard's Wikipedia page), or it might be something more.