Conan the Avenger #2 succeeds in a lot of places where I would have said the first issue failed. Where the first issue felt like it was lagging in a past that I was unfamiliar with, issue 2 took place very much in the present, with the only thing “haunting” Conan being the ghost of his dead love who said nothing and was pretty obviously a ghost of a dead love. If pressed, I’d even say a savvy reader could skip the first issue and jump onto this one, because it was way more fun. In this issue, Conan teams up with the witchfinder from the previous issue to try and find the actual witch, as well as his clothes. Shenanigans ensue, involving zombies, giant iron forges, cowardly fences, and surprisingly, no nude Conan, and eventually Conan and the witchfinder decide they will team up to avenge evil. Conan is also guided through the action in the issue not by his cunning or his prowess as a warrior, but by hints from the ghost of his dead love, which is... sort of cheating? Right?
This issue picks up the pace a whole hell of a lot. Instead of a mopey Conan who’s just wandering around letting things happen to him, we get a Conan who’s active and at least in pursuit of something. He’s not the Cimmerian we know and love, but he’s doing something. He’s got his goddamn sword back and he’s fighting a legion of zombies in the desert. It’s awesome, it’s pulpy, and it’s driven. Van Lente’s story doesn’t particularly feel like it’s going to change the way I think about life, but that was never what pulp fiction was about. Pulp is about reveling in bulky, tattooed dudes with swords fighting each other and saving beautiful women, or about criminals learning the error of their ways the hard way. It’s never been In Search of Lost Time or War and Peace. This comic has the potential to be a damn good time, and this month, it was a better time than last month. As the creative team really gets into it, it should only keep going up.
Brian Ching’s art is growing on me. It’s got a very gritty and angular quality to the linework, like an early Tony Moore, that really suits the aesthetic of a filthy desert town filled with zombies, sorcerers, and disgraced pirates. The coloring sometimes seems a little flat, but maybe that’s just kind of what they’re going for? It doesn’t necessarily make it seem retro, but it also seems like it’s not taking advantage of the modern creature comforts of coloring. As I’ve said many times before, I don’t know how that stuff works, I’m just a simple reviewer.
This issue was a huge jump forward from the last one. It was more fun, it was more propelled and compelling, and it was more read more easily. I don’t know if it was just opening day nerves with issue 1 or what, but after questioning if I’d come back for issue 2, I’m definitely coming back for issue 3.
Writer: Fred Van Lente Artist: Brian Ching Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 5/28/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital