Conan the Barbarian is a funny character, in that the sword-swinging, Crom worshipping Cimmerian is as simple as you can get when considering his desires, but it's from this simplicity that truly great tales may emerge and King-Size Conan delivers on that promise in celebrating fifty years of the warrior's comic book tenure. The tales in this issue break down Conan's character into a number of categories, ranging from "The Barbarian" to "The Thief" to "The Avenger" and provides readers a fantastic look into the mind of this long-running character.
King-Size Conan #1 is an anthology, containing five different stories that see Conan taking on very different roles. Luckily for readers, these stories range from solid to downright fantastic, with "The Mercenary" being the best of the bunch for me. Written by X-Men legend Chris Claremont with artist Roberto de La Torre, this tale starts with Conan presenting himself as a decidedly not very good person. The Cimmerian is hired to eradicate a number of nomads, killing a warrior woman striking down his "comrades." Winning the day, Conan is faced with a thought-provoking predicament that the Barbarian meets with such a cold response that readers might find it endearing.
Conan is not a "good guy" in that he isn't afraid to take any necessary steps in saving his own life or simply earning enough for another meal or pint of mead, and this issue does a fantastic job of walking readers through that amoral approach. I myself haven't read many Conan The Barbarian comics, but I have a general knowledge of the character from film and have kept up on recent adventures with the Avengers, which will never stop seeming strange. This issue acts as a celebration of all things "Conan" and gives readers a perfect "primer" on how the Barbarian lives his life clutching a sword.
The creative teams behind each of these stories are "pick of the litter" quality, ranging from the co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Kevin Eastman, to comics legends like Kurt Busiek and Steve McNiven and they all have a firm grasp on Conan in these stories. Conan himself may be a simple man, but the world he inhabits is certainly anything but!
As mentioned earlier, Conan The Barbarian may not be a complicated character, but he certainly isn't two dimensional either. In King-Size Conan, readers may compare him to Frank Castle (a.k.a. The Punisher), in that Conan never changes his steadfast (and violent) personality, but readers can see how his surroundings are affected by his presence and more mutable characters playoff the Cimmerian threat. Whether he is fighting human hordes or magically spawned primates, Conan is quick with his sword and always true to himself, which often makes situations sway from hilarious to terrifying, or in the case of "The Mercenary," heart-wrenching. While the stories and art are all on point, I must note that the artwork feels like it could have used another pass over to iron out some of the details.
Readers will find personal preference with one story over another, whether it be creator Roy Thomas' take on the barbarian in the issue's opening salvo or the tale of Conan sailing the seas with his queen in Belit, but there still isn't a "loser" in the bunch and each installment is most assuredly worth your time. Even if you are not currently a fan of Conan The Barbarian as a character, this issue may very well make you one.
Published by Marvel Comics
On December 23, 2020
Written by Roy Thomas, Kurt Busiek, Chris Claremont, Kevin Eastman, and Steve S. DeKnight
Art by Steven McNiven, Pete Woods, Robero de La Torre, Kevin Eastman, and Jesus Saiz
Colors by Ive Svorcina, Pete Woods, Carlos Lopez, Neeraj Menon, and Jesus Saiz0comments
Letters by Travis Lanham
Cover by Andrew C. Robinson