All images: Marvel Comics

Conan the Barbarian stories are steeped in masculinity, tales of raging men and scantily clad women in a world where violence is the law. Conan’s great lover, the pirate queen BĂȘlit, is a vicious product of this deadly world, but she has to fight hard for the respect freely given to the men around her. The new miniseries, Age Of Conan: BĂȘlit, details the young heroine’s rise as she takes control of her dead father’s fleet of ships, refusing to let her gender and age prevent her from seizing control of what is rightfully hers. Written by Tini Howard with art by Kate Niemczyk, inker Scott Hanna, colorist Jason Keith, and letterer Travis Lanham, Age Of Conan: BĂȘlit fits right in with the rest of Marvel’s Conan line with its thrilling sea adventure and take-no-shit lead, but it also brings in a valuable female perspective. BĂȘlit has to deal with challenges that Conan never faced, but she perseveres thanks to her cunning and strength.

This exclusive preview of next week’s Age Of Conan: BĂȘlit #3 emphasizes the woman’s courage as she leaps into battle against an undead sea monster, using the attack as a way to advance her own plans. Howard, who recently signed a Marvel exclusive contract, highlights the fantasy genre elements while bringing a contemporary flow to the dialogue, which helps modernize the narrative. While the adult BĂȘlit is typically depicted in skimpy jeweled bikinis, the younger version of the character wears clothing far more practical for swashbuckling and monster-riding. Niemczyk’s art with Hanna and Keith isn’t as severe as the visuals in the other Conan books, emphasizing the fun BĂȘlit is having as she starts to realize her full potential. Sure, her lifestyle could kill her at any moment, but it will also bring her power to crush any opponents.