ADVANCE REVIEW! Conan: Island of No Return #2 will come out on July 27, 2011.
The last issue of Ron Marz and Bart Sears’s mercifully short Conan: Island of No Return is actually a slight improvement over the first issue. The focus on the story, and there is less of the “I’d tap that ass” cheesy banter and ’90s style balloon-bod bikini girls. Not that the series is redeemed. Marz and Sears have little grasp of the Conan character, and instead of a nuanced piece of fantasy they produced the juvenile drek that so many people seem to think represents Conan.
The story picks up with Captain Kozaki leading his men into the island in search of its fabled treasure (What’s up with that name by the way? The Kozaki are the freeman mercenaries Conan lead. This guy isn’t related to the Kozaki at all, another sign that Marz and Spears don’t know Conan.) Thanks to a clever ruse, they are turned away, leaving Conan, Venya and Brenka to loot the place and make their getaway.
Here’s a spoiler for you: Venya and Brenke betray Conan. Didn’t see that one coming did you? Maybe that’s because Marz gave them all the characterization of Snidely Whiplash, rubbing their hands together and twirling their mustaches in anticipation of using and discarding Conan. I know that Conan is a sucker for a pretty face from time to time, and isn’t above putting his trust in the wrong place, but these two gals make him into a patsy, and like so much in this series that just doesn’t fly.
A word to writers: Conan is not stupid. Conan opens up a big door with an engraved octopus-monster on it, then finds a lake with a massive treasure isle in the middle, Conan doesn’t just shout “Yay! Gold!” then wander blindly into the lake. He would pretty much expect the treasure to be guarded by the sam octopus-monster engraved on the door. He would sense the danger. He would be cautious.
There should be a law that any writer who wants to write a Conan comic should have to read a considerable chunk of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Not Robert Jordan’s Conan. Not L. Sprague DeCamp’s. The original, unedited Howard stories. Because then they would have a better chance of actually having Conan show up in the comic, not a muscle-bound, overly-violent oaf like we get in Conan: Island of No Return.
Bart Sears still does a decent job on the art, although his Conan has a huge, HUGE body and tiny little head. I know that pounds of muscle is kind of Sears’ thing, and Conan is a big guy, but this Conan boarders on parody. And I don’t know if it is inker Randy Elliot’s fault or not, but all the lines just seem to be angular blocks of black with no variation. The backgrounds are still the best drawn bits in the series, and there are some nice little touches in the island temple. But nothing every goes above mediocre.
In the letters page, it says that Conan: Island of No Return was a fill-in series to allow the main Conan: The Road of Kings to catch-up and get back on schedule. I don’t know if the two-issue series was done as a rush-job by necessity, or if Marz and Spears were just the wrong people for the job. Either way, it is a series best avoided by Conan fans.