Queen of the Black Coast is the opening arc of the new Conan the Barbarian ongoing series written by Brian Wood and drawn by Becky Cloonan. Even though it comprises the first 6 issues of that book it was compiled into volume 13 of the current trade paperback run. In the long run, this might make it confusing for new readers who want to go in and pick up the new series in trade and not knowing it is volume 13. Though I personally don’t mind as I have the previous volumes, I would not want to start off a collection on my shelf from the thirteenth volume onwards.
In this volume, Conan is still young and fairly new to cities and it is in Argos, or more particularly on the run from Argos, where Conan has his first meeting with Belit, pirate queen of the Black Coast. Though they start off as enemies, Conan and Belit end up in a torrid relationship both passionate and violent. The passion which lies between the two and the violence towards any who get in their way is portrayed superbly.
This is probably one of the better Conan books to come out in quite some time. The story is very straightforward, no twists, no turns and nothing out of the ordinary. Brian Wood though takes the story with Becky Cloonan on art and turns it into something quite extraordinary. Unlike many previous volumes, the story’s pacing is exceptional. It took less than an hour to read mainly because it was so well written and it kept you hooked, kind of like a good car chase or a grandiose battle. Most people when they read something tend to skip or skim through long verbose passages in comics, making the experience one that is not as fulfilling where this book makes you want to read every single word. The beautiful artwork didn’t hurt either. Cloonan’s Conan looks younger and more agile. Her Belit is gorgeous and beguiling. Every character is distinct and unique, the cityscapes are detailed and wondrous, the ships, horses, battle scenes and everything else is drawn to perfection.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. Again, it is the best Conan to be published in a long time. The other titles Dark Horse has been putting out have been good, but this one is excellent. Cloonan and Wood are a magical team, not just represented here but also in Demo. And if you haven’t read Demo, do yourself a favour and pick up that book as well. If you need something to read, Queen of the Black Coast is the book for you. Hopefully further volumes will be coming out for a long time to come from Wood, Cloonan and Dark Horse.
5 out of 5