The Cimmerian in Beyond The Black River #2
Ablaze Publishing 2021
Written by Mathieu Gabella
Adapted from the work of Robert E. Howard
Illustrated by Anthony Jean
Lettered by Dezi Sienty
The Picte country is an obscure jungle where the border between civilization and barbarism is thin. Only one thing symbolizes it: the Black River, which it is claimed that no white man was able to cross and come back alive. None, except Conan. It is in the heart of this green hell that the Cimmerian meets Balthus, a young voluntary peasant whom he saves at the last minute from the clutches of fierce Pictish warriors. Together, they will try to lend a hand to the colonists who have established themselves here, on these hostile lands, in the last bastion of civilization. With a dozen men, they will have to find the powerful sorcerer Zogar Sag before he succeeds in uniting the clans and initiating his bloody invasion…
This is one of those series that can make a Conan fan out of anyone. With the way this is being told, the depth that it reaches in terms of writing and visuals is so staggering to me. This is far and away some of the strongest storytelling out there and really makes an impact on how we see the story. I’m thoroughly impressed with the level and quality of storytelling here.
I’m loving the way that this is being told. The story & plot development that we see through how the sequence of events unfold as well as how the reader learns information is presented exceptionally well. The character development that we see through the dialogue, the character interaction as well as how we see them act and react to the situations and circumstances which they encounter keeps their personalities at the forefront. The pacing is excellent and as it takes us through the pages revealing more of the story the more we want to see.
I’m extremely impressed with the way that we see this being structured and how the layers within the story continue to emerge, grow, evolve and strengthen. I like the way that we see the layers open up new avenues to be explored and how these add such depth, dimension and complexity to the story. Here’s hoping that we’ll get the full story of that symbol and how Conan came to know it. How we see everything working together to create the story’s ebb & flow as well as how it moves the story forward are immaculately achieved.
The interiors here are absolutely bloody perfect! The linework is exquisite and how we see the varying weights and techniques being utilised to create this level & quality in the attention to detail is stupendous. The way we see backgrounds utilised throughout as if the jungle were another character and how this enhances and expands the moments are brilliantly handled. The way we see them work within the composition of the panels to bring out the depth perception, sense of scale and the overall sense of size and scope to the story are magnificently rendered. The utilisation of the page layouts and how we see the angles and perspective in the panels show a masterful eye for storytelling. The various hues and tones within the colours being utilised to create the shading, highlights and shadow work are done with such aplomb and demonstrate the eye of a master colourist.
While I am not happy that Balthus and Conan couldn’t share drinks at the end or even make love at least once it still gives me hope that not all his adventures consist of him bedding a fair maiden. I am a bit gutted about Balthus though to be honest he was a great character and an honourable man. The writing here is flawless and the characterisation is perfection while these mindbogglingly brilliant interiors brought it all to life with such apparent ease. This is the kind of storytelling we want and deserve to have.