Conan the Barbarian: Conan the Reaver
by Don Kraar, John & Marie Severin (Marvel Comics, 1987)

In The Reaver, Conan is leader of the Thieves Guild and intent on looting a king's treasure trove while eluding a much-feared creature called "The Mother of Darkness." A straightforward tale, to be sure. As is common in Conan yarns, however, it isn't the intricacies of the story that are the highlight, but the intensity, purity and realism of the characters, as well as the action and artwork.

Emotions run high in this tale, be they results of the contempt of the elite for those less fortunate, the ghastly glee of a pagan priest as he offers a helpless sacrifice, the horror experienced as one comes face-to-face with the Mother of Darkness, or the seemingly selfless acts of one considered a barbarian.

One of the attractive qualities of the Conan character is that he is not complicated. He is what he is; a rough-hewn, severe and sometimes-boorish Cimmerian. That, in part, is his charm. Such honesty is refreshing and entertaining, especially in an uncomplicated action tale such as this.

As one would expect, swordplay abounds. After all, a Conan plot without the clash of steel is like a western sans gunplay; who wants to see that? While some of the action could be called extreme, it is also visually powerful and engaging.

From an artistic standpoint, this graphic novel has a near-perfect team, consisting of comics veterans John and Marie Severin. A brother/sister collaboration, John provides the pencils and inks, while Marie ably applies colors that are vibrant, without being garish. As a 30-plus-year comics fan, I have come to believe that there are a few artists out there whose work merits recognition, wherever it appears. The Severins are such artists.

Conan the Reaver is highly recommended for Conan fans, or anyone who likes an action-packed period piece. It is not suggested for younger readers, due to violent and horrific images.

review by
Mark Allen

28 November 2009

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