Conan and the People of the Black Circle is yet another adaptation of an existing Robert E. Howard Conan story of the same name produced by Dark Horse. I reviewed the first issue already and have overall found the series to be severely lackluster and un-engaging with subpar artwork and little to know character development. The story of Conan and the People of the Black Circle so far is that in a distant kingdom the king has been killed via dark magic by a viscous alliance between the nation’s age-old northern enemies and the mysterious mountain wizards (who are also, incidentally, the eponymous people of the black circle.) As a result the king’s sister, a ‘Devi’ instead of a princess, has set out to avenge her brother, to do this she’s sought out the wandering WWE superstar Conan to enlist his aid in storming the fortress of the wizards as she is aware of Conan’s talent for scaling towers and slaying everyone inside. All of this quickly goes wrong when Conan kidnaps the Devi and several factions form in the race to capture her: there are the official guards, the forces of the Northern enemies, the black circle wizards, a rogue wizard with his own plans, and the formerly friendly but now quite angry hill people all have decided to go Conan and Devi hunting. Which brings us rather nicely to issue three, Conan as well as all of his pursuers are basically just wandering about in the mountain passes near the citadel of the Black Circle wizards pretty much just waiting for the plot to come and find them all.
As the more astute of my reader may have picked up I didn’t actually use any real character or location names in that description aside from Conan well the reason for that is that Conan and the People of the Black Circle is incredibly difficult to penetrate on that subject. There’s no recap of the previous issues to be found so if you’re looking to jump on here you’re out of luck but even if, like me, you’ve been reading the series so far there’s no reaffirmation of the names of all the characters. Unless you’ve got the previous two issues of Conan and the People of the Black Circle handy and are willing to dig through them all quite fastidiously you’re most likely going into Conan and the People of the Black Circle #3 with a memory of the broad strokes outline of the events but not the character names. This is because none of the character names are firmly established for us before dialogue or action, to say nothing of being difficult to read and pronounce. This concept could conceivably work with a book, describing a character in asides as a conversation is ongoing, but in the comic adaptation there’s no omniscient narrator to give us more facts or insight about the characters or places we see. In fact Conan and the People of the Black Circle has treated a lot of its key points like givens you should already know even though it does everything it can to blur and confuse its world points.
The actual story proper of Conan and the People of the Black Circle #3 is pretty much just everyone on the mountain bumping into each other. Conan and the Devi bump into the rogue wizard, who all bump into the real wizards, there’s a brief poorly done fight scene, the Devi is kidnapped, Conan meets the hill people, Conan meets the Northern forces, Conan and company storm the castle. There’s really not a lot to it except for as I said poorly done fight scenes and arcs being wrapped up a bit too abruptly. The rogue wizard has been the bad guy the last two issues and was really set-up to be the main villain but it feels like the theory was he was just TOO powerful for Conan to stop so they brought in a bigger threat with no real matter of foreshadowing. The fight is very awkward overall with a lot of weird ways of actualizing magic, like finger pokes of lightning and awkward stomping to cause lightning. The rest of the story for Conan and the People of the Black Circle #3 is all just very coincidental, Conan just happens to meet the rogue wizard and the real wizards just happen to show up and then Conan just happens upon the hill people and then he just happens upon the northerners, it’s very meandering in nature. The final sequence of Conan and friend scaling mount murder-horn is decent though as before there’s a lot of very awkward posing involved with the characters, they always look scrunched and like their underwear is in a bunch while they try and move, also the artwork is still using that bizarre computer generated effect for backgrounds that really doesn’t blend with the drawn characters, that is when the background isn’t just blank white paneling.
I will admit that Conan and the People of the Black Circle issue 3 isn’t as bad as the previous two issues, it’s not nearly as lazy as issue 1 or as clogged as issue 2 but that doesn’t make it good either, what it is more than anything is mediocre. The artwork is the worst part about with tons of lazy backgrounds, awkward posing, and flesh colored eyes (oh and the covers a complete lie because of course it is) but the story itself isn’t that bad it’s just so unimpressive. You read it and almost immediately forget what you just read, it washes over you in a wave of snow, muscles, and made up words but it makes no real impact. After reading Conan and the People of the Black Circle I wasn’t angry or tired or annoyed, I just shrugged my shoulders and moved on to the next part of my life, no better and no worse than I was before. I guess if you wanted to read that there’s no harm in it, I just don’t see why you’d want to, I know I certainly don’t.