The comic book crossover has become the bread and butter of the industry over the last few years. Every summer we can expect some huge event from the Big Two where nothing will be the same once it’s all said and done. The industry has become oversaturated with these events to the point they really don’t have any meaning. It seems that you can’t have a crossover without it promising some long-lasting effect on a character or series. Gone are the days where two heroes would meet, fight each other, and then come to the realization they are on the same side before teaming up to fight the real villain. Where can I find that kind of crossover? Where can I find a story that is just a story and not a set up for the next big change-up?
Groo vs. Conan is the answer I’ve been looking for: it’s a great throwback to the classic team-ups of yesteryear and it even manages to poke fun at itself in a way that works for the book and the idea of these two characters meeting up. I’m sure most readers are familiar with Conan the Barbarian, a Cimmerian warrior living in the Hyborian age, an age of magic and fantasy. Groo the Wanderer, on the other hand, may not be the most recognizable character; he was created during the peak of Conan’s popularity during the 70’s and is basically a parody of everything Conan stands for. Now if that doesn’t make for a great team-up book, I’m not sure you enjoy comic books!
This series is something I’ve been waiting for not just as a fan of Conan but as a massive fan of Sergio Aragones. Sergio is probably most famous for his work at MAD magazine; he does the doodles you see in the borders, among other contributions over the years. I was curious how he would handle this crossover – would it be more serious in tone like the more recent run of Conan books, or would it be more satirical like his work on Groo? With this first issue, though, I was quite surprised that to find that it falls somewhere in between; Sergio and Mark Evanier craft a story that took me by surprise and made me laugh out loud quite a few times.
This issue opens perfectly with Conan doing what he does best, saving a damsel in distress from an evil wizard. Thomas Yeates does an amazing job making the Conan sections of this book look and feel like the old Conan books from the 70’s. The pencils from Thomas and coloring from Tom Luth evoke the look so well I thought I was reading a reprint. They capture the mood of those early stories so well and it’s a perfect introduction to this story.
Now, being a crossover, this issue isn’t all Conan. As soon as Conan is seen riding off after finishing off the evil wizard, the story takes an unexpected turn. We cut to Sergio and his long time writing partner Mark Evanier in the real world, with Mark attempting to pitch the crossover to Sergio, with Sergio saying that it would never work: “I not know, somehow not seem realistic.” In fact, most of this issue takes place with both writers discussing how to make the crossover work. They discuss this issue while visiting a comic book store, and this is where the story takes a turn towards the more satirical work Sergio is known for. Honestly, this part of the issue is easily my favorite part of the book; there are so many hidden jokes and references (one of the many things I love about Sergio Aragones) that I found myself chuckling the entire time I was reading it. Now I don’t really want to spoil too much about the story but this issue is one that any fan of both Conan and Groo would enjoy.
This issue’s art duties are split between Thomas Yeates and Sergio Aragones, with the latter drawing all the Groo sections, but Thomas’ role is definitely not as a fill in artist. He draws Conan in the way I remember from my youth when I would read old copies of The Savage Sword of Conan, an arrogant warrior only caring about his next score, a good drink, and adventure. Sergio, as always, impresses me with his ability to draw and write great slap-stick comedy, making jokes with not just his art but with some great dialogue, as well. Both these artists complement each other’s styles very well, and when the two worlds do meet in the book, their respective techniques fit together nicely.
This book is very much a satirical work so far, but being only the first issue, I’m excited to see where the creative team takes it. While I want to see more of Sergio’s adventures in the real world, I also want to see more of Thomas Yeates’ amazing Conan work. As you can probably tell from my long rave about this series, I’m really digging it so far. The art is incredible, the writing is spot-on, and I’m very excited for the rest of this series. I started this review ranting about how crossovers have lost their appeal to me over the last few years but this crossover, in my opinion, does it right straight out of the gate. What more could you ask for?