When it was revealed Conan would be fighting alongside the likes of Wolverine and Punisher, I think any longtime Conan the Barbarian fan had to take a step back and consider what was happening. Was Marvel ruining the character, or steering directly into a fun territory not yet explored? It turns out to be the latter, which is why I’m excited about a new crossover involving Solomon Kane, Dark Agnes, and Moon Knight. Of the plethora of characters, Marvel could entwine these make a lot of sense and in this first issue, we learn how they join forces.
This issue opens in Cross Plains, Texas in 1936. A man lays in bed sick and he’s alone. This character narrates via captions how he has traversed time and space as “countless forms” in dreamlike prose that leads him to Moon Knight. The narrative utilizes these captions to move from character to character, connecting them via this mysterious man. This serves as a good introduction to each character while tethering them to the sickly man. It all serves as a buildup to an epic collection of fighters across time and space and ultimately a serpentine enemy they must vanquish. As a Robert E. Howard-style comic, the captions can read heavy but do imbue a sense of classic prose style.
The art by Scot Eaton with inks by Scott Hanna and colors by Frank D’Armata is very clean and pleasing. There are quite a few double-page splashes featuring the main characters fighting away that look great. There’s a poetic nature to the art as each is introduced in their prime. Dark Agnes and Solomon Kane get the most impressive introductions with nice montaged scenes splashing across two pages for each. They have a swashbuckling, adventurer feel that gets you in the mood for more. They might get a bit more flourish since Moon Knight and Conan don’t really need introductions.
Unfortunately, I found the captions a bit too obtuse and dreamlike, which can read in a frustratingly vague sort of way. The art in the first few pages is a bit stiff and less wide-sweeping in nature, making the captures not quite land as one might hope. There’s a blue, almost 3D style in these dream images that’s curiously interesting, but I felt lost. Once we get past this opening, each character gets a limited amount of time, hiccuping the plot forward just enough to get to the eventual meet-ups we all know are coming. These felt too short and almost unfinished. The book reads more like a free preview, giving us details on characters, but never diving into the action. By the end you’ll be happy things are finally progressing, but might feel a bit frustrated since it can feel like work to get to its end.
I’m game for more in this miniseries, but I felt the opening was too dreamlike and vague to capture interest and adventure. Instead, it reads like a preview of what is to come with more being done to introduce characters via the narrator rather than showing the characters in action. The old adage of “show, don’t tell” doesn’t quite work due to limited time and heavy use of captions.