Conan the Barbarian Gets a Symbiote Upgrade

Warning: this article contains spoilers for The Savage Avengers #18

Conan the Barbarian has just got his own symbiote upgrade thanks to the King in Black. When one of Conan’s ancient enemies, Kulan Gath, comes back to plague the world once again, the Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange assembles a team to hunt the evil sorcerer down. Joined by the likes of Wolverine, for whom the barbarian develops a fast admiration, Elektra, Magik, Black Widow, and now Deadpool, Conan is well set on his quest to rid the world of Gath’s villainy once and for all. This month, however, the fabled history of Conan changes forever. With the advent of the King in Black, his integration into the world of Marvel has reached a new inflection point.

Conan is a bit of an odd duck in the grand scheme of the Marvel Comics universe. An ancient warrior, and the one-time king of Aquilonia in the Hyborian Age, it’s difficult to imagine the sword-wielding warrior finding his place in mainstream comic book continuity. Originally created by famed sword and sorcery writer Robert E. Howard, and published in the pages of pulp magazine Weird Tales, the character of Conan the Cimmerian returned to Marvel in 2018. Since then he’s starred in two of his own series Savage Sword of Conan and Conan the Barbarian, but it wasn’t until 2019’s launch of Savage Avengers that he officially joined the publisher’s lineup of canonical superheroes. 

Savage Avengers #18, from writer Gerry Duggan and artist Kev Walker, finds Conan, Deadpool, and Night Flyer on the outskirts of Ryker’s Island Prison, where the trio pulled off a pretty gruesome and out of the box escape. Last month’s issue ended on a cliffhanger, with Conan consumed by a symbiote dragon. Now readers learn that the dragon isn’t one of Knull’s mindless thralls descended from the far reaches of space, but a creature with a long and troubled history on Earth. This symbiote arrived on the planet a millennia ago where, after years in captivity, it met Mekri Ra, one of the Sorcerers Supreme of old. Not long after that, Ra was devoured by the wizard Kulan Gath who then subjected the symbiote to unspeakable torture for thousands of years until it was freed by none other than Conan the Barbarian in the series’ second issue. 

And so, a deal is struck between the two. Conan and the symbiote will join forces until their mutual enemy has been destroyed and then part ways. Wielding the symbiote means Conan will never be without a deadly and devastatingly versatile weapon at his disposal. It also allows him to communicate with Knull’s dragon-shaped wraiths, enough for them to leave him alone. If that weren’t sufficient, at the end of the comic, Conan takes a sustained blast of the mutant Iceman’s powers at close range and completely shrugs it off. Not only that, but the symbiote molds itself into a hammer strong enough to crush the X-Men hero in half. If next month’s cover of Savage Avengers featuring Conan versus a Knullified Cyclops is anything to go by, this isn’t the last time he’ll be tussling with the X-Men. 

Though the full extent of this new union’s abilities has yet to be fully explored, it’s safe to expect some epic surprises in the future. So far, the Savage Avengers have lived up to their name and delivered delightfully over-the-top moments. Who knows what the creative minds over at Marvel Comics have in store for readers and fans of Conan the Barbarian now that he has his own Klyntar empowering him? 

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