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Conan The Barbarian #1 Review

4 min read

Conan lucks into a new adventure that takes him against a truly powerful woman.

Creative Staff:
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Becky Cloonan

What They Say:
In this sweeping adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s fan-favorite ‘Queen of the Black Coast,’ Conan turns his back on the civilized world and takes to the high seas alongside the pirate queen Bêlit, setting the stage for an epic of romance, terror, and swashbuckling. This is Conan as you’ve never seen him, with the combination of one of Robert E. Howard’s greatest tales and the most dynamic creative team in comics!

The Review:
Having long been a fan of the Conan brand, I haven’t read any Conan comics since the old Marvel ones done in the 80’s. I love the character, but it’s one that I’ve always felt is really hard to make work well in a variety of media, something we’ve seen happen over the years unfortunately. With Dark Horse having worked the Conan brand in comics form since 2003, this is my first hands one experience with it and it’s definitely made me really excited to see what they’re going to do in 2012 with it. Under the guidance of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan doing the artwork, this was a perfect jumping on point yet still painted the picture of a character that has existed for quite awhile and had many adventures. It’s instantly accessible but you can also see how it would without issue for the fans who have been reading for some time.

Taking place relatively early within Conan’s career, where he wasn’t a huge name but has had his share of successes, we get to come across him as his travels landed him in some unintended trouble, at least through his view of events, and he’s in quite the need to move on. His desire to escape from Messtania, the capital of Argos, is understandable as he was the last man remaining in a tavern where a soldier killed a superior officer, which made it easy to extend the blame to him and put him through the wringer in the dungeon. The whole thing was easily a farce in his opinion and listening to him relate the tale is almost comical as he views himself as an innocent, which he is, that just puts him in a bad spot where only his sword can solve the problem. With the way it unfolds, you can really sense the fun that Conan has in dealing with the Guardsmen he encounters, both during his court appearance and his subsequent escaping, adding to that kind of lust for life angle that fits so well.

Conan’s escape is what leads us to the real adventure though as he ends up on a trading ship, through a bit of force, and heads out to the open seas. Through the steersman, he learns of the area a bit more since he’s been in the north for so long and gets a better feel for what the lands around here holds. And the main threat to the area is the dark arts that are performed along one of the coasts but also a woman named Belit who holds a very dark crew under her sway. The steersman paints her in a truly black way, but it’s hearing it and seeing it throguh Conan’s mind that’s really engaging as he finds it to be a thrill, a challenge and something he wants to see for himself. Getting closer to that becomes the focus towards the end, but the majority of the book deals with an exploration of the legend that Belit has become and that works exceptionally well.

In Summary:
Having been out of the Conan loop for quite a long time, this was an excellent re-introduction to the character and has left me eagerly anticipating more issues. A lot of first issues really don’t do a good job of being a jumping on point and making it accessible to new readers while still being serviceable and engaging for existing fans, but Brian Wood nailed it just right here. It makes me want to check out some of his earlier adventures while eagerly looking forward to more. And Becky Cloonan captured it just right with the artwork, with his rough and ragged style while also bringing in the striking and disturbing beauty that is Belit. There aren’t many books that make me really want another issue right away, but the first installment of the Queen of the Black Coast has done just that and more can’t come soon enough.

Grade: A-

Readers Rating: [ratings]

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