Conan The Barbarian #14 [The Wood Pile]
Conan The Barbarian #14 (Dark Horse): Brian Wood and Mirko Colak continue “The Woman On The Wall” arc with the award-winning color of Dave Stewart. Conan has basically been conscripted into a Shemite army attacking the fortress Ramah En Ram, and yeah, guess who Conan believes the woman on the wall to be? Belit. It’s a visually stunning issue; I detect some slight stylization like Richard Corben or Frazer Irving in there at times, but for the most part Colak’s style has a lifelike European quality to the art. It’s a robust aesthetic where sound figure work is more important than artificial poses and heroics. The backgrounds are these richly textured masterpieces, full of small memorable details like the way blood stains a blade in the moonlight, a bloody red sun almost drips off the damn page, or the suddenly silent sequence as Conan gets deeper into the fortress. Conan The Barbarian has been yet another Brian Wood book blessed with a stable of incredibly strong artists, some old collaborators, some new finds to my eyes, but I’m prepared to say that Colak is probably my favorite to date. When you imagine a “perfect” look for a Conan book, Colak’s line is essentially what we all imagine in our mind’s eye, so here it is finally realized. Wood is quick to make the point that “a proper siege lasts years” and war, all war, is essentially a war of attrition. It’s full of rich tactics in the dialogue, with talk of “battle calm” as some mysterious insider knowledge, or “the second arrow is in the air even before the first one finds its target,” but ultimately this is centered back on the relationship between Conan and Belit. Last issue, I said that the assault on Ramah En Ram reminded me of the Roman Siege of Masada for some reason. This time, I almost felt like we were getting a riff on the Battle of Helm’s Deep, only from the POV of the attacking force. I’m too lazy to look up which came first, the REH source material or JRRT, but it’s an interesting idea to wonder if one perhaps was inspired by the other. As has been the case in the entire series, I enjoy the characterization of Conan as a badass, but not an uber-competent warrior. Imbuing him with human emotion and making him fallible and beatable at times – possible, though perhaps not probable – has certainly made him a more sympathetic protagonist. Grade A+. Note: By the way, welcome to a new recurring column here at Thirteen Minutes where I review, like, all of the books written by Brian Wood.