Marvel recently revealed they’ll be expanding their line of comics featuring Robert E. Howard creations thanks to great sales and Age of Conan: Bêlit is one of them. Written by Tini Howard, this five-issue series serves as an origin story for Bêlit, revealing how a young girl who is daughter to a great pirate becomes a pirate in her own right. It’s a journey involving monsters, stories of legend, and tons of swashbuckling. What is there not to love?
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
The she-devil who would be queen! Bêlit – the name alone conjures fear up and down the coasts of the Hyborian Age. And the sight of her ship, the Tigress, is an omen of despair for any town in the pirate queen’s path! The Age of Conan begins with one of the Barbarian’s most formidable compatriots, in an all-new story revealing how she became the undisputed Queen of the Black Coast! Teenage Bêlit is obsessed with the sea – as well as the monsters and treasures she thinks are summoning her there! But when she stows away on the dread Admiral Atrahasis’ ship, it leads her into a deadly adventure even she could not predict! Will Bêlit’s impetuous nature lead the crew to victory – or sink her ambitions before they’ve begun?
Why does this matter?
Bêlit is one of the cooler side characters in the Conan universe in part because of her look. Pasty white (it’s quite weird a pirate can avoid being tanned) — but here she is looking splendiferous. She’s part pirate, part badass, and part magic which you’ll learn all about in this collection.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This book would be great for younger readers and possibly best with younger female readers. Bêlit is a strong character who does as she pleases because of the confidence she has in herself. It opens with her connecting with her father, but he’s quickly taken off the table due to his pirate deeds. She’s soon attempting to take back his ship and claim it as her own but gets tied into confrontation after confrontation and plenty of sea monster headaches too. By the end of the collection, it’s made clear how she gains notoriety as a monster hunter, but also as a fearless warrior.
Speaking of monsters there’s plenty of cool action sequences involving tentacled sea beasts. They pop in and out of the story with a big finish involving Bêlit fighting in a sea of blood. It’s quite cool and would make for a good finale to a TV show as it’s very visual.
Speaking of visuals the art is by Kate Niemczyk with finishes by Scott Hanna and Andrea Di Vito. Niemczyk’s style is slightly cartoony with a cel-shaded look that’s not too heavy on detail, but just enough to keep things serious. Bêlit looks quite cool here and there and she’s never oversexualized further hammering this home as a good book for teens.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
As far as I can tell Bêlit is somewhat simplistic in that she’s sort of rushing into things and coming out on top out of sheer luck. She may rush off to a thing only to be thwarted, but it all ends up working out. It’s a bit tiring at times and can seem like the book lacked pages or attention to detail in character development.
The art can look too simplistic in fight scenes forcing a stiff look to characters that lacks energy. Facial expressions can be half-baked at times too leaving you unclear on how characters are feeling. Layouts tend to be limited on panels per page which further slows things down.
Is it good?
A decent origin story that has its moments. I ended up liking this for teen readers, but adults may want to avoid it and wait for a better paced action-adventure that suits a queen of the pirates.