Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Review - Conan the Avenger #1

"I'm not unarmed. You brought me a sword."

Conan the Barbarian is a legendary warrior with a penchant for fighting his way out of tough situations. Those situations are usually rife with weapons, blood and violence. Every now and again, strange aspects of magic are thrown in for good measure, as they are in Conan the Avenger #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Fred Van Lente, illustrated by Brian Ching, colored by Michael Atiyeh and lettered by Richard Starkings.

The opening of the issue features a somewhat tribal village with a chief overseeing a woman giving birth to a lizard baby. The beast quickly dies, however the act sets the stage for some rather strange witchcraft to take in. Meanwhile, Conan is drunk Shumballa, with little knowledge as to where he's going. It doesn't help that he's still hurting from the loss of his love BĂȘlit the pirate queen, which makes his current predicament slightly more difficult than it probably should be.

"Shadows Over Kush" is a very involved story that is steeped in Conan lore, despite being pitched as a story where new readers can jump on. Van Lente does a good job capturing the essence of Conan, a character who taps into a savage brutality when necessary, but also relies on sheer perseverance when faced with adversity. The thing is that the remainder of the issue feels a little muddled. There's a lot happening in terms of characters and actions, but it feels a little confusing at times. Half the issue focuses on Conan's state and capabilities, while the second half focuses on the strange things happening around him. It's sort of an odd pacing that makes the book feel slower than it actually ends up.

Ching's illustrations are pretty well done and rely on a disguised complexity in the character illustrations. Conan actually looks slightly thin in appearance; he still has some muscular definition, yet doesn't look tremendously overpowering. The thing is, Ching still manages to make the character extremely efficient and effective in his fighting, even if he's not the biggest guy around in the book. It reflects a fierceness in Conan and his appearance fits in well with the characters around him. Ching's focus on the action also gives the reader a good sense in terms of what's happening, as Conan looks just as comfortable escaping a prison as he does slashing opponents.

Conan the Avenger #1 is an interesting book. It's sort of a reboot of Conan of sorts, presenting him in something of a stripped down state. Having said that, it's not overly welcoming to new readers in some ways, as it doesn't really give the reader much context for what's going on. That's not a knock on Van Lente, as he provides very solid dialogue that effectively carries the action, even if the pacing of the book feels a little awkward. Ching's illustrations stand out and make Conan feel every bit the champion he is, even if he doesn't look like a massive bodybuilder. Conan the Avenger #1 is a book that Conan fans will definitely want to check out, but may be a little intense for new readers.

Conan the Avenger #1 is in stores now with interiors below.


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