By Todd Matthy
If you loved Game of Thrones and are looking for a comic book to satisfy your craving for fantasy fiction, Dark Horse’s brand new Conan the Barbarian series. Written by DMZ and Northlanders writer Brian Wood and drawn by Becky Cloonan, Dark Horse has decided to kick off the new series in grand fashion by adapting the legendary Conan story, Queen of the Black Coast.
One of Robert E. Howard’s classic tales, Queen of the Black Coast is the story of Conan’s days as a pirate where he meets and falls in love with the pirate queen Belit. The story jumped forward a few years and Dark Horse has entrusted Wood and Cloonan with not only retelling it but also chronicling the years between Conan and Belit’s first meeting and final adventure. Judging by the first issue, they’re the right team.
The tale begins with Conan fleeing the authorities and finding refuge aboard a trade ship. It turns out he got himself into some trouble with a girl and a tavern (doesn’t that always happen). On the ship he learns that the Captain fears a pirate ship called The Tigress and their captain Belit, the Queen of the Black Coast. Conan on the other cannot wait to meet her.
Brian Wood does not waste a single page in this book. Immediately he establishes Conan as a headstrong youth on the prowl for wine, women, song, and adventure. Nowhere is this more evident then when Conan jumps from the docks onto the ship. Wood also does a good job of developing Belit. While she doesn’t appear until the last page, her presence is felt through the fear of the Captain’s voice.
Wood’s script would not be as effective as it is without the art of Becky Cloonan. Becky draws Conan as an energetic, jovial, youth who loves running into danger. This is conveyed through the body language and facial expressions she gives him throughout the book. The highlight is definitely her depiction of how the Captain’s vision of Belit. Cloonan draws Belit as a pale, vampire-like, dark haired woman with fire in her eyes, blood on her lips, and sadism in her heart. That image alone makes you want to read on until the final page when Conan and Belit’s eyes meet for the first time.
For new, lapsed, or fans of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies (or even the new one with Jason Momoa), Conan the Barbarian #1 is a great introduction to the world of everyone’s favorite Cimmerian. For fans, it’s an opportunity to see a classic re-imagined and expanded upon. Pick it up.