Saturday, April 26, 2014

Conan the Avenger

   My buddy John asked what I thought of the new Conan series, Conan the Avenger, written by Fred Van Lente and drawn by Brian Ching. The short answer is, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
   The longer answer is, I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I was okay with Brian Wood's first issue of his adaptation of QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST too, and we know how that particular debacle turned out. So let's say I'm cautiously optimistic. Van Lente did a fine job adapting Robert E. Howard's story THE PEOPLE OF THE BLACK CIRCLE last year, so he already has some street cred with Conan.
   This time though, Van Lente is adapting one of REH's unfinished Conan tales, which means he'll have to do a bit more creating of new incidents. This one was finished out before by Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp as THE SNOUT IN THE DARK, which was about as good as it sounds, but most Howard collectors refer to the unfinished story as The Shamballa Fragment. REH left behind a partial synopsis and several short chapters of this yarn which you can find in Del Rey's THE COMING OF CONAN THE CIMMERIAN, which you should already own and if you don't, what are you waiting for?
   Van Lente's story begins in the aforementioned Shamballa, which is an African (Kushian?) city, South of Stygia. Conan is basically hanging around town getting drunk, as he attempts to drown the memory of the recent loss of his love, the pirate queen Belit. The spirit of Belit is never far from his thoughts and though this is to some extent, the reason for his condition , it is also the memory of her that will rally him after some local bad guys take advantage of his drunken stupor. When Conan snaps back to reality, it is in fine, barbaric style and Van Lente takes the chance to show us just why you don't mess with the big Cimmerian. Good stuff.
   Brian Ching isn't an artist I'm familiar with. I do like his art, though I'm finding his Conan a bit on the lean side. That could be said of all his characters though, so it may just be his style. We'll see how he progresses as the series moves forward. So John, yeah, not bad at all. Hopefully it will continue along the same lines.


Anonymous said...

I just bought it, and read it moments ago. Liked it quite a bit.

Unlike virtually everybody else who I communicate with about Conan in the comics I am far more concerned with story than art. I would much rather read a Conan comic with a ripping fine story and weak art than a weak story with fabulous art.

This was a pretty good start to a Conan yarn. Got to see the barbarian snap out of a dark melancholy and lash out at some tormentors who underestimated him. Got a couple plot threads opened that will be fun to see resolved-- why does the witchhunter get led to Conan? How'd the barbarian get those markings on his body?

I actively want to know what's gonna happen next. And that hasn't been the case with a Conan comic in about two years.

So yeah, it was pretty good. Hope you comment on the next issue, too.


Charles R. Rutledge said...

John, I'm more interested in the writing too, but I am a cartoonist myself, so I do want to see some good art, but yeah I'll take so-so art with good writing over flashy art and bad writing every time.
Glad you enjoyed it though and hopefully it will hold up. I'll try and share my thoughts on the next issue.