Published on May 12th, 2024 | by Jules-Pierre Malartre


Review: Conan the Barbarian #9

Jim Zub and Rob De La Torre are at it again with a new tale of Conan that also brings
back two other famous R. E. Howard creations: King Kull and Brule the Spearslayer.

The new Conan the Barbarian series published by Titan Comics continues to serve up
sword-and-sorcery stories in the best tradition of the old Conan books published by
Marvel Comics from 1970 to 1993. I discussed the first story arc (issues #1 through #4)
in my review of the trade paperback, Bound in Black Stone, published in February 2024.
Issues #5 through #8 feature one of Conan’s seafaring adventures aboard the Tigress
with Bêlit, his first love. That second story arc was also written by Jim Zub, but it was
illustrated by another artist, Doug Braithwaite. It was an interesting (yet too short) look at
Conan’s time on the high seas with the Black Corsairs, and I hope the series will come
back to that great yet tragic time in Conan’s life.

As much as I appreciated Braithwaite’s work, I was glad to see De La Torre was back
for issue #9. His style—while still being his very own—is highly evocative of the Marvel
heyday of Conan the Barbarian. Reading a Conan comic book drawn by De La Torre
brings me back to my teens when I read every issue of Conan the Barbarian published
by Marvel Comics.

This new story arc is particularly interesting. Without revealing too much about the story, Conan becomes unstuck in time and finds himself in the Thurian Age, when Kull reigned
over Valusia. For readers who may not be too familiar with Robert E. Howard’s entire
body of work, Kull is another of the author’s creations; a barbarian issued from Atlantis
who lived in an age predating Conan’s Hyborian Age by several thousands of years.
(The two characters are part of the same continuity.) Kull eventually becomes king of
Valusia, the mightiest kingdom of that era. There are many parallels between Conan
and Kull, but I always found Kull to be a more cerebral hero. Marvel Comics put out a
number of comic books featuring Kull around the same time it published the Conan the
Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan titles. Kull was never as popular as Conan, but
his books were well received by Conan fans, and I’m glad he’s back, even if it’s only for
a brief appearance in the pages of Conan the Barbarian—but wouldn’t it be something if
Titan Comics were to bring him back in his own series?

Conan immediately meets Brule the Spear-slayer upon his arrival in the Thurian Age.
We previously had a chance to see a meeting of these two heroes in a dream sequence
in issue #4 that foreshadowed the events of issue #9. Brule is a Pict. In Conan’s time,
the Picts have regressed to a more savage state, but in Kull’s time, they were a great
people. Brule is an interesting, character, a noble savage not unlike Ka-Zar or Tarzan. I
always enjoyed his presence in the old Kull books by Marvel Comics. He’s Kull’s
steadfast friend.

Brule’s encounter with Conan does not go well. Both are wary of each other, and Conan
is made prisoner by Brule. At that time, Brule and his men are looking for the source of
a corruption that is affecting the land, which is probably tied with Conan’s mysterious
appearance out of thin air. In a short time, though, Conan proves he’s no enemy and
Brule sets him free. When they return to Valusia, they are confronted by Kull who,
seemingly under the influence of the corruption that is affecting the land, brutally attacks
Brule. A brawl ensues seeing one of the most epic fights in sword & sorcery
history—that of Conan and Kull. The fight ends in a draw, and both Conan and Brule are
thrown in jail.

I really enjoyed the fight between Conan and Kull. Zub and De La Torre handled it
beautifully. During the Marvel days, Kull and Conan also met and fought in issue #68 of
Conan the Barbarian. The outcome of that fight turned out to be different, but not as
satisfying as the one in Titan Comics’ reimagining of the meeting of the two warriors. In
the Marvel version, Conan deals a telling blow to Kull’s head, and the monarch’s crown
is the only thing that saves him from being brained by Conan’s blade. The blow takes
the fight out of Kull, and the two warriors call a truce. It was still a very satisfying fight
between the two famous Howard characters, but I was disappointed that Conan was
able to defeat Kull so easily. Kull and Conan are both mighty warriors and fans could
argue forever who’s the best fighter. As much as I like Conan, I am saddened by the
idea of him defeating Kull in a fight. In this latest iteration imagined by Zub and De La
Torre, we get to see a pretty awesome fight between the two heroes, and it remains
everyone’s guess which of the two is the better swordsman. This is the way it should be.
Since picking up issue #0 of the new Conan the Barbarian comic book published by
Titan Comics, I have assumed that the series was a continuation of the stories
published by marvel from 1970 to 1993. This issue brings home the reality that this new
series is actually a reboot. I am not a fan or reboots, but in this case, I approve. There is
nothing wrong with a reboot done right. This new Conan is just as satisfying as the old
Marvel series. So far, the series has featured all new stories. I don’t have any
information on the matter, but it’s exciting to think that Titan Comics might one day
adapt the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories as well as the other pastiches written
by well-known Conan authors like L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. These stories
were adapted by Marvel Comics in the past, but it would be interesting to see them
reimagined today by a creative team like Jim Zub and Rob De La Torre.

This issue also features another character from a classic Robert E. Howard Conan
story. I do not want to spoil it, but Conan fans who have read the original Howard stories
or their Marvel Comics adaptations will enjoy this cameo. It’s a great scene that does credit to Jim Zub’s creativity and that ties this issue to one of Conan’s most famous stories.

One of the things that fascinates me about this new Conan series is its capacity to
appeal to both new and old Conan fans. If you have never read a Conan comic book or
short story, you can still jump right into this series. The series is a great introduction to
Conan’s Hyborian Age. And when it comes to pleasing older fans, the series does a
great job of featuring stories that feel both familiar and new; this is no mean feat
because it must be very hard to come up with an original story considering that
hundreds of Conan adventures have been published in the past. Old-school Conan fans
would have the right to feel jaded at this point, but this book, while evoking nostalgia still
provides a fresh new look at Conan.

This issue also features an article on the Thurian Age by Jeffrey Shanks (part nine of an
ongoing series of articles that started with issue #1) and a cover gallery. Cover C by
Rob De La Torre was my favorite, even though it’s a bit of a spoiler for old-school Conan

The current story arc continues in issue #10. I can’t wait to see where it takes Conan
and Kull, and I do hope it culminates in an announcement that Titan Comics will release
a separate Kull series.

Title: Conan the Barbarian #9
Publisher: Titan Comics/Heroic Signatures
Artists: Rob De La Torre (art), Dean White (colors)
Writer: Jim Zub
Number of pages: 34 pages
Recommended age: 17+

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About the Author

Jules-Pierre Malartre currently resides in Rigaud, Quebec, which is cold enough to save him from big-ass spiders, but as close to The Great White North that he will ever dare go. In 2005, he quit a promising aerospace engineering career to go into freelance copywriting. Since then, he has become considerably poorer, but much happier. When he is not writing technical manuals, newspaper articles or online features, he is busy working on his first novel. His first short story, “The Rest Was Easy,” was published by the online literary magazine Amarillo Bay in 2013.

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