After reading Dark Horse’s latest volume in the comic book exploits of Conan, I say this as a fan of Robert E. Howard and his Cimmerian: it’s about time. Writer Brian Wood, artists Becky Cloonan and James Harren, and lauded colorist Dave Stewart take Conan in a stylistically new direction in their adaptation of Queen of the Black Coast. Before purists cry “Crom!” and have at me, let me quickly say that there are countless volumes in Dark Horse’s library where Conan is traditionally represented as a hulking warrior with an unfortunate haircut. Hey, he has far more pressing blades to worry about than those that cleave his black locks. These timeless adventures will always be there, but it’s here that Dark Horse takes a chance at establishing a fresh starting point for new fans--and it works.
Very early on, there is a double-page spread by Cloonan, where Conan escapes on horseback only to look over his shoulder to give his pursuers a sly smile--a make-it-or-break-it moment for longtime fans. It’s a knowing look, a contemporary awareness that Conan has heretofore lacked. Readers will likely cheer, however, as he leaps onto a nearby ship and immediately takes command of the vessel based not only on the edge of his blade but the sharpness of his tongue.