It's the Barbarian but not as you might know him! Our eponymous hero has had a quite a long history with Dark Horse appearing in more than 100 issues of various Robert E. Howard adaptations and new stories, mini-series and one-shots. In fact, the legendary character has been published in comic book form by one company or another for more than 40 years! This shouldn't come as a surprise as stories of the warrior are as timeless now as they were back in the 30's during its run in Weird Tales magazine.
This much hyped and anticipated adaptation began early this year with the creative team of writer Brian Wood and artist Becky Cloonan who had previously teamed up on indie hits Demo and Channel Zero: Jennie One. Wood, a fan favourite brings a lot of indie-cred to the character that (in some circles) has been seen as quite uninspired, tired and campy. Cloonan has brought a fresh and vibrant look to the book that works really well in comparison to Conan comics of years past.
The comic is scheduled to be a 24-issue long adaptation of Howard's classic short-story "Queen of the Black Coast" which will detail the adventures of Conan as he takes to the seven seas aboard a trade ship called the Argus fighting off may savage pirates and warriors. His adventures lead him to an encounter and eventual romance with the seductive and dangerous queen Bêlit, the leader of a group of pirates. When Bêlit and her crew attack the Argus , a majority of the sailors are slaughtered but Conan is spared a grisly death and becomes romantically entangled with the Queen for better or worse.
This issue picks up a few issues into their tale and is a calm before the storm of sorts. After fierce battles and bloodshed aboard the Argus, this issue's focus is solely on the developing relationship of the pair intermingled with scenes of Conan tearing shit up on land (as he does!). There is a lot of dialogue and romantic interplay and it sounds kind of boring but it really isn't. Wood is a master at anything he writes and I'm personally a big fan of his. Cloonan's art is amazing, extremely dynamic and stylish, just what the Conan series needed. There's a great mix of bright colours and brisk action scenes mixed with a lot of dark space and lush imagery of nature. It's a damn shame she's taking a break from this book for a while and whoever replaces her has big shoes to fill in the meantime.
If you've never been a fan of Conan or the 'Sword and Sorcery' genre, I urge you to check this book out and see if it's your thing and if you're already a sucker for all things Barbarian like myself then what are you doing reading this? Go buy it now!!