Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan have a busy week; Wood wrote "The Massive" #3, Cloonan drew "Batman" #12 and the pair of them together created "Conan the Barbarian" #7. It says a lot that readers have ended up with three strong books from these two creators this week, all worthy of one's attention.
With "Conan the Barbarian" #7, Wood and Cloonan take Conan and his love Bêlit back to Conan's home village in Cimmeria. Any sort of story involving Conan returning home has the potential to be noteworthy. What makes "Conan the Barbarian" #7 work, though, is that Wood has Conan see his town through the eyes of an outsider. As Bêlit is teased, taunted and treated with scorn, it's in many ways a reversal to the treatment that Conan's received in the rest of the world. Cimmeria should be a refuge from the rest of the world for Conan, and without laying it on thickly, Wood's quietly turned the table.
This set-up wouldn't work half as well if it wasn't for Bêlit herself, who in just seven issues has come across as an extremely proud, strong and capable partner for Conan. I've enjoyed her presence in "Conan the Barbarian" and seeing her suddenly dropped from a feared person to a second-class citizen is hard to watch. Wood brings Bêlit's frustration to life well here; even when she overreacts to a perceived slight, it's in a way that makes you empathize with her rather than think badly of the character.
Cloonan returns for "Conan the Barbarian" #7 and it makes me more fond than ever of her art. Every character is drawn wonderfully here, and I'm not just talking about Conan and Bêlit. Conan's mother, for instance, might be an older woman but you almost instantly perceive her great strength and self-assured nature. Her stony expression when she first lays eyes on Conan and Bêlit is hard to meet for long and her glancing back over her shoulder to verbally crush Bêlit two panels later is expertly played. Cloonan tackles the scenery well, too; everything from snowy landscapes to a burning countryside as barbarians attack. As much as I like artist Vasilis Lolos (who takes over next month), there's no denying the high value of having art like Cloonan's on "Conan the Barbarian." She's able to sell just about every scene here perfectly.
"Conan the Barbarian" #7 is a firm reminder that strong creators can make any and every character worth reading. If you've never read a Conan story, this current series is a great place to start. Wood and Cloonan have turned out some comics that grabbed my attention in seconds, and "Conan the Barbarian" #7 is no exception to that rule. Definitely check it out.