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Conan #2

Posted: Sunday, April 4, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Cary Nord

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

The Plot:
As Conan takes a pretty good knock to his head during a battle, we see that while he's the last man standing, he's a bit unsteady on his feet, We then see he's confronted by a woman, who leads him away from the blood-soaked battle field, and into the snow covered wilderness, where he's confronted by a pair of Frost