Conan and the People of the Black Circle #1
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Ariel Olivetti
Letters by Richard Starkings & Comicraft
Cover by Ariel Olivetti
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: October 23, 2013
Cover Price: $3.50
Based on a couple of panels of preview art I saw, I was set to love Conan and the People of the Black Circle #1. Painted! And Ariel Olivetti’s Conan looked like a real badass. I even pulled up my online pull list to put it in this week’s basket.
But then I got my advance reading copy and with each successive page, my initial enthusiasm waned. There’s something just…missing here. It felt flat overall, lacking dynamism and fluidity, with some pages containing only three or four illustrations per. There were some compositional elements that made it seem like the characters weren’t looking/reacting to each other. It also appeared that a profile illo of the evil sorcerer was repurposed three times, and not for dramatic effect.
The story by Fred Van Lente was interesting enough, about par with any hundreds of previous Conan comics, from either of its publishers. It did however, have an unclimactic, soft ending, that had me checking to make sure there wasn’t another page.
Minor quibble, possibly a personal one, but the lettering isn’t as seamlessly integrated within the art as it could/should be. It looks to be of a higher resolution and thus stands out, almost appearing to hover over the art. It’s most noticeable in painted comics, and I wish there was an editorial desire to refine this technique.
I’ll admit that I’ve really not come across much to compare to the best of Marvel’s Conan run. And I’ll own up to being a curmudgeon as well, and possibly clinging to the past. It’s just that none of the Dark Horse Conan stuff I’ve picked up has ever grabbed me. I still have a pile of various Dark Horse Conan (and Kull) comics waiting to be read. I did collect the current Conan the Barbarian series for the first ten or so issues, largely based on the interesting interpretation by artist Becky Cloonan. But she left too early, and by her second replacement, my interest had waned. Consistent creative teams are essential to the success of new books, in my opinion.
But what to do now, with Conan and the People of the Black Circle? Although I noted that something was missing, I also feel that there’s also something to this, as well. I can’t quite put my finger on it, and for that I apologize. I think there’s *just enough* that works. I’ll make sure to check out the next issue to see if it really begins to click for me. If and when that happens, I’ll add it to my pull list — hey, $3.50 is $3.50.