Thursday, April 12, 2012

Conan the Barbarian Issue #3

With the third issue of Conan the Barbarian, writer Brian Wood begins to come into his own, as it were. Issues one and two stuck pretty close to the events of Robert E. Howard's story, Queen of the Black Coast, but with issue three Wood begins establishing new characters and situations as he prepares to tell his own stories within the story, which will presumably carry through two years worth of continuity.
Thing is, I've recently decided I'm not as fond of adaptations as I used to be, I mean, if I want REH I'll read REH. I don't really need anyone to draw if for me. I'd rather see some quality pastiches. I've read enough of Wood's Viking series Northlanders to know he has the chops to tell some roaring good action stories, so I'm certainly willing to see him run with Conan for a bit. In this issue Wood delves into the emotions of Conan and Belit, trying to see why these two might have such an instant attraction for one another. Both, to some degree are projecting their own fantasies onto each other. Conan sees Belit as an exotic pirate wild woman and Belit sees Conan as an equally exotic northern savage come down from the icy wastes. But isn't love often that way? Seeing what we want as much as what's there?
And speaking of the icy wastes of Cimmeria, artist Becky Cloonan finally gets to bring her rendition of snow filled dark woods, which impressed me so much in her self published comic 'Wolves', to that land of "Darkness and deep night." In fact, someone ought to get Cloonan to illustrate REH's poem Cimmeria. She has the knack for drawing that kind of scenery.
Cloonan's rendition of Conan is growing on me, much as her predecessor Mike Hawthorne's version did. Cloonan, like Hawthorne, is a storyteller, and the accumulated weight and impact of her panel to panel continuity is considerable. Much more satisfying to me than someone who simply draws pretty pictures.
Conan has extended conversations with a warrior named N'gora and with a shaman who binds Conan's wounds. Both conversations reveal things about these two new characters and about the young Conan as well. The words and pictures combine well to do this. I like to see an artist/writer team who can mesh like that.
There's also an interesting thread of prophecy running through the story as different characters speak of seeing things in the future.
All and all a solid third issue. Looking forward to seeing what comes next.

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