Conan The Barbarian #1 Review

Conan The Barbarian #1

Dark Horse’s Conan the Barbarian series gets a new creative team and takes on one of Robert E. Howard’s greatest, Queen of the Black Coast. Lucky for us, the book is in excellent hands.

Conan The Barbarian #1

My history with Conan isn’t as robust as I’d like to say it is; aside from drooling over Frank Frazetta’s art, drooling over old Conan comics, owning about half of Kurt Busiek’s run from 2003 (drooling all over those) and being mildly familiar with Robert E. Howard’s original work I don’t know much – but that’s whats so great about him; Conan doesn’t require years of background knowledge (although it’s there for the enjoying) – he’s a fantasy barbarian hero who kicks everyone or anything’s butt, always gets the girl (or steals her) and always lives to fight another day.

All of which is captured in the first few pages of this new series. With a big beautiful double-page splash Conan looks back at the reader and tells you all you need to know without saying a word.

Dark Horse has finally given in to “the most-requested Conan adaptation,” Queen of the Black Coast. I can’t speak to it’s faithfulness to the original short story or how great of a homage it is to Robert E. Howard but I paid $3.50 for the comic and loved just about every stinking inch of it. Brian Wood is about as perfect of a writer for this book as one could pick, his [incredible] creator-owned series Northlanders is in itself a resume for working in a setting and with characters like this. And although working with a story already told translating the script is seamless, the dialogue especially is exactly how I expected without feeling like anyone is trying to hard. Conan is a strong near-archetype character, which hasn’t always served him well, but here Brian Wood gives him the right amount of attitude and personality to make this version feel unique and fresh, perfect for a new series.

Perhaps the most impressive element though is Becky Cloonan’s art with Dave Stewart’s colors. As deep as Conan’s literary history is so is his artistic history, and while Conan is depicted in a different (more leaner) light the change is beautifully done; it matches the unique attitude in Wood’s writing while still honoring the character, one look and you know it’s Conan.

And the art gets even more interesting for Bêlit. From the change in coloring and paneling to the stark juxtaposition from her “liquid ebony” hair and “milk” skin the artistic direction with her steps the book up to a whole other level. Without the use of cheesecake she’s both beautiful, sexy and eerie at the same. She dominates every page she’s on (both to us and to Conan), her presence even changes the paneling and pacing – all without having one line of dialogue. The creative team has obviously thought her out and I’m excited to see how she’s used in forthcoming issues.

If the book had any flaw it’d be in it’s lack of Conan-killing that I had hyped myself up for; however, it’s an adaption and I’m sure the building of characters and relationships such as Tito will come in handy later on. Since this is a bit of a different Conan in a tale I’m unfamiliar with I can appreciate the build up and imagine that it’s start is faithful to the original story (which is regarded as one of the best). Where the book lacks in head-lopping it makes up for in great art, character building, a whacky ending, and a tease for next month. And although I’d imagine this individual issue might read better once in trade I won’t be able to stop myself from picking up the next issue.

My favorite line:

“Have you silver to pay for passage, barbarian?”

“I pay with Steel.”


Pros Cons
Absolutely beautiful art and colors matched with an intriguing story that’s got me hooked. Less dead people than I expected from a Conan issue but you hardly notice with it’s tone, and something tells me the series won’t be without it’s own body count.

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