See Conan sleep with a lady not his own, see Conan persecuted for this action though he fights off the foreign hordes, see Conan drafted into a job of thievery, see Conan surrounded by more beautiful women, see Conan scale an unclimbable wall, see Conan gain access to a mystical palace, see Conan end his issue with the hint of the monster to come. It’s all old hat and, while the beverage might be refreshing, it leaves us bloated with one too many serving.
Conan comics have become the Dark Horse Wolverine or Spider-Man stock. They’re everywhere. While they’re all enjoyable, you have to dig for the truly sublime. This issue is surely enjoyable but it relies far too heavily on the standard Conan tropes to be anything new or enlightening. You can kick back and enjoy it — it’s not exactly bad Conan — but it’s nothing worth staying up late for.
The opening scene rubs off as the worst as we see Conan chased by the city guards for his bedding of the local judge’s lady. It’s not the cliche of it that hinders but rather the language. Both Conan and the guards use a tongue that feels untrue to the time and tone of these tails. There’s too much crudity and false bravado. It’s a hollow scene that merely allows the book to open with a bang, as it were, and get Conan to the next position in the tale. That it all builds to make Conan an extremely unlikeable protagonist is not a smart move. He can be arrogant, but he doesn’t have to be a downright ass.
As seems the regular mission of all Conan first issues, this one is all set up. It builds and places Conan where it wants, and chews through a superfluous back story to get him there, and then it ends. Granted, the final splash is pretty cool, as a silhouette of a strange creature bears down on our intrepid thieves, but it’s not enough.
Bart Sears doesn’t draw the best Conan in the world. It’s nothing on Cary Nord or Tomas Giorello. You’ll flat out dislike it at times. However, if you dig past that, you’ll find Sears is an amazing storyteller. He sequences pages and panels to control the flow of narrative and give space where it is needed. Watching Conan jump from a building becomes a moment of beauty, and watching him plant a kick on a few soldiers is a glorious silhouette. He uses time expertly and that’s something not enough artists do. The way he uses the page is better than what he puts on it, but this is like watching a young and hungry Frank Miller at work.
“Conan: Island Of No Return” has been an average start. The second and concluding installment, will have to drop some serious awesome in order to make this tale memorable in the slightest. This is a collection of all the good things you’ve seen Conan do before, but this time they’re not done as well. The art craftsmanship is superb but it can’t save this book from weighing itself down with its own redundancy.