February 7, 2012

Dark Horse Reviews: Conan the Barbarian #1

Conan the Barbarian #1
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Becky Cloonan (cover by Massimo Carnevale)

The new Conan book from Dark Horse is finally here! The story “Queen of the Black Coast” is first up, and if you haven’t read it before, you’re in for a real treat! This adventure shows a very young Conan (mid-twenties), and has had many battles, but none like he is about to have. You see, Conan to this point has been running around the Northlands, and has yet to experience the seas. There is one thing that all men fear while at sea, and that is Belit. She is a pirate that is well versed in the dark arts, and captains a vessel named the Tigress. A ship, that after being spotted, is usually linked to horrific deaths about the seas. A young, brash Conan is in over his head this time, and he’ll need Crom, Mitra, and every other god he can call upon to survive this one!

My thoughts are as follows: The story is great, and I really have to give Brian Wood some really huge credit. He takes a Robert E. Howard story and makes it his own. I’ve read other adaptations, and this one stacks right up there with them. It was a good introduction to the characters and setting, and had a great pace throughout. I did get slightly confused about two-thirds through the book, though. At one point, I couldn’t tell what was going on with Conan and the antagonist, Belit. I had to look at it a few times before I finally got it (I think).

Now for the artwork. I loved everything about the artwork in this book except the depiction of Conan. I know he’s supposed to be young, but at certain points of this book he looked barely in his teens. There was also a panel where he looked like a redneck (page 4). In the beginning, this kind of turned me off to the entire book, but I’m so hardcore with my Robert E. Howard stuff, I just plowed through it. Now again, it was just Conan, nothing else that I didn’t like. The ships, the sea, Conan’s shipmates, you name it, the artwork was solid. As usual, the colorist, Dave Stewart, was awesome. He’s been doing an admirable job on B.P.R.D. for quite some time now, and his contributions on that series are nothing short of fantastic. I’m definitely on board for the long haul with this because I’m a big Conan fan, but even if you’re someone that is just mildly interested in Conan, this is a good jumping on point, so give it a try! Rating 3.5/5

Billy Dunleavy




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