Marvel Comics is in the process of reprinting many of Dark Horse’s excellent Conan the Barbarian stories and this week it’s time for a variety pack so to speak. Conan: The People of the Black Circle and Other Stories is a good taste tester if you’ve never read the character and want to see how many different writers and artists interpret him. Contained here is one four-issue main story, two one-shots, and eight shorter stories originally published in anthology series. It’s a grab bag in general, but an interesting reading experience nonetheless.
This book kicks off with Conan and the People of the Black Circle #1-4 written by Fred Van Lente with art by Ariel Olivetti. The story is an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s novellas of the same name. It has Conan fighting in sandy locales with a classic sword and sorcery vibe. There are women for Conan to contest with and plenty of fights to live through. The standout element of this four-part story is Olivetti’s art, which has a digitally detailed look. Backgrounds at times utilize Photoshop to bring up the level of realism, and the use of color by Olivetti is great, too. Conan’s bulbous muscles certainly haven’t looked this good in most stories.
Next is the short story Conan: Children of the Sun #1 by Oeming with colors by Nick Filardi. Oeming’s stylized style is on full display and it involves a young boy who believes in something that may or may not be real.
Following this is material from Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #1-4, #6-10, and Dark Horse Presents (2014) #21. If there was a theme to these stories its focus would lie in Conan’s sword-fighting days in castles and remote areas. Pirate Conan isn’t present in these tales. There are some gnarly monsters he encounters (including werewolves) and plenty of damsels to save. Some artists you might recognize include Sean Phillips, Freddie Williams II, Philip Tan, and Andy Kuhn. All of their styles are quite different, giving the book a wide variety.
Wrapping up the book is Conan: Exiles #1 by Michael Moreci and Jose Luis. This is an interesting read knowing Moreci goes on to write the excellent barbarian comic at Vault called Barbaric. Conan must face off against a wizard with ghouls at his disposal as well as a rock creature. This tale also features a damsel who doesn’t follow his directions.
Conan: The People of the Black Circle and Other Stories is an interesting collection as it delivers tales centrally focused on Conan fighting monsters on dry land. There are many types of Conan tales, but all of these seem to be about Conan swinging a sword while sometimes saving damsels. This collection’s greatest strength is supplied by the wide range of artists bringing their A-game.
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