Overview

Conan the Barbarian #1

Review

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Conan the Barbarian #1

Credits

  • Words: Brian Wood
  • Art: Becky Cloonan
  • Colors: Dave Stewart
  • Story Title: Queen of the Black Coast Part 1
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Feb 8, 2012

It’s understandable that some Conan purists would be cautious about this new approach, but Wood and Cloonan show that even a younger Conan still has much appeal.

When we are first introduced to the Cimmerian, he is riding for his life through the rough streets of Messantia. He resembles more of a cheeky manga hero than the rough hewn warrior we’re used to seeing. Escaping the court guards, he forces his way onto a ship headed for the coasts of Kush. Soon the young Conan wins the hearts of Tito, the ship’s captain, and the crew with his rousing tale of escape. As Tito and Conan drink under the stars during their sea voyage, the captain tells Conan a story of his own; a story of the dark arts and of Belit, captain of the Tigress, and otherwise known as Queen of the Black Coast.

When Wood and Cloonan were first announced for this series, it came as a surprise and the anticipation for their work on the title was high. With their stellar work together on two volumes of Demo, Conan was not the next title to spring to mind for the talented pair. This is based on one of Robert E. Howard’s oldest stories (from 1934’s Weird Tales) and is apparently one of the most requested adaptations, so they are not necessarily creating new ground here.

Upon landing  at Kush, Tito and Conan discover more victims of the work of pirates and the Cimmerian honors his promise to Tito by  vowing to hunt down Belit so Tito and his crew can travel in safety. Despite Tito’s hesitation, Conan assures the captain that “the man most intent on avoiding a fight is the one who finds himself stuck right in the middle of one.” An intoxicating dream followed by harsh reality follows as Conan meets the pale beauty herself, which will lead to some intriguing adventures in the remaining issues of this mini-series.

Wood knows more than a little something about action tales, having shown so with his work on DMZ and Northlanders and Cloonan has worked with the scribe on and off since 2003’s Channel Zero: Jennie One. Having not read Robert E. Howard’s original story, I’m not sure how much of that influence exists here, but the captions and dialogue certainly sound like a 1930s tale. This is a fast paced, old school adventure and although there’s no sword fights or set pieces as such, there is a sense that danger is on the horizon.

Cloonan creates a daringly different Conan to be sure. On these pages, he’s more of a slender twenty-something, rather than a manly behemoth, but his boldness and charisma show forth with every confident look and knowing grin. Cloonan’s distinct approach to textures works a treat here, as everything from ports to ships to dusty cities breathe with an authentic, lived-in visual charm.

Dark Horse have been publishing Conan since 2003 and in the years since have given something to please both loyalists and newbies to the popular hero. With this latest series, they surprised many with their choice of creative team, but after this first issue, it’s obvious they chose wisely. 

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Comments

  • Josh West

    Josh West Feb 6, 2012 at 9:59am

    I'm pretty sure 'Queen of the Black Coast' is still available for free on Apple's iBook store.

    Def worth giving it a read after you jump into Wood and Cloonan's wonderful adaption.

  • Jason Wilkins

    Jason Wilkins Feb 6, 2012 at 8:23pm

    I had the pleasure of reading this as well in preparation for this week's Guiding Lines and I couldn't agree more with Chad's review. Certainly a different creative team than typical but they knock it out of the park - Cloonan in particular. Love the pulpy typewritten font for the narrative boxes too!

  • Jason Wilkins

    Jason Wilkins Feb 6, 2012 at 8:23pm

    Oops - I meant Kris! Sorry my friend :)

  • Kris Bather

    Kris Bather Feb 6, 2012 at 8:44pm

    Hah, not a problem Jason.

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