Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Art: Luke Ross, Nolan Woodard, VC’s Travis Lanham, Mahmud A. Asrar, and Dave McCaig
Release Date: March 4th, 2020
As the series kicked off last month, Conan found himself bound to the modern era wondering around, of all places, in Las Vegas. Feeling as though the evil, dark wizard Kulan Gath was responsible, Conan has pledged to not only return home but to find Kulan Gath and kill the despicable wizard where he stands. Meanwhile, our favorite Barbarian got himself in a bit of trouble while exploring this new land of lights and Casinos. While surveying for means of survival, as well as some monetary needs, Conan found himself teaming up with Nyla Skin robbing an armored truck! Who would have thought they’d ever see Conan in Vegas robbing an armored truck?! However, as issue one came to a close, Conan and Nyla had a run-in with the Queen of Thieves, Black Cat, who happened to be stealing the very thing they came looking for. But, lurking in the shadows appears to be Mephisto and Imus Champion maneuvering a clever scheme enveloping the great Cimmerian. Let’s dive into this week’s CONAN BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #2 by Saladin Ahmed and see what twisted undertaking Mephisto has cooked up for Conan and Nyla.
Saladin Ahmed quickly pushes this issue along with fast-paced action, high profile guest stars who’ve been missing in action, hugely powerful villains, and new eventual nations to explore. But, where exactly are we going and what’s the purpose of the comic? We know Conan is stuck in our present and searching for Kulan Gath in order to kill the wizard and work his way home. But, what’s the Serpent Crown and does Conan even know he’s looking for it? So far, the only item we’ve seen is a ring? My assumption is that Mephisto needs this crown, or ring, or whatever to escape. But, what does Conan have to do with any of this? I just feel like a big piece of the narrative is missing for pomp and circumstance.
This week’s guest star was great to see. I personally haven’t read anything with that character in it for a real long time. However, Nyla (who we’ve just been introduced too last issue) basically incapacitates him with ease leaving Conan to finish the job. Again, Ahmed is throwing a bunch of pop and sparkle on the surface level to draw people into the comic instead of focusing in on the story he wants to tell, which is rather disappointing. If this week’s special guest was already in Las Vegas, I wish he could have been the one teaming up with Conan somehow. There is more than enough for Ahmed to hang his hat on within the character and foundations of the great Cimmerian on his own merits. However, Conan seems to be playing second fiddle in his own story. The book is named after him for Pete’s Peppers and he seems like a background character at this point.
On a more positive note, Mahmud Asrar’s main cover is spot on and this reader wishes the entire issue was drawn with this distinctively captivating style that makes the barbarian seem rough, jarring, organic, and natural. Don’t get me wrong, Luke Ross’s art is more than fine. His portrayal of each character is extremely vivid and detailed. I thoroughly enjoy how the backgrounds drop out when Conan fights and focuses in on the actual actions and sword swinging with each panel. Nolan Woodard’s color choices certainly make this issue come to life. However, some of the facial expressions of Conan seem odd as well as the poses of the characters involved throughout the narrative. Specifically, Conan looks like an ape, which just bothers me dearly for some reason. I get the idea that he’s from a time long ago and very well could be more “ape-like” but he’s not a gorilla-faced Barbarian nor are all barbarians cro magnon. Furthermore, the movement and the character’s stances sometimes seem very unnatural. Maybe it’s that I’m used to Asrar on Conan or maybe it’s just because the Encino Man look just irks me, but I just wasn’t liking the stylistic choices by the art team this week.
I genuinely really want to like this series. Conan in Vegas! Conan stealing armored trucks! Conan fighting Black Cat! Conan in car chases! Readers, on paper (I know it’s an ironic statement since it’s on paper) the issue seems perfect. But, it’s missing elements of a strong plot and its focus seems to be all over the place. The star of the issue isn’t front and center nor does he feel like Conan to me. Plus, the fast-paced action is just too choppy and rattling that I continuously found myself losing focus throughout the narrative. With all that said, even though I can’t give this issue a glowing endorsement, I would still recommend Conan fans to hang in there to see if Ahmed can right the ship before this series comes to a close.