Friday, February 10, 2012
Conan the Barbarian #1
Artist: Becky Cloonan
Company: Dark Horse Comics
By Crom, this was good. Come on, it had to be said, and more importantly it isn't a lie. Brian (DMZ/Northlanders) Wood takes the reigns of the Conan property and diverts it from the sedate and unexciting waters that it has been treading as of late into the lands of Bad Ass and Awesome. Wood is a natural storyteller, and even though this is an adaptation of Howard's popular story Queen of the Black Coast, he definitely puts his own emphasis on it. Being only a dabbler in the world of Conan (the movies, minus the last very uninspired and Mystery Science Theater 3000 candidate one, and the Busiek and Nord offerings), I am not familiar with the story at hand, but already Wood has my attention.
The main reason for that is due to his attention to, first and foremost, telling a story in a very natural way. Typically, Conan is all about action and adventure instead of realized, 3 dimensional characters that get under your skin and grab/hold your attention. The way that the story unfolds, through Conan telling his story to a group of men on a boat that he basically jumps onto at the last possible second to escape his jailers, is such a clever device. It endears you to him and Tito (the Captain), the rest of the crew, and the energy that all of them project. Wood obviously gets these characters, which is pretty darn important.
Even better than Wood's story however, is Becky Cloonan's artwork. It isn't the typical style you see meshed with the Fantasy genre and I know when it was announced that she was going to be the artist, it certainly piqued my interest mainly for that very reason. Her out of the box style makes everything stand out more. Her attention to character movement and emotion makes the conversations that this issue has in abundance pop. I'm curious to see how she'll handle the more action intensive portions of the story, but based on what we've seen here, it should be striking. Speaking of striking, the eeriness of the first appearance of the Pirate Queen Bêlit is so strong and so well executed that you can't help but be mesmerized by those pages.
A very strong outing and a great first issue. This is very different territory for both of the creators and I love to see people change it up a bit and try something new. The result can be something very special.