"Conan the Barbarian" #3 wraps up the first act of this seafaring tale with Conan's former allies dead and the mistress behind their demise asking him to join her. It's a tough spot, especially when this mistress is drawn by Becky Cloonan. This issue is a turning point where we can truly isolate Conan's character, what he stands for and what we can expect from him.
Conan isn't a hero. It says it right there in the title, he is a barbarian. Such a label alone automatically paints him as not automatically being a nice guy. Powerful? Yes. Pragmatic? Absolutely. A good person deep down? Not necessarily. Conan lives and kills with honor. One might expect him to make the larger noble decision with the choice presented to him but they will be let down. Conan at his best assesses a situation and ultimately does what is best for him. He also lives with passion and Bêlit stirs things in him he is excited to explore. This is the moment where the true Conan appears. The possibility of sailing with an army beneath him is a very tempting offer.
Brian Wood writes this comic in a very unique style. He is staying true to the source material and this tone is markedly different from the usual captions of today's comics. To meld the two, Wood does what he can do with text and tone best: he tempers it with the pacing only a comic can afford. Prose rolls on across a page, but in a comic it has panels to break it up. Wood holds moments over so the beats happen with his control. This methodical and deliberate process adds a certain theatrical slant to the words making what is already heavy text feel even mightier.
There is a sex scene in this comic and it works for the tone of the book, the narrative of the tale and the progression of the character. The major lure of Bêlit is the passion she inspires in her new Cimmerian friend. The moment is tasteful and enchanting. Titillation is not used instead of storytelling. There is rhyme and reason for this scene and it plays out very well. It is also simply gorgeous to look at, which is always appreciated.
Becky Cloonan shows she is the perfect collaborator for this title. In this issue, she details and makes us believe in the heart of three very crucial interactions. The conversations and human emotions are so effortlessly conveyed and we believe each person and their unique stance and viewpoint. Cloonan is bringing this world to life. We then have Dave Stewart sweeping through and making sure every corner of this world feels authentic and yet still mystically memorable with his color choices.
"Conan the Barbarian" #3 is the end of the hook for this tale. One of the final pages offers glimpses to things looming on the horizon -- and what a superbly glorious page it is. Conan could be making the greatest mistake of his career or this might be the ultimate journey for him. By the end of this issue, you perfectly know these characters and how they will interact in this landscape. You are as much a captive of Bêlit's as Conan is and neither of you would have it any other way.