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Pull-O-Rama: February '12

by Steph

It’s time for another Pull-O-Rama, where we present an assortment of recent comics and let you know how much they rock, whether they’re not quite up to par ... or if you should skip them altogether. This time we'll flip through three of this month's releases: CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1, B.P.R.D: HELL ON EARTH: THE LONG DEATH #1, and THE DARKNESS #99.


"Queen of the Black Coast" is one of the most beloved CONAN THE BARBARIAN stories. The tale of Conan and his first love was written by Robert E. Howard, who created the battle-worn character. Now writer Brian Wood (DMZ, NORTHLANDERS) and artist Becky Cloonan (EAST COAST RISING, AMERICAN VIRGIN) have stepped in with a new spin on the story, one that spans twenty-five issues and introduces readers to a younger, less experienced Conan.

The issue begins with Conan boarding a merchant ship, the Argus, in escape from his pursuers. The reluctant captain agrees to let Conan set sail with him and his men, impressed with the Cimmerian's charisma and promise to defend their vessel. Conan tells them a jovial story of his trouble in the city, but when the ship reaches friendlier shores and the captain and his crew note signs of Bęlit, the ruinous Queen of the Black Coast, no amount of laughter can ease their minds. Conan vows to free the waters of Bęlit, sparing all from her blood thirst.

This retelling of the classic story starts out slowly but quickly gains a strong sense of camaraderie. Readers see Conan as a ruthless swordsman, as eager to leap into a fight as a new adventure—a risk-taker, unafraid of what might lie ahead. We also see his integrity: Although he boards the Argus unwelcome, threatening to murder the crew if they oppose him, he makes amends with the men and particularly the captain, accepting responsibility for the hardship that aiding him has caused and pledging his life to ensuring the captain's safety from the city they left and the femme fatale of the seas.

One scene, especially, foreshadows the danger to come and sets a treacherous mood: After Conan and the ship's crew discover the bloodied remains of another merchant ship, struck by the Queen of the Black Coast, Conan dreams of the woman with milky white skin and flowing, ebony hair, awaking only to look out upon the ocean in trepidation. It's a moment that confirms the legends and wonderfully embodies all that the sinister Bęlit represents—a mesmerizing image and power that artist Becky Cloonan succeeds in enhancing.

Essentially a continuation of the NEW WORLD mini-series and its chain of unsolved disappearances, THE LONG DEATH follows Johann, the ectoplasmic man, as he leads a special task force into the dense forests of British Columbia. Joining creator Mike Mignola and veteran co-writer John Arcudi is James Harren, artist on ABE SAPIEN. With Johann the star of RUSSIA (a five-issue series that concluded last month), as well, this year marks an important one for the character. THE LONG DEATH introduces new agents Nichols and Gervesh and brings back Carla Giarocco from NEW WORLD.

Just because you might not be familiar with the aforementioned stories doesn't mean you can't sit down and enjoy THE LONG DEATH #1. The comic is actually a good jumping-on point, at least in terms of understanding Johann Kraus's character. The issue incorporates past events and characters that relate to this current story by flashing back to them in a dream—and Johann dreaming is no ordinary occurrence.

Mignola and Arcudi manage to make the reader sympathize with the faceless character. He's considerate and conversational, but as we see in this issue, often doesn't know how to connect with fellow human beings—and he is human, a German in fact, only unwillingly spewed from his human body some time ago. The scene between Johann and agent Giarocco (who plays a major role in this issue) illustrates this difficulty perfectly.

The last third of the comic speeds up considerably, so much that readers won't have much time to process the action before it's over. These events put the team in extreme circumstances that will change the B.P.R.D.'s approach to the whole mission, so fans will be interested to see what happens from here.


The fifteenth anniversary of THE DARKNESS is preparing Jackie Estacado for when he comes face-to-face with the source of his power in the next issue. Writer Phil Hester (WONDER WOMAN, THE GREEN HORNET) and artist Romano Molenaar (THE DARKNESS II: CONFESSION) are in charge of commemorating this milestone.

Unfortunately, the team handles it poorly. The issue suffers from a host of problems. Jackie, newly trapped in the center of the Darkness itself, has met an unlikely figure: his father. While the two are clearly hitting it off (and suspect that the Darkness brought them together to keep Jackie from wanting to flee the dimension), their relationship feels contrived. For a grown man to call his absent father "Dad," a term of endearment, after only a few days is unusual and unconvincing. Also unclear is why the omnipresent Darkness only caught on to Kirchner's malicious intent after Jackie's confrontation with the scientist. Even more curiously, the Darkness criticizes Kirchner for playing with what isn't his, saying that only his chosen are allowed, and then proceeds to essentially choose him as a pawn in a larger game. Major rationale is missing here.

The banter between all the characters is cheesy and given little depth, and the art feels stiff, with characters stuck in static and unnatural poses and the quality varying from panel to panel.

Planning to pick up any of these comics? Let us know what you think of them by sending an email to

This article was published on Monday 13 February, 2012.
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