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Conan and the People of the Black Circle Has Good Art, But Not Much Conan

Conan and the People of the Black Circle Has Good Art, But Not Much Conan

Conan and the People of the Black Circle #1

Written by Fred Van Lente

Art by Ariel Olivetti

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Conan the Barbarian (or any of his other suffixes) is one of those literary characters that is surprisingly underappreciated despite popping up in quite a few forms of media. Besides the original literary incarnation, there have been a number of films (none of which have beaten the Schwarzenegger original), console games and a long running and surprisingly good MMO. Comics aren’t a new realm for this muscle bound hero, but Dark Horses’s Conan and the People of the Black Circle is a new story arc brought to life with some superb artwork.ConanBlackCircle

The only real letdown is the dialogue. Whilst many panels are written beautifully and definitely intended for an adult audience, there are some missteps that can be a little jarring. This could be mitigated by being a bit more familiar with the setting. Some of the names of places and factions that will be crucial to the tale are likely to be easily recognisable to those entrenched in the Conan mythos. If you haven’t got much of a grounding in the lore then it does risk becoming slightly jumbled.We are introduced to a tale that doesn’t even feature Conan until the last few pages of the book, instead setting the tone for a story of conspiracy and black magic shenanigans by the Black Seers of Yimsha. The art work is hyper realistic and especially shines in the small details – the colour of straining feverish eyeballs, the detail on leeches and the arrangement of some of the busier scenes all combine for something that is very visually striking. Conan himself, when he does arrive, really looks the part. His entire page entrance stands out as a superb visualisation of the character. Conan as a series has often drawn criticism for some inconsistent artwork but Ariel Olivetti knocks it way out of the park here. This is some top quality work.

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It is Conan’s dialogue that seems most of place though. The phrase ‘by Crom’ appears three times over four pages that aren’t packed with panels, leading towards Conan coming across as repetitive. Similarly, Conan’s entire demeanor and willingness to parlay when it is quite obvious he doesn’t need to requires the reader to suspend disbelief to allow a story element to develop. It is a shame, because the link between Conan and the original events in the story is handled excellently. Running off with a captive like a wild west villain rather than cracking some skulls just doesn’t feel like the barbarian we know and love.


It is only the first issue, but it is a shame to see so little of Conan not being Conan. We are teased with the promise of some action involving Conan towards the end which hopefully heralds a bit more action in the following issue. For now, if forgiven a few weak moments likely inserted to get the story going, ‘Conan and the People of the Black Circle’ certainly has the potential to be a satisfying Conan adventure and if nothing else, it looks incredible.