Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 12.12.2012 – Conan the Barbarian #11

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.4
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 1.8%
Users who pulled this comic:
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Declan Shalvey
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Cover Artist: Massimo Carnevale

Size: 32 pages
Price: 3.50

This latest run of Conan the Barbarian is all about skill, and taking the time to do things well, and it’s as simple as that. It turns out that Brian Wood is a perfect fit at Dark Horse, because he just does his job, and does it well, much like the folks working on B.P.R.D.. I’d never have thought that when I started reading this title back at #1, I’d still be on it. I thought, “hey this is pretty fun, and I’ll read it for a little while,” but I’m straight up hooked.

There’s a lot to like if you know what you’re looking for, but the smartest thing Brian Wood ever did on Conan was hook up with a wonderful team of artists, and let them do what they do. From Becky Cloonan to James Harren to the current artist, Declan Shalvey, they just picked the right people, and gave them the right material. It’s elementary from there. Shalvey and Wood worked together on the final arc of Northlanders, another book I didn’t expect to like as much as I did. In a way, this is almost a continuation of that run, or at least it feels like it. Declan Shalvey is, to me a pure comic book artist. He’s doing exactly what needs to be done on a page, and any writer would be thrilled to work with him, because he’s going to make your story better. Plus, with is rough hewn style, he’s perfect for this more primitive world that has no clean edges, or manufactured sheen. When you get to the action scenes, of men brawling with blades, and there are no words to distract, that’s when we see the work shine. The fights are choreographed and clear. We know who the people are, and we know what things are happening and why. It sounds simple, but there’s a reason these guys are called artists.

Speaking of artists, it’s getting harder and hard to find unique ways to say good things about Dave Stewart. I imagine that if you’re a comic book professional, and you hear that Dave Stewart is on a project you’re working on, you just breathe a sigh of relief. He’s going to do the job, and he’s going to do it literally better than anyone else. In this issue, the crew of Conan’s ship is stricken with a mysterious fever, and as a result the whole issue is bathed in a subtle, dull pallor, where the world has very little light, or even color, for that matter. It’s like being in a hospital in the middle of the night. It’s grim. That is a storytelling device every bit as much as the placement of the panels, and Stewart has earned many accolades for his skill.

I was never all that interested in Conan, outside of finding Schwarzenegger’s performance to be kind of silly. I almost wish my first taste of him was through comics, rather than the movies. But Brian Wood is giving me and Conan a second chance. He’s not reinventing the wheel, but I think he’s doing a great service to the spirit of the property that’s serving to cleanse all my preconceived notions about what Conan is. In a ways, it’s a look at a different kind of person than anyone we know in our lives. The ideas of morality and power and strength are all slightly askew, and the emotional core of the person that is Conan is interesting to ponder. He’s not a good guy, but he’s not really a bad guy either. You don’t know what he can do, but you do know that nothing really scares him. This issue presents an interesting challenge, because he’s leaning towards doing the “right” thing, but in this world where there isn’t really medicine, and most of the people he’s trying to help are very likely to die, what is the point? Of course, this all takes place among a world much more dangerous and unforgiving than the world we know. You wouldn’t want to live in it if you weren’t as strong as Conan. Even then, it’s pretty rough. When I got to the end of the issue, I really wanted to know what was next, and that’s always a good sign for a comic book issue, because I have no idea what’s going to happen.

Conan the Barbarian is the right kind of story for the comic book medium, and Dark Horse have been smart enough to assemble the right kind of team on it. Even if you’re just interested in craft, and how people who are very good at making comic books do their job, it’s enough to want to read it. But I’m also completely into the story. There are all sorts of elements swirling around in a fascinating world that’s not our own, and it’s a lot of fun. In contrast to the bombast we’re constantly seeing in the pages of other comics, reading a book where skilled craftsmen just do their job as well as can be done is a joy. Helpfully, that joy sounds nothing like the former governor of California.

Josh Flanagan
Bakal is at least as bad as Mos Eisley


  1. for the love of all things filled with creamy goodness, can we please see some love for TMNT at some point before the new year.

    • There’s only one Pick left before 2013 and it’s mine and I don’t read it, so…

    • Yeah, it would be nice if the iFanboy crew would show some more love to IDW’s awesome TMNT series. Issue 16 was especially good.

      Come to think of it, why doesn’t the Nick cartoon get weekly episode discussions? Do the iFanboy guys not like TMNT?

