Conan and the People of the Black Circle #2 by Fred Van Lente (Comics Review)

With Fred Van Lente set to take on writing duties on Dark Horse’s Conan the Barbarian from current scribe Brian Wood quite soon and Wood himself to pen a Conan crossover series with Gail Simone’s Red Sonja from Dynamite, Conan as a character is definitely at the forefront of the comics medium and the readers equally. Dark Horse’s run on the character has been quite successful to date and it keeps performing strongly and is one of the publisher’s top titles. They added to their roster this mini-series by Van Lente last month and after a strong debut, we are back for a second outing.

The first issue was quite a good one, as I mentioned in my review of it. As a fan of the character, I enjoyed it, and was quite looking forward to the second issue. And it proved quite equal to my expectations. The art felt a little less defined, mostly in the context of the backgrounds, but the story was definitely good, and I’d say that Van Lente really is off to a good start here.

Conan and the People of the Black Circle 02In the previous issue we saw a lot of politicking and backstabbing and murdering from the characters involved. Van Lente introduced a really intriguing mystery and he built up the characters and the story quite nicely, even though Conan himself didn’t feature all that much until the second half. This time around things are a little different and we continue to see how the kingdom of Vendhya is being affected with the death of its king and the relationships between the Wazuli raiders and Conan himself.

First off, there was a little too much narration and the exposition in the issue. Van Lente tells too much and he doesn’t show enough. So there was that imbalance in the story right from the start. The first issue was slightly better at this, even though the difference between the two is quite noticeable. All the same, I kind of liked it as well since it made things rather easy to follow.

Second, there are a lot of things to keep track of here, like names of peoples and tribes and nations and locations, enough that I kind of wanted a glossary by the end of the issue. The People of The Black Circle is not told in the usual locales Conan stories are usually set in, since all the action takes place in the Easterns lands populated by pseudo-Hindus and pseudo-Muslims, so there is a lot of world-building being thrown at the reader. A little less of that would have helped.

However, overall, I enjoyed the story. Conan’s actions have drawn the interest and meddling of the black magician Khemsa, whom we saw in the previous issue, and he makes for a rather creepy villain. He could definitely give Jaffar a run for his money and the latter was definitely no slouch when it came to such things. Quite devious and all; Khemsa almost reminds me of him, Aladdin’s greatest nemesis. Van Lente writes a fairly focused and well-paced story and he ended on a good cliffhanger that I can’t wait to see resolved in next month’s issue.

Ariel Olivetti returns for the second issue as the internal artist. While I enjoyed his artwork on the previous issue, here it feels a little less polished, and there seems to be an over-reliance on what I’d say is computer-generated art (mostly the backgrounds that is). And a lot of the action takes place against a plain white background, so that didn’t help matters all that much. Its like how during a movie shoot involving lots of special effects, the actors do their scenes against a green screen. Here that was the white screen. Again, this wasn’t so much of an issue in the first issue, but here it is. And his characters look far too similar to each other to really stand out, which hurts the overall cohesion of the story and the entire comic itself. But other than that, I really liked the artwork, and there is a lot of things going on that Olivetti does a good job of portraying. Just some things need to be tightened up.

In verdict, a good issue that is not quite as good as the first issue, but is still fairly solid on its own.

Rating: 8/10

More Conan: #1, (Conan the Barbarian Vol.13) #1-3, #4-6.

Posted on November 30, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

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