Conan the Barbarian: Queen of the Black Coast #1
Written by: Brian Wood
Art by: Becky Cloonan
Based on the story by Robert E. Howard
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
I love Conan! It’s such a great character because he’s everything most men want to be- strong, athletic, able to drink like a well travelled sailor and takes a woman like it was the easiest thing in the world to do.
This story follows one of Robert E. Howard’s more acclaimed works, ‘The Queen of the Black Coast’ and it hits the ground running as we’re introduced to our hero from the get go running from trouble. This is a younger version of Conan to other interpretations (like the 90′s cartoon or Arnold Schwarzenegger) and he is brash and full of confidence, Brian Wood interprets REH’s character well, bringing him fully to life as he runs and fights.
Wood, is a perfect fit for this comic as he knows both how to set pacing and use dialogue well. The interaction between Conan and the other characters keeps mostly to the dialogue of the original story (as do the captain boxes) but wood’s script sets a mood and tension whilst still emphasising this Conan’s lust for life and youthful relish as can only be done in a comic.
Tasked with the Herculean job of interpreting, visualising and bringing Robert E. Howard’s creations and world to life is the fantastic artist Becky Cloonan. Cloonan’s art is lively and a perfect fit to show this younger Conan (who can’t be much older than mid twenties). She brings each page to life with her angled panelling and use of detail -including A fantastic shot of just feet landing with a thud, most artists wouldn’t employ that kind of close-up but Cloonan makes it work well to pace the scene when Conan first meets Captain Tito beautifully.
The tone of this book changes from fun to tense and Cloonan employs shadow well to emphasise this contrast when she needs to, assisted by the wonderful pallet of colourist Dave Stewart, scene after scene her pencils shine and her use of facial expressions adds to the atmosphere be it the stern face of the Captain to Conan’s roguish and mischievous youthful smile.
Before reading this comic I read Robert E. Howard’s original prose to do a comparison and it is close! Wood strays very little in this opening issue to the opening half of the first Chapter of Howard’s story and both writer and artist clearly benefited from his ability to craft a picture in words (particularly when you see Cloonan’s interpretation of the stunning Belit).
This story is high fantasy and adventure as was rampant in Howard’s stories and the American pulp stories of the time. It’s fantastic fun and whether I had read the prose story or not I would be anxious to read the next issue and see where it goes next! If you like sword fights, beautiful art and tales on the high seas, get this comic!