Age of Conan: Belit is the spark to a potential bonfire of immersive storytelling. Granted, it is far too early to presume this book can live up to the classic Conan stories of yesteryear, but a firm beginning has already been established. Belit is brash, confident, sassy, and an adventurous spirit jam-packed into a porcelain-skinned, dark-haired beauty. While Conan is the barbarian of the land, Belit is the “Queen of the sea,” ideally. Belit #1 quickly establishes a world of pirates and cutthroats with a unique set of laws all their own, while supplanting a fixed guiding point for its heroine. The issue may not sweep every reader off their feet but does just enough to provide inklings of interest and an excellent reason to return to the title.
Belit is the daughter of the Dread Pirate King Atrahasis, who has left his life of recklessness behind him. Atrahasis wishes nothing but the best for Belit, despite her insistence that she is destined to hunt monsters. All is well, for now. When Atrahasis’ negligent past returns to haunt him the lives of both Atrahasis and Belit are forever turned upside down. With revenge on the forefront of her mind and her undeterred quest to hunt the creatures of the sea, Belit has a long road ahead of her.
Several themes are introduced in the first issue. The repercussions of Atrahasis’ past come to roost for one. Despite his attempt at redemption Atrahasis himself admits he must pay for his sins. Every word we utter, every action we take, and paths we walk down carries endless possibilities, for better or worse. Then there is the notion of following in our parent’s footsteps. Belit is enamored with a life of piracy. Even after witnessing firsthand how Atrahasis paid for his depravities Belit takes up the mantle of “Pirate Queen,” going so far as to inherit her father’s ship and take to the sea. Where her decision leads her remains to be seen, but a point of interest remains: Is Belit fated to a life of immoralism, or does her future promise something more?
A first issue has several responsibilities, establishing a world and its characters are chief among them. As far as characters go, readers are quickly introduced to Belit during her formative years. We quickly glean insight into her impetuous personality. Within the span of a few pages, we already have the beginnings of a three-dimensional character. The audience follows Belit along from an early age works to guide us through her adventures, which undoubtingly will culminate in Belit’s eventual renown. The world of Conan is respected. Ruthless, unforgiving, and antiquated rules of engagement are all here.
Age of Conan: Belit #1 does a reasonable job of establishing the world and its characters, even leaving readers wanting more, but the pacing of the issue may be slow to your average reader. There is little in the way of action or even moments of intense conflict (although one standout moment has Belit taking a heart-breaking action). The action that does take place mostly happens off the panel, and a pirate takeover of another ship is relatively stagnant. If the brutality and in-your-face action of the Conan books drew you to this title, you might be disappointed, but a first issue is just that, a first issue.
The greatest singular description of this title is “Potential.” No comic is flawless, and Age of Conan: Belit #1 doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but a keen eye can see the (wait for it…) potential. While it may not be an easy read for everyone that aforementioned spark remains. A fire might be building, and it could be Belit.