CONAN THE BARBARIAN #25/ Written by BRIAN WOOD/ Art by LEANDRO FERNANDEZ/ Colors by DAVE STEWART/ Letters by RICHARD STARKINGS & COMICRAFT/ Published by DARK HORSE COMICS
The crew of The Tigress and the pirate queen Belit are dead. Only Conan survived their disastrous raid on a lost city full of treasure. But while the barbarian still draws breath, he can hardly be called alive. Indeed, the patrons of the tavern where Conan has taken refuge call him The Ghost Man – not because of his pale skin but because of his dead eyes. Can Conan find the strength to carry on without the love of his life?
The title page of this issue may read “Based on the work of Conan creator Robert E. Howard”–but don’t you believe it! Apart from one bit of verse, everything in this comic comes directly from the mind of Brian Wood. And it is not a worthy addition to the Conan canon.
Howard described Conan as “sullen-eyed…with gigantic melancholies…” As such, it is believable that Conan would become dramatically depressed after losing Belit. It is not believable that Conan should suddenly develop a death wish, fighting all comers in duels to the death.
A more vexing problem lies in the character of Thessy – the tavern keeper who decides to drive Conan from his doldrums. Thessy is written as a “Magical Negro”, having no motivation for helping Conan find his spark again other than not wanting to clean up his corpse. The rest of the people dying there are just fine, however!
Wood’s attempts to make a woman responsible for Conan’s realizing the value of life ring particularly false after all he has done to minimize Belit as a character. Wood’s Belit was less a vicious pirate queen and more a gold-digging opportunist. Wood even denied Belit her finest moment, suggesting that her return from the lands of the dead was a hallucination and not the final act of a strong-willed woman defying Death itself to strike at the monster that threatened her love.
The artwork is equally lackluster. Leandro Fernandez’s Conan looks more like the lean lead-singer of a heavy metal band than a warrior. The rest of the characters are cartoonishly distorted and much of the artwork is over-inked. The one bright spot, literally, is Dave Stewart’s coloring, which uses a largely dull palette save for the brightly colored gems Conan abandons.
In the end, Conan fans would do well to wait for the upcoming Conan The Avenger series.