'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Corrupt Cliffs

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Age of Conan: Issue #1 (2019): Bêlit. "The Lost Verses"

This is the third of three new titles bearing our Cimmerian Hero's name from Marvel! Things are different this time though, even though it has Conan's name on it, it centers around other characters from his world. We start with the first woman to really capture Conan's heart: Bêlit, Queen of the Black Coast. If you are new to Conan, be sure to check out the original story featuring this savage lady, Queen of the Black Coast. So without further pre-amble I give you Marvel's Age of Conan: Bêlit.

First the people who made this issue possible, the writers, artists and letterers.
Cover: Sana Takeda
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Kate Niemczyk
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VCs Travis Lanham
I suspect this issue will be not well liked by many, but I am willing to see where the story goes.

I generally liked the cover, it gives an air of regal sureness to Bêlit that I think fits her character, but I do think it lacks a little of the savage edge I think she should have. Sana Takeda has a fairly distinctive style I would describe as beautiful ethereal and flowery, and this cover is no exception to this.

The story, in this issue, is simple enough, and lays the ground work for Bêlit to start down the road to become Queen of the Black Coast. It is not twisty and as near as I can tell isn't setting up some massive twist. It is direct, but it is setting up to develop Bêlit into the woman she becomes. With all that being said, I don't think it is the story I would have told, but then I am not sure what story I would tell for Bêlit, which I think will be the problem. This will not be the story any of you had for her either, even if you don't know what that is. Her origins were secretive and mysterious. Tini Howard has her work cut out for her here. Telling the story of one of Robert E Howard's more iconic women of the Hyborian Age is not a task I am jealous of.

Art wise, I found the issue to be well enough executed, but come across clean. It is bright and the lines are straight for the most part. This is not universally true, but it was enough that it was the main impression I took away. It would be cool if as the story progressed the art was to change and become more and more harsh as Bêlit moves closer to becoming the Pirate Queen. For now I find Kate Niemczyk's style to be a little off the mark here, which isn't to say I dislike her art, she has done some cool stuff and you should check out her work. I just don't think it is fitting perfectly for the Hyborian Age tale. I have one striking exception to this. The last panel is, in my opinion, excellent in execution and style. The coloring of Jason Keith supports the art style in that it remains pretty bright for the most part.

The last thing we need to talk about is the sword and sorcery elements of this. This isn't as strongly tropy as say the first issue of Conan the Barbarian, where we have, "Conan Fight. Conan Capture. Conan Fight Wizard.". Even without those heavy tropes the story has most the elements we need to see a S&S tale. Although again I prefer my tales to be a little heavier on the conflict side.

Alright so those are my thoughts, lets see how many skulls I think this all breaks down to.




Sword & Sorcery:

I have landed on 4 out of 5 skulls here, I have a few minor issues with things, but mostly they deal with things not fitting exactly, or not being done how I would do them. None of that make this bad per say. I am also hopeful this book may attract a slightly new demographic to Conan's world that has traditionally stayed away due to the influence both real and imagined of certain less than savory individuals. So go grab your copy of Age of Conan: Bêlit, grab your favorite wine and give it a read. I am sure I will see you all on the Internet to discuss thoughts on this issue in more detail there.

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1 comment:

  1. I felt the issue was mostly so-so. Belit seems to care more about fighting sea monsters than she is about getting revenge for her father. Are you going to review the others?