    • @Wentos: We have nothing against the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When the IDW series first started we talked about it a bunch of times but then I got bored with it and dropped off so only Ron reads it now and it’s up to him when/if he wants to talk about it.

      As for the cartoon, there isn’t really any interest from anyone on the editorial staff to watch it so it doesn’t get covered.

    • Wait, so you guys watch the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon, but not Nick’s TMNT series?

      I can’t even wrap my brain around that. That’s some serious brand loyalty.

    • @Wentos: It’s got nothing to do with brand loyalty.

    • Have you watched the new TMNT cartoon Conor? It’s kind of like USM, except it’s actually funny.

      All kidding aside, you really ought to give the Nick TMNT series a shot. It and Green Lantern are the best cartoons on television in my opinion.

    • What do cartoons have to with comic books? I don’t watch any of them, and honestly, I’m just not interested in reading a TMNT book. Andy Kuhn is drawing though, right? I like him.

    • i don’t know about the brand loyalty and all that…but i loved the new art by ben bates and the cover was pretty sweet (cover a), just figured i’d throw it out there as a potw (again).

    • @jaflanagan
      “What do cartoons have to do with comic books?”

      They’re cartoons based on comic books. Other than that, nothing I guess.

      And yeah, Andy Kuhn just finished a four issue stint on the book. It was awesome stuff.

  2. Great review. I’ll have to get caught up on trades.

  3. Brian Wood has been on fire since he went to Dark Horse. Never thought I’d like a Conan book but he’s done it!

  4. I am definitely gonna have to check this out. I must have been living under a rock, I had no idea Wood was writing Conan. Haven’t read all my books yet this week but Walking Dead was really good, so that’s probably my pick.

    As a side note, I’m looking forward to all the “WTF!?! BATMAN ISN’T POTW?!?!” backlash in this thread.

  5. Yeah, this has been great. Last issue starting “the Death” was quite good. Good pick.

    But i have to say….”BATMAN1!!!” ahah

  6. Nice to see Conan get a POTW. I’ve been enjoying this series since the beginning of the Dark Horse run with K. Busiek. It’s had ups and downs (and alot of different writers) but overall one of the best in the genre.

  7. Brian Wood has done a fantastic job on this Conan series The only thing coming close to out shining Wood and our hero are the artists that have appeared so far.

    Congrats to Conan this week!

  8. This is absolutely one of my favorite books. I read mostly trades, but with this book, I just can’t wait that long. I wish The Massive was as good as this.

    Anyone reading his Marvel stuff right now?

    • I guess we’ll disagree here because I am LOVING The Massive. But I am utterly fascinated with the idea of an environmental global catastrophe and how we would react and live afterwards, plus I love ships and the ocean, and the moral/ethical conflict depicted in the series so far. Great stuff.

    • I second that The Massive is a great series that has gotten stronger & stronger with each issue. I admit the initial first three issue weren’t quite what I was expecting but I persevered & boy has it paid off, the world it’s set in has so much possibility to play around with.

      It was definitely my POTW, but I am pleased Conan got it was a little worried that Batman would get it, no offence to Batman fans I do get the book as well, just gets a little boring that it would be POTW. Nice to have something different for a change!

    • @RileyArmpit32: “…no offence to Batman fans I do get the book as well, just gets a little boring that it would be POTW. Nice to have something different for a change!”

      How many times do you think BATMAN has been the Pick of the Week?

    • Maybe the problem then is that I have only read the first 3 issues. I enjoyed the story, it just felt like it was bogging me down and was a bit confusing at times. I’ll have to grab the first trade when it comes. I also love Kristian Donaldson’s art. He’s from Dallas, so I talk to him at every convention I go to here in Texas. Awesome guy and great artist. He has improved so much with The Massive. His stuff for DMZ, Supermarket and 99 Days all felt a bit static, but he is killing it on The Massive.

      I think the thing that also got me about the book is how different the series was from the 3 prequel stories in DHP. I really liked those and then it felt like the first 3 issues changed tone completely. Definitely excited to give it another chance though.

    • @Conor My criticism is not at you directly but more at the majority vote of the iFanboy community who seem to automatically vote for Batman month in month out, just seems a little predictable & obvious.

      But since you want to be defensive about my comment Batman as the title has been voted 3 times as POTW, but since the launch of the New 52 6 titles involving the Bat have been POTW, while Conan has had none until this week!

    • @RileyArmpit32: I wasn’t being defensive; I was asking a question. Many people tend to over-estimate the number of times a Batman or X-Men book have been made the Pick of the Week.

