Current Reviews


Conan #1

Posted: Monday, March 1, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Cary Nord (p), Thomas Yeates (i)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

The Plot:
When a village of defenseless women and children is set upon by a band of thugs, we see a young Cimmerian named Conan arrives to defend the village, and he manages to hold his own until the men of this village return. After a bit of tension, we see the leader of the village welcomes Conan into their village, and invites him to join them as they head out to hunt down the thugs that managed to escape. While Conan accepts the invitation we see not all the men of the village welcome his presence.

The Good:
I do like the fact that we do look to be starting off rather early in Conan's career as it does give the sense that we are starting on the ground floor which is always a welcome feeling when one in coming on to a title that has decades of back-story to draw upon. Now from the interviews leading up to this series release Kurt Busiek made it clear that he would be drawing from the Robert E. Howard's novels rather than the Marvel series, and since I'm familiar with neither, I have to say I simply like starting at the beginning of the story, as there's nothing worse than being caught up in the middle of an established formula, without having received the proper introduction to the book's lead character or the world he operates within. Now this issue does open with a fairly powerful introduction moment as when we first encounter Conan he's saving a young woman from the unwanted attentions of a thug, and he does so in such a manner that there's very little doubt that Conan is here. This is than followed by an equally impressive display where Conan is holding is own against a swarm of attackers, and while I hope he will run up against opponents that will provide a more harrowing combat experience, this encounter does manage to sell the idea that Conan is a force to be reckoned with. I also enjoyed his abrasive attitude, as on has to love his reaction to what he considers to be a rude question, and his comments at the dining table made me smile. There's also a nice little moment where we see Conan is eager to learn, as he latches on to a man that he recognizes can teach him a useful skill.

Cary Nord's work on this series is absolutely beautiful, and it's one of the primary reasons I decided to come on board for these early issues, as his work on the preview issue was enough to convince me that if nothing else Conan's world was going to look fantastic. This issue has several moments capture the intensity that this book needs, as our first look at Conan is a perfect visual to introduce the character to readers. The fight that follows also manages to effectively convey Conan's ability to hold his own in a fight, and the cover image is also worth a mention as the sheer intensity in his eyes is more than enough to convince you he means business, though the blood soaked ground beneath him nicely reinforced this notion. The art also does some strong work when it's called upon to deliver the fabled realms that Conan has left home seeking, as that establishing shot of Hyperborea looks positively magical, and the following page isn't half bad either, with the final panel of the man throwing himself off a cliff being a strangely effective visual. The scene where Conan and the others race after the Vanaheim that attacked their village is also a nice visual to end the issue on.

The Bad:
This issue marks my first really exposure to the world of Conan and I have to say I'm a little disappointed that it looks to be pretty much what I expected it to be. I mean given the steadfast devotion that fans have had over the decades I had just assumed there was more to the character than what one is able to guess at when one takes a look at the cover images and is treated to countless images of Conan hacking and slashing his way through a legion of attackers. Now I might be judging this book to harshly as writing a book off as predictable based on a single issue is downright silly, but I have to confess I had entered the issue expecting to encounter something that would jump out and show me why this character has been around for over three decades in comic book form, and however long before that in Robert E. Howard's novels. I Realize it's a little early in the show to be asking for much in the way of character development, and as far as character introductions go, Conan gets a fairly memorable one in this issue as the first time we see him he's beheading someone. However, by the end of the issue I found myself looking upon the character as little more than a killing machine, who stops occasionally to eat and enjoy the company of the local women, and this is a bit of a disappointment considering this is exactly the same impression the I entered the issue with. Still, I'll stick with this series for a while longer as there's a top notch creative team working on it, and there has to be something more that has earned this character his prominent place in the fantasy genre.

Tall, Dark And Barbaric:
This issue acts as about as good an introduction to the character of Conan that one could expect, though I must confess I entered this issue hoping to discover the elusive quality that has earned this character his impressive fan base, and I left the issue disappointed that I didn't find it. I mean as far as hack and slash fantasy goes, Conan makes for an enjoyable reading experience, as there is some thing refreshing about a character who will freely end the life of someone that the book clearly displays as a lecherous creep. I also had to smile at Conan's comments at the dining table where he basically insults his host, by saying he is so ugly that he was spoiling his appetite. There's also a nice little scene where we see Conan is still young enough that he believes the fables that he was told when he was younger about a magical land in the north where its people are gifted with immortality, and we get enough hints that we know the lands that Conan seeks is not the paradise that he's seeking. There's also a fun little scene where Conan comments on the weighted down feeling that he gets while wearing armor, and I like the idea that he's shown to be eager to learn skills that he recognizes as useful.

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