Dark Horse is apparently committed to making this latest “Conan” series a fresh start for the character’s ongoing adventures at the publisher. I say this because in addition to a new subtitle, “The Slayer,” they’ve abandoned the standard trade dress and numbering the series has had since its very first volume. While that’s a little disappointing when I think about how it’s going to look next to all of the other volumes on my shelf, “Blood in His Wake” is a bit of a return to form for the series under new writer Cullen Bunn and artist Sergio Davila.
It’s not that Bunn does much new with the character here than in previous volumes. What’s unique is that he manages to string together a lot of familiar “Conan” situations in this one without the narrative feeling overstuffed or rushed. So you’ve got the character stumbling out of the desert half-dead into a camp of Kozaki raiders only to become their latest member and involved in a feud between the chief’s two sons. This feud leads to Conan fighting a sea hag and her sons on the coast while the older of the sons works with a sorcerer to secure his leadership of the tribe. Meanwhile, the rulers of the neighboring kingdom are trying to figure out how to deal with the Kozakis and a bloodthirsty ghoul who followed Conan out of the desert now stalks the barbarian from the shadows.
All in all, this boils down to being a particularly busy weekend by the title character’s standards. While I enjoyed “Blood in His Wake” overall, I was wondering about the reason for that because while Bunn’s scripting is efficient and demonstrates a solid grasp of Conan’s character a lot of it feels overly familiar like the scenarios described above. I think the real reason for my enjoyment of this volume is Davila’s art. He offers up some detailed work that comes across as big and bold on the page, making the old feel new again to a certain extent. Davila can really sell Conan leaping into battle or rendering some monsters, ghouls, and ghosts. While Dark Horse’s “Conan” comics have generally had consistently good artwork over the years, Davila is easily one of the better artists to grace these pages. I hope he sticks around with Bunn on the long haul for “The Slayer’s” run.