Conan the Avenger is brought to us by Fred Van Lente and Brian Ching. This chapter of Conan opens with a new story, picking up after the events of the Queen of the Black Coast Saga. Right away, there is a difference in pace and tone from the last arc – this story is faster, with lots of action. Every first issue needs a great cover, and Brian Ching delivers here: you have Conan, covered in tattoos, being swarmed by giant bugs, with a portrait of Belit in the back ground as if she is driving him deeper into danger. This cover promises a lot of action, and Fred Van Lente and Brian Ching follow through with a first rate Conan story. The opening arc finds a young Conan on his own, moving from battle to battle, drinking away his memory of the Black Queen, Belit. He then runs into the things he hates most: witches and magic, people interrupting him while he drowns his pain in drink, and people taking advantage of him to steal his stuff.
The art in this issue is well-paced and seems like a nod to the classic Conan stories. The way the backgrounds are colored and detailed really make it feel like you’re reading something from the pages of “The Savage Sword of Conan”. Fred Van Lente matches this tone with a story that moves quickly and sets up the bigger picture of this arc. This is a younger Conan, the man before he becomes king – he is confident and arrogant, but he can back it up with his sword.
As with any classic Conan story, our protagonist tends to get into a little trouble here and there. The pacing of the action sequence works well with the quick and brutal combat it depicts. In each panel, Brian Ching shows a striking amount of action without cluttering the scene with unneeded detail; there are lots of big sweeping movements cut short with acts of brutality. The dialog keeps up with the action, and Fred Van Lente’s younger Conan is snarky, almost laughing in the faces of some slavers surrounding him while he has nothing but his loin cloth on.
I often worry when a book changes over to a new creative team that it won’t preserve what I love about a series, but Fred Van Lente and Brian Ching deliver a great opening Conan story. It’s got everything I love about Conan, with the promise of more to come. I’m definitely checking out the rest of this arc if only to see what happens to Conan’s boots.