Writer: Jason Aaron
Art: Mahmud A. Asrar, Matthew Wilson, VC’s Travis Lanham, and Esad Ribic
Release Date: January 29th, 2020
Readers, we have finally made it to Jason Aaron’s epic conclusion of “The Life and Death of Conan” and this reviewer couldn’t be more excited to see how this story is going to end. When we last saw Conan, he was dead as a doornail! However, he wasn’t JUST dead, he was dead and decided to throw down against Crom. After battling the very god he aligns himself too, Conan was brought back from the dead to find himself standing toe to toe with Razazel and his children. Will Conan simply die again OR will he find a way to take down the diseased witch, her children acolytes, and Razazel himself. Let’s cut a swathe through CONAN THE BARBARIAN #12 by Jason Aaron and see how this story concludes.
Jason Aaron helped carve my love for Conan the Barbarian. Before his run began, this reviewer read a few Conan comics here or there but never really took interest in the character. After sinking my teeth into Conan the Barbarian, I dove into anything I could find with the character and read some amazing tales from so many outstanding writers. By Crom, it was Aaron’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN that guided me towards Roy Thomas, Steve Buscema, and even Kurt Busiek. My point is: without my attraction to Aaron’s writing and stories, I would have never picked up a Conan comic in the first place. And now, as his series closes, he’s done exactly what any good writer would hope to do and that’s garnered a love for the character. For this, I genuinely thank Jason Aaron and wish him the best as his CONAN THE BARBARIAN run comes to a close.
As for this issue, I opened the pages excited for a battle that really never came. Sure, there was a fight between the reborn children of Razazel and a resurrected King Conan BUT this reader was expecting Conan to take on the beast that was supposed to consume the world. Sadly, you will barely find that here. And frankly, the biggest, most epic battle of the series came… last issue as Conan battled Crom himself! Sure, it’s hard to top Conan vs Crom. However, this critic had high hopes that Aaron could do just that.
I know this sounds like I’m disappointed and that this issue wasn’t very good but that’s not entirely true. I am dissatisfied but not with what you’d think. First of all, can this reader just say that this series, as well as this issue, wouldn’t be nearly as good without the extremely talented Mahmud Asrar or his creative team? His aptitude for detail is outstanding while his aggressive illustrations violently plunge through the page with each swing of Aquilonian steel and drop of cold Cimmerian blood. With all the action and militant death throughout the issue, the irony is how much Asrar brought this issue to life. I think many would agree that Asrar’s style is very distinct and has fit the tone of the Hyborian born Barbarian since day one. Additionally, the use of colors by Matt Wilson was deeply saturated with earthy tones that helped illustrate the mood and muddy nature of the battle within the earthly temple of Razazel. When given the opportunity for a splash page, that’s where Asrar’s team shined beautifully helping Aaron to really heighten his last issue to provoke the true spirit of our favorite Cimmerian. Asrar and his team were the anchors holding this issue firm and they too should be commended.
That said; this reviewer is mainly tired of issues not ending, or should I say climactically flatlining. For Crom’s sake, Conan battles his god last issue, comes back from the dead to slice Razazel three times… and that’s it. Sure, King Conan throws down with the children but ultimately I wished for something more. I wanted CONAN VS. GOD PART 2: THE DEMONIC SEQUEL. Instead, we get a guest star that’s pretty cool in the issue and another non-ending to a story. It oftentimes feels like writers are either not allowed or afraid to really end a story. To spend eleven issues and over a year building to an epic event to have it literally end in three panels is simply a let down to this reader. It’s not just about the journey… it’s also about the destination. The destination is VERY IMPORTANT. So, where exactly does this series end?
This isn’t Aaron’s fault (per se). This is comic book writing in general as of late. It’s become a never-ending Soap that’s honestly becoming infuriating. This was the “supposed” end of Conan’s life. More stories could be told about his journey along the way. I personally took Aaron’s story as snippets along the way with Conan’s life that culminated in this event. Plus, to be the writer that writes Conan’s epic finale, would be legend (wait for it) dary. So, where was that? Oh, that was issue eleven for those paying attention at home. Fans, just look at the last page of CONAN THE BARBARIAN #11! Conan looks like a man possessed, infused with the power of Crom himself, and ready to battle what the cover of this issue so eloquently displays… yet we don’t get that at all.
As harsh as some of my criticism was above with this issue, please do not let that deter you from buying this trade. As a whole, this entire series is a masterpiece. From the covers and artwork, to the overall plot and narrative, this series is head and shoulders above so many comics on the market today. Additionally, it may be one of the best trades of CONAN that this reviewer has read. However, as final issues and conclusions go, it simply fell short. And let me tell you; I really wanted to love this issue. However, the impact, aura, and gravitas that surrounded CONAN THE BARBARIAN #11 just didn’t carry over and ultimately made this issue feel more like an epilogue. If you’ve followed along until now, you need to grab this issue. If not, by Crom, you have to get the trade. However, if you haven’t read the series, this issue simply isn’t for you.