Conan and The People of The Black Circle #3 (Comics Review)

With this issue, writer Fred Van Lente and artist Ariel Olivetti move into the second half of their 4-issue mini-series with Conan, an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Conan creator Robert E. Howard. This is all a warm-up for Van Lente since he is taking over on Dark Horse’s Conan the Barbarian from Brian Wood in a couple months or so and it gives a taste for what we can expect from the writer on that series, the premier Conan series being published right now. I’ve read the first two issues already and have found them to be quite decent in all.

The third issue isn’t like them so much. It is largely similar to the previous two issues but there are quite a few missteps made along the way, both in terms of the story and the art. The problems are with how the characters are presented and the lack of definition in the backgrounds, which seem interchangeable from one page to the another. The latter has been a growing problem in the series and it peaks in this issue, which made for some disappointing read.

Conan and the People of the Black Circle 03Let’s start with the cover, shall we? The previous two issues have had covers that represented the events of the story within the respective issues. Not so with this one. There are no snake monsters in this issue and neither does Conan go all berserk in the story. I don’t know why that is since we’ve seen otherwise so far and this rankles a bit, to be misled so with respect to what you can find inside the issue.

The most problematic part of the issue, narrative-wise, is that events happen and there is no direction to them. We move from one to the other in an extremely writer-dictated plot-driven manner and there is no backstory behind any of it. Things just happen and what we end up with is a very disappointing story. In general I’ve liked how Van Lente portrayed his characters, especially Khemsa the black magician, but Yasmina and Conan in this issue were less than acceptable. There was nothing in the issue that says that I should care about these characters on any level. Conan was particularly lecherous in this issue and I found that to be an even more of a disconnect. Hopefully this will not extend to Van Lente’s run on Conan the Barbarian.

What I really found confusing however was that we still don’t know what the big game is. The Black Seers of Yimsha have been hinted at as being the big bads but considering that we see extremely little of them, they don’t come across as credible threats at all. Rather, they are generic big bad villains with no rhyme or reason as to why they are so bad. They show up here and they seemed thrown in just for the value of the twist that they bring, rather than actually furthering the plot in any way.

And the dialogue from one of the Black Seers is very cliche and uninspiring as well. It falls in the same range as a Saturday morning cartoon villain who explains away everything about himself and reveals all his plans to the heroes. Tough to get behind a character like that.

Still, the story isn’t all too bad. The team-up between Conan and Kerim Shah was very interesting and is even very promising, especially their joint assault on the Black Seers of Yimsha, which was handled rather well and with some typical swords and sorcery genre.

Like I said earlier, the art was disappointing. As with before but more extreme this time, Olivetti’s use of white-screen backgrounds was very irritating. There is one particular panel early on in which we see a scene and then the immediately next strips out the entire background, leaving just the rock that Conan is sitting on and the small body of water that is before him. It is one of Olivetti’s weirdest scenes in the entire series so far. The major reason why this is a problem is that it means there is no perspective to these scenes and the characters are pretty much just floating in the air. And Olivetti’s characters seemed extremely wooden this time. There is a very distinct lack of definition to their faces. I have to say that the artwork was definitely a major negative point for the issue.

Overall, I’ll be back for the fourth issue next month but I don’t have high expectations for it at all.

Rating: 5/10

More Conan: #1, #2 (Conan the Barbarian Vol.13) #1-3, #4-6.

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Posted on December 14, 2013, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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