Review: Conan The Barbarian #16

Written by Guest Contributor: Jordan North Conan was exactly what I expected, and also not.

On one hand it is the story of a big, shirtless guy with a broadsword and an attitude that I had hoped it would be (not like that). There are kings and queens and secrets; men get shived and wars get waged and all the women –permitting they aren’t evil or witches or something-- are unbelievably beautiful.

It feels like an adventure story plain and simple, and for that I am happy. Superheroes are brilliant, I love them and they will always be my favorites of this zany medium in which you and I partake, but sometimes you have to spend some time with a Robinson Crusoe or a Robin Hood. A “real” man doing potentially real things. Reading a character like Conan I’m taken back to grade school summers spent in and around the local conifers reading adventure stories like these and it’s a good feeling. One that’s nice to have at all let alone getting to have it while working and in a form of storytelling I hold so dear.

On the other hand Conan is a tiny bit dry and as far as comic books go and it sits around an average quality. Things happen and are resolved quickly, characterization only goes “X” amount deep and the ideas presented are true, but tried. That said, Conan does all this well, with its own voice and is pretty to match.

Conan the Barbarian #16 CoverIssue 16 breaks the formula by taking us and our star-crossed runaway lovers on a well-earned vacation. They travel across the sea and into a literal drug trip and give us front row seats to watch Conan and his impossibly sexy girl deal with it, for better or for worse. It’s an interesting idea that lets us see into the mind of our stoic and often hard to read hero and also dips into the fantastic and mystical while it’s at it. I was refreshed and intrigued to see things like Conan talking to a zombie or Conan fighting a bear-god. All in all this was a standout issue that is worth picking up.

The writing is fine and well, but here it is art by Davide Gianfelice that really stands out. A thick lined, Mike Mignola-esc style that feels right at home next to the meat and potatoes for a new age sensibilities of the comic. Gianfelice also does great work with framing and angles and lends a strange almost boyish feel to some of Conan’s movements that I really like.

While not groundbreaking these stories have been giving me something that I don’t often get in comics-- a pure adventure story that feels like kids could have been reading it a century ago on a porch while their fathers were out hunting, just as easily as by a young guy today waiting for a bus in L.A-- this comic is worth a read.

Score: 4/5

Writer: Brian Wood Artist:  Davide Gianfelice Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 5/15/13