4.11.12 Reviews (Dark Horse Edition)

Conan #3 (Dark Horse): I like the way this book opens because it puts some context around the direction Brian Wood might be aiming for with this series. It’s as if he’s taken the identity theme in his work to the extreme, here examining what makes people who they are at the very core of their being, and looking at how that affects the way they relate to the world around them. I used that word “extreme” deliberately because this also feels like an exercise in intensity, be it the intensity of identity, violence, or even sexuality. This issue is as intensely passionate as the brutal lightning quick action of last issue. Lines like “with this fair skinned young tiger cat” are dripping with lust, just ripe with passion, and Becky Cloonan is right there matching the tone with her art. Notice how she zooms the camera in a little too close during the sex scene with Belit, just close enough to emphasize the claustrophobia, the intense sexuality, the frenetic all encompassing nature of an intense soulful fuck. Pardon my French. But it's true. And then… there’s that full page that allows you to catch your breath and punctuates the whole experience. She’s exhibiting so much control over the page, your eye movement, your reactions to the art, it’s all very masterful. There are so many parts to like about this book. I really liked N’Gora and they way he and Conan quickly earn each other’s respect, the way that they’re storytellers in their own right, it just feels very rich. It’s immediately convincing why the crew would have such fanatical devotion, almost religious devotion, to her, and to the very freedom she provides, though I’m sure all the gold and silver helps too. There are the small motion lines and emotive eyes in Becky’s art, how she’s able to move beyond basic storytelling mechanics, to infuse her art with style now. There are Dave Stewart’s “best in the business” colors. There is the idea that Conan, as the sole survivor of the Argos, is just that – a survivor. If you’re reading The Massive too, Wood’s fascination with the sea seems to permeate this arc of his career. It’s really got it all, a fresh introspective take on the character, one on the precipice of change in his life, along with ravaging action and fiery romance, what’s not to like? Grade A.

Alabaster: Wolves #1 (Dark Horse): The best thing about this book is the cover. The contents are merely good, but that cover is great. Greg Ruth? Wow. Man, I haven’t seen him since, what was that book, Freaks of The Heartland? He’s kinda’ from that Jason Shawn Alexander school of painterly comics, yeah? Anyway. The protagonist here is Dancy Flammarion, which I’m told is a character from Caitlin Kiernan’s novels, which I have not read. I remember liking Kiernan’s writing back when she was helping Neil Gaiman flesh out The Dreaming, or one of those other peripheral Sandman titles. While her writing is definitely a cut above most of the stuff I see on the stands, I also feel as if maybe she’s a little too influenced by Mr. Gaiman? The bird sidekick here comes off like Matthew The Raven quipping to Lord Morpheus or Merv Pumpkinhead. The riddle duel smacks a little of that time Dream has to retrieve one of his power trinkets from a demon and he wins that 8 Mile style word battle with “I am hope.” At the core, I think there’s an interesting premise to be had here, examining if Darcy’s mission is truly Divine Right, or if she’s just found a justification for her sinful actions. That’s got some potential. But, this issue, largely set-up I know, was basically an extended verbal dance between “Snow White” and “Werewolf” that skewed very close to being a purely expositional conceit. Let’s talk visuals. I think Steve Lieber started strong and finished on the weak side. Up front, there’s a nice establishment of mood, the opposing forces of dark and light (thanks to rising star Rachelle Rosenberg on colors), and the art really does pulse with energy. During the transformation sequences, I think it fell apart. It got more sketchy and rushed looking, the action felt choppy, and the figures just didn’t move or flow smoothly on the page. It pushed me out. Overall, I’m intrigued, but not enough to come back for more $3.50 installments. This is one of those collected editions that I would be really happy to find in a 50% off bin at a con some day. I’m not saying that to be mean-spirited, but in earnest. Grade B.


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