Brandon Borzelli’s Geek Goggle Reviews
Conan The Barbarian #1
Dark Horse Comics
Wood, Cloonan & Stewart
Dark Horse’s latest relaunch of Conan is the reinterpretation of an old Robert Howard story called “Queen of the Black Coast.” This particular launch carries a heavy-hitting creator crew lead by Brian Wood. I should confess that I only purchased the issue because Wood was the writer and because Dark Horse did a good job advertising that fact. What I found was not exactly the Conan I expected. This story takes place when Conan is just setting out. He’s a young man that carries a lot of the flaws you’d expect to find in an inexperienced warrior. Overall, I liked the issue and will probably see the arc out and that means the opening did its job.
The book opens with Conan riding through the streets of some waterside town. He’s full of grins and arrogance as he jumps onto a departing boat to flee from his would be captors. These opening few pages do a number of things, such as establish an attitude, set a pace and provide a situation where the artwork can really show off.
Wood doesn’t show his writing prowess until Conan manages to win over the reluctant boat crew with his charm and his stories of death and dismemberment. Conan eventually convinces the boat to go after the Queen (who may be a witch) and Conan finds himself in over his head.
The book is fun. Wood handles the dialogue with near-perfection as he nails down the smug and youthful Conan almost immediately. The greatness of the character when he’s older (think the Arnold film years) is definitely telegraphed in this issue. Wood also provides room for the supporting cast to grow with their involvement in this issue and their interface with Conan.
Cloonan is a perfect fit for this book. Not only is Conan depicted as a grizzled but cut individual, but he also shows a slight amount of fear when appropriate. I think Wood’s script can only handle these emotions so far and then the art has to takeover and that is what we find here. Additionally, Stewart is the perfect colorist for this book. His muted tones set against the brilliant, but occasional usage of red is outstanding. The only piece that feels odd is the lettering. When the book is in narration mode, the letters appear in typeface, which seems odd for this sort of book. I would expect script or something that would look more like handwriting.
Conan has never been a character or a genre that I could get into. However, Wood is showing me that there is more to the character than a simple sword and sorcery comic. I would have preferred a lit more action and blood in this issue but there is room for that to come. I liked this issue and if you have ever looked for a reason to pick up a Conan comic then you won’t find a better opportunity than this one.
3 out of 5 Geek Goggles