Many know Robert E. Howard for his work on Conan the Barbarian, but he was a writer of many tales besides the Cimmerian. Marvel Comics is putting those other tales to the test as they branch out with Valeria and now Dark Agnes. This character is not connected to Conan, but is of a similar fantasy vein where magic is real. In this case, though, she lives in 16th century France. A sellsword and adventurer the first issue is out tomorrow, but is it good?
Becky Cloonan is at the helm as the writer on this series with Luca Pizzari on art and they start us off in Chinon, France 1521. A man known as Etienne Villiers is set to have his head lopped off by execution and he’s a sassy one. As his charges are being read off to the onlookers he looks quite proud of some, denies the murder, but generally is ready to say goodbye to the good life. Luckily for him, he’s friends with Dark Agnes, who rushes in to save him. The setting, the escape, and the action is all very 16th century France and you’ll immediately be whisked to the location and the fun adventure at hand with this opening.
As the story progresses, Pizzari and Cloonan do a good job recounting the past of Agnes and all its terrible twists. She’s running from something and we don’t quite know what, but she sure has lived a life of adventure with various roles to help her become a great swordsman and a great shot. Cloonan reveals how Agnes is a bit of a wild card due to her temper and it’ll be fun to see how this character is fleshed out further as the story goes on.
Pizzari gets to stretch a bit with Jay David Ramos on colors via some interesting dreams and flashbacks. Montaged layouts make the dream come alive and there’s some interesting use of barbed branches to cut up Agnes’ dream into a horror. What the creator’s nail is how Agnes is tough as nails, but deep down she’s as human as the rest of us. The art can at times be too cartoony for my liking–there’s a crazy-eyed look from Agnes at one point that’s comical when it shouldn’t be–but it works for the most part. The style suits the book when it’s fun and adventurous.
This is a swashbuckling adventure audiences will find a fun read with a dark underbelly. There is a mystery in Agnes’ personality you’ll want to uncover.
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