    • @RileyArmpit32 Could it be possible that the Batman books have just been really good lately? Scott Synder is making a case for the best writer in comics right now and Grant Morrison is on a Bat book too. If anything I would say they don’t pick Batman enough.

      Also its their picks, its what they like best and they are more diverse than must of us would be. If I personally was on this podcast every week it would be Saga, Uncanny X-Force, Batman and Lil’ Depressed Boy because those are my favorites.

    • @Conor Apologies how I came across, I wasn’t just assuming it was always month in month out getting POTW, it’s good to have diversity that’s all!

      @jpriester73 I find Batman alright not wow at the moment maybe the expectation of this current Joker story-line hasn’t quite lived up to what I thought it would be, or maybe Snyder’s run is not for me. I just know one thing that it isn’t on the top of my weekly reading pile, so maybe I should drop it……….?
      But Morrison has & always will have the best Bats run that I’ve read, so yeah I’ll stick with him until the end!

      Just on a bias note if it were up to me anything Hickman does would always be my pick of the week!

    • Maybe you should drop it if your not enjoying it, but you also shouldn’t tell people they should vote for it as POTW monthly. I think I have pretty much every week it’s been out, for me it’s easily the best book I get in any week of the month atm so naturally I will pick it as my POTW and hope it is the actual POTW so I can read a good review.

      It’s also not got to be about who writes the best Batman, I love the Morrison runs that ran right up to the end of last DCU but since then Batman Inc has been a convoluted mess that doesn’t fit even it’s own continuity.

    • @houseian:
      Well for me it has to be a complete package especially with a writer & character that set-up is key, I thought Snyder with Bats was that but now not so sure & that’s why I like Morrison’s run he goes beyond the basic means of the character, he delves deeper into their psyche & history which turns into a fucked up mess which I love.

      I have been considering dropping Batman for a few months now & that may well be what happens, but hey if you enjoy great & I can see why people do like it so I’m sure my leaving will not be a big loss all-round!

  9. I should probably start reading this. I absolutely love what Brian Wood is doing with Ultimate Comics X-men, so I’ll have to check out what he’s doing here too.

  10. Is this an issue you can jump in and pick up without having read part one, or not something that would really stand on its own?

  11. Haven’t read a Conan books since Barry Smith–Schwarzenegger sort of spoiled it although I had enjoyed the novels. But Josh’s review made me pick it up for the craft of the creative team (I love Northlanders) and it was a great read. I’ll read some more. Much more like the Conan of Howard than the movies.

  12. A good issue of Conan, but i miss Becky Cloonan & James Harren on art. Batman was probably my pick.

  13. If you had of told me before this series came out, that a Conan book would be one of my most anticipated comics each month, I’d have called you crazy. I had a great week of books, and this just barely missed being my PotW by just about one Batman f’ed up dream sequence.

    This series is what is best in life. And to think I was only going to give it the Becky Cloonan isues…

  14. Um…I’m new here…Scwharzenegger was Conan? When? lol

  15. LOLOLOL!!! Those are FANTASTIC!!! James Earl Jones? Those have SO been now added to my Netflix!!! Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Listen to the commentary track on the first one. You’re welcome.

    • A. You make me feel real REAL old.
      B. I’m jealous that someone gets to see these (mostly the first one, but the first 10 minutes of the second were great) for the first time.

    • The great yet insane John Millius directed the first Conan and Oliver Stone I think wrote it but a much better Millius movie is Big Wednesday. It is about surfing and I know that sounds boring but the film is amazing please watch it. I found out about it back in 2000 because Tarantino put it on a list of his favorite movies and said “I donโ€™t like surfers. I grew up in a surfing community and I thought surfers were jerks. I love Big Wednesday so much. Surfers donโ€™t deserve this movie.โ€

    • Yeah – Conan the Barbarian is actually a good movie – beyond its sword and sorcery tropes. The cinematography and score are fantastic and its a lot more well done than all of its contemporaries. I was really John Millius’ doing – he made a great film. Once he was cut out for the sequel, well…

      Conan the Destroyer was shit.

    • @Paul: Best commentary track ever! It might be the most unintentionally funny thing in existence. Also, I don’t know if that sentence makes any sense.

  16. I’ve been loving Brian Wood’s run on Conan the Barbarian but was wondering what purpose the old manual typewriter font in the narrative boxes served. Is that a reference to older Conan that I haven’t read? Is it supposed to conjure up a sense that this is all being taken from some original text? Or is it meant to do something new?

  17. Well written review, Josh. Now I need to get my hands on a copy.