Saturday, February 11, 2012

Conan the Barbarian #1

The interesting thing about the Robert E. Howard story "Queen of the Black Coast" (which introduced Conan's first great love, Belit) is that it covers a considerable period in time - but it's a rather short story.

I didn't really pick up on that when I first read the story in a Lancer paperback, but Roy Thomas and John Buscema made it clear when they crafted their original take on this story in the '70s for the first Conan the Barbarian comic - it was a story that continued for years.

This first issue (actually #88 in the series of Conan stories from Dark Horse Comics) gives us another take on that tale - one that's a bit more on the gritty side.

It's written by Brian Wood, who does a masterful job here with Conan, picking up right where The Road of Kings left off. Conan is on the run from authorities and manages to find refuge on a boat sailing away from Argos. But they're sailing in waters frequented by the pirate ship led by the dreaded Belit.

This issue is almost leisurely, introducing the title character, giving us good reason to like and sympathize with him, and bringing to life the characters who round out this cast.

I really like the art by Becky Cloonan - it's not at all the usual Conan art, but it has a realistic grit, and she manages to capture the expressions of the characters in a wonderful, unique fashion. Her work also has a touch of humor and, well, life to it, that many others lack. I'm looking forward to seeing her work on future issues.

This story is going to play out over the next two years (or 25 issues), so Wood and Cloonan have plenty of room to weave Belit's story. It's going to be one to watch for!

Grade: A-



Kyle said...

Hey Chuck, I will have to check this out. The Lancer paperback with this story was the first book I ever bought. I still remember my mom taking me to a friends house and thier neighbor was selling used books out of the garage... Holy cow! if my mom had only known what the stories like "Queen of the Black Coast" and "The Frost Giant's Daughter" were like! she would never have let me buy it! ha!

Chuck said...

Kyle, it was the same for me - a loaned copy of the "Conan the Warrior" paperback really got me into reading fantasy and science fiction - and if my parents had known about the naked women and references to sex! I immediately tracked down all the other Conan books.