Avengers: No Road Home #6
Written by Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub
Art by Sean Izaakse, Jay David Ramos, and Marcio Menyz
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Hither comes Conan the Barbarian to the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the stunningly entertaining Avengers: No Road Home #6. Taking tried-and-true Conan tropes and carefully plugging a blinded Wanda Maximoff into them, Jim Zub, Al Ewing and Mark Waid deliver a dense but expansive new installment, one that blends superhero drama and pulpy sword-and-sorcery beautifully. And speaking of beautiful, artists Sean Izaakse, Jay David Ramos, and Marcio Menyz dive deeply into the Conan’s world, mixing their expressive characters with theatrical, monster-filled fantasy visuals and landscapes, capitalizing on the vast mythical setting the main story provided. Teaming Conan up with the Avengers might sound like a stunt, but Avengers: No Road Home #6 makes the Barbarian’s modern Marvel debut feel bigger and better than one might hope.
Blinded and flung from our reality into the Hyborian Age, Wanda Maximoff finds herself allying with the famed Cimmerian in a strange and dangerous new world. Zub, Ewing, and Waid find a fun, violently symbiotic relationship between the Avenger and the anti-hero as they trek through the desert and through all manner of Robert E. Howard-esque fantasy cities and encampments, in search of the Queen of Night’s crystal soul and a way back to Wanda’s teammates. And I cannot stress just how fun this whole experience is. Anchored by the verbose, grandstanding narration strung through the story, Wanda and Conan fight, barter, and survive through this cruel world. Fans of Howard’s creation will recognize most of the turns the script takes, but the way Zub, Waid, and Ewing re-energize the adventure and the old-school feeling of the issue overall just keeps on delivering.
And better still, the trio make some teasing hints connecting Conan’s world with the Queen of Night centered around the Hulk, Hawkeye, and Rocket, who themselves are trapped in the “Nightmare Realm” after the Hulk’s latest display of savagery. Though the writers don’t spend too terribly much time on this - mainly because they are having too much fun with Wanda and Conan - it neatly raises the stakes for the still unfolding weekly narrative. This scene really makes the more soapy, serialized elements of the format work for them instead of against. And keeps the whole thing moving at a decent clip, which is always appreciated for weekly comics and their continued momentum.
But No Road Home #6’s strengths don’t just lie with the script. Sean Izaakse, Jay David Ramos, and Marcio Menyz really come alive with the art on this issue. Though the opening issues looked good in their own right, they were locked firmly within the visuals of a “superhero comic book,” just with the added set dressing of the Olympian Gods. But here, now dumped in the middle of the lawless and bloody world of Conan the Barbarian, Izaakse, Ramos, and Menyz kick up the action and pulpiness, giving No Road Home a whole new flavor and tone with ease.
Instead of just the usual superhero battles and standoffs, the team delivers sweeping, cinematic page layouts of the dangerous new settling, spiked throughout with punchy action sequences and macabre horror visuals that seem to be ripped directly from the works of Robert E. Howard. Izaakse’s linework has been keeping steady throughout the weekly series, but it seems so much more active and visually exciting here than it had in the previous issues. Couple that with the rich, painterly colors of Ramos and Menyz, and you have a sumptuous entry into the series and arguably it’s best-looking one to date.
Avengers: No Road Home #6 could have been a real mess. It could have been a rote team-up, made only to move readers to the new Conan line or to give the series that “Wolverine Bump” just with a Barbarian instead of the Ol’ Canucklehead. But the team here really rises to the occasion, for the audience and the story, making Conan’s modern Marvel debut feel like the moment it should be. By Crom, I can’t wait for more.