Ablaze Publishing 2020
Written by Jean-David Morvan
Illustrated by Pierre Alary
Coloured by Sedyas
Lettered by Dezi Sienty
Robert E. Howard’s Conan first appeared in the pages of pulp magazines in the 1930s. He contributed 17 Conan stories to Weird Tales Magazine from 1932 to 1936. Through these stories we see Robert E. Howard’s savage hero take shape. In Queen of the Black Coast, Conan is pursued for killing a judge, and finds refuge on a merchant ship...but soon after setting sail, the Cimmerian and his new companions face a threat: the legendary Bêlit, self-proclaimed Queen of the black coast! First published in the May 1934 Weird Tales, this Conan classic is a marvelous entry point In this issue, Conan joins up with Belit to brutally pillage and sail the poisonous river Zarkheba, encountering ancient ruins, lost treasure, and vicious, winged monstrosities.
The first issue took me a few to warm up to and by the end I was won over in every single possibly way. So when I saw that this issue was coming out I got excited. I love being excited when I see that a book is coming out, for someone who does what I do and the sheer volume of what I read the fact that I still get genuinely excited about a book is thrilling! Ablaze in general is that new company whose work excites me when I see it announced on the weekly release list. Now that we no longer worry about the Comics Code Authority we do get to see a much closer translation of the work both in wording and visuals which as a much stronger impact upon the reader.
I am a huge fan of the way that this is being told. The story & plot development we see as based upon the short story is amazingly well adapted and how we see the sequence of events unfold and how the reader learns information is presented beautifully. I enjoy seeing how the woman he loves shows her true character throughout the issue as well. The character development we see is phenomenal and it's shown in just the right ways at just the right times so as to peel back layers and it's really a highlight for me. The pacing is superb and as it takes us through the pages revealing the twists and turns along the way it works with everything else to create this dramatic ebb & flow to the book.
I haven't always rather enjoyed Conan, he's been a staple for so long but it wasn't until recently that I really got to be liking him and his adventures more. I suppose we have become so accustomed to them through Marvel and Dark Horse that we forget who he was in the beginning. This should reinvigorate the love and passion folks have for Conan and even spur some new love of the franchise.
I have said before it took me a few to warm up to the style of artwork that we see on the interiors here. At least it was for the people because when we see the scenery, that is utterly breathtaking to behold. The linework is fantastic, the utilisation of the page layouts and how we the way negative space is utilised it sings to the reader and helps us to understand the reaction the characters have. How we see this and the angles and perspective in the panels show this marvellous eye for storytelling. I am also a fan of how we see the backgrounds being utilised here as well and how the work within the composition in the panels to bring us depth perception, oh and the scale!, plus the overall sense of size and scope of the book. The colour work is beautifully rendered. How we see the various hues and tones within the colours utilised to create the shading, highlights and shadow work is very nice to see. I especially like how we see the rock and the carvings in them.
Oh I think the fact that this is a short story and it's told as such is utterly bloody brilliant. No dragging it out for the sake of a trade. When it's told it's told and we move onward towards the next one. I cannot rave about Ablaze enough not just for bringing European creators' to the forefront but for have the chutzpah to do it against what is perceived as the grain. This is some phenomenal storytelling all around.