REVIEW: Conan the Barbarian #13

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A force masses at the walls of fortress Ramah En Ram. As the men look toward the rising sun they see a pale ghost of a figure floating across the ramparts—a wounded and recovering Belit. Conan, separated from his ship, his crew and his love, knows but one thing: This siege must end before he can attempt to reunite with his love.

ConanTheBarbarian13CONAN THE BARBARIAN #13
WRITER
: BRIAN WOOD
ARTIST: MIRKO COLAK
COLOR: DAVE STEWART
LETTERS: RICHARD STARKINGS & COMICRAFT
EDITOR: DAVE MARSHALL
PUBLISHER: DARK HORSE
COVER PRICE: $3.99

PREVIOUSLY IN CONAN:  Belit’s miscarriage has caused a rift between her and her Cimmerian consort. She sets off to heal her anguish, but Conan is unwilling to let their relationship taper off.

HY-BORE-IAN

This was a plodding read. The story was interesting and the characters were, as usual, well developed and there’s never an indication the writer doesn’t know where the story’s going. The problem, though, is the most criminal of compositional crimes—most of the issue is an egregious violation of the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule. Panel after panel contain endless descriptions of events, settings and character motivations that should have been handled in ways more elegant and engaging. I realize this is a device attempting to recapture the feeling of Mako’s narration in the film, but it fell short.

Most of the book is framed as a flashback with Conan recalling how his crew came to this island, he set off after Belit when she left and ended up conscripted in a siege force. Less narration would have been beneficial, as it would have let the excellent art show the story rather than asking us to read paragraphs and paragraphs describing the thing we’re looking at.

HEARTSTRINGS TUGGED

I typically pride myself on being a big, strong man who doesn’t let foolish things like emotions cloud my critical thinking, but this issue found my Achilles’ Heel. There’s a heartbreaking sequence on the island where Conan is hunting a deer. Instead of a stag he ends up killing a doe. The depiction of the killing blow is terrible enough, but then the book goes on to tug even more at the heartstrings by showing the doe’s pitiful, frightened—and now orphaned—fawns. The emotional reaction this late-stage sequence generated was enough to make me reevaluate my opinion of the work. But it might just be my hormones talking.

Beyond this stand-out series of panels, the issue’s overall art maintains the quality we’ve come to expect from the title—strong, clear lines and details that, while not Spartan, are definitely sparse and say with forceful brevity: “This is a barbarian’s story.”

BOTTOM LINE: POWER THROUGH IT IF YOU LOVE CONAN

I like this title, so I’ll give it a pass for this minor disappointment. It’s leading into a new story, so there’re bound to be some obstacles to telling the Platonic Ideal of a rousing adventure tale when you have to spend time setting up a new milieu. I’d rate this issue as last among equals in a series of overall great stories, but I expect the next issue to be leagues improved. 3 stars.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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