Review: Conan and the People of the Black Circle #4

The regular Conan monthly title has been real primo fare. It has classic art, superb writing, and awesome adventure. It's Great! So if you build on that success, pull out one of the classic tales from the source and turn it into a four issue mini, it too should be simply smoking...Am I right? Am I? Dark Horse believes so and they have released the Robert E. Howard story of Conan and the People of the Black Circle. They are running with it using the talents of Fred Van Lente for writing the script and Ariel Olivetti for providing the art of this timeless character whose time ran "between the fall of Atlantis and the time of recorded history.” Issue four completes the story that was written by Howard and published in 1934 in Weird Tales magazine.

As for me, after reading it, I am left scratching my head as to its goodness. I decided to read one of the standard monthly issues for comparison and I am scratching my head no more. This particular issue just doesn't measure up to the monthly at all.

I have been trying to pinpoint what it was that I didn't like. Was it the writing? Was it the art? Was it the whole story in general? Are the monthly offerings just too much for a mini to compete with? My answers in order are...Maybe...Maybe...Maybe....And Absolutely. Van Lente tells the story adequately enough as Conan is working toward rescuing a princess from an evil wizard and his minions of doom. Conan stories typically work best when there isn't a whole lot of dialogue as big C always lets his actions do his talking and I felt that the dialogue was a little clumsy at times. And when you add that clumsiness to some of Howard's classic style narration, it just didn't feel right. I think Van Lente gave a good and honest effort to the story and I could follow it, but it didn't blend well as a writing harmony with what was being presented visually.

Conan and the People of the Black Circle #4 CoverWhich brings me to the art.

I simply was not into Olivetti's pictures. They felt rushed to me and shots with more than one person in them almost seemed like stock drawings were put in. Now this isn't for the issue as a whole. Olivetti is a great talent and there are moments that just rock. I particularly like an encounter from an aerial predator at the end. But overall, there just wasn't enough of those moments to win the issue or story over for me. It just wasn't mind blowing, just ok and mediocre which pains me as I love the monthly so much.

If you are die hard into Conan, have the classic John Buscema art hanging up in your man/woman cave and have first prints of Howard's books, then I would buy this issue and place it into the lore and legend. But, if you are a comic fan who digs on original story telling and great art, then I would probably just borrow this one as a so-so tale and stick with the monthly. It is far better.

Score: 3/5

Writer: Fred Van Lente Artist: Ariel Olivetti Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 1/29/14