Review: Conan The Barbarian #19

Written by Guest Contributor: Jordan North Conan is just… disjointed. Things don’t tie together or have any bearing on one another really. The stories jump randomly and don’t seem to care about any continuity or greater narrative. Even the characters are inconsistent and seem to be written around the situations they’re in rather than as actual characters. In this issue, Conan, who seemingly fights against oppression and evil where he finds it boards a boat, laughs at a man’s faith and then kills and leaves the crew for dead.

This is a huge departure from what we’ve seen the character do in the past and the fact that the lead, who the damn book is named after, I know no better than when I started reading is a testament to how bad the writing is. I don’t know, because Brain Wood doesn’t know. The sword and sorcery climate is exciting and after a couple of issues you still like the series but after a few, you begin to realize how scatter-brained and dare I say pointless everything seems. Nothing has any consequence, plots exist for novelty and our main characters have so few stable traits as to not feel like characters at all.

Conan #19 CoverHow am I supposed to root for Conan and Belit who, as the book keeps on telling me, are these romantic star-crossed lovers when both of them are kind of assholes? Eh. This issue starts part one of Black Stones, another slightly supernaturally tinged storyline that feels like another filter thrown over a “let’s give Conan a reason to kill people” type plot. It’s stale admittedly but if I turn off my brain completely I’m able to enjoy it on the basis of simple mystery and intrigue, even though it’s hard to care.

Honestly it’s mostly Paul Azaceta’s artwork that keeps me around. Every life Conan claims is a joy to behold, his bold line work and a great understanding of how action is supposed to look and simple but effective face work really holds this thing up. Character design is also top-notch as everyone who appears in a panel, even small parts, have a look all their own. Unfortunately it’s hard to hold up anything all on your own. I hope his abilities with a pencil get some attention and some day he can get on a book on par with what kind of stuff he can turn out. Dave Stewart also does a brilliant job on colors making just the right things stand out at just the right time.

Conan is sinking. It’s not horrific but damn is it vanilla. I read it and, outside of the art I just can’t think of many reasons to come back. The novelty of a jacked guy with a broadsword is a powerful thing, but all charms have their limits.

Score: 2/5

Writer: Brian Wood

Artist: Paul Azaceta

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Price: $3.50

Release Date: 8/21/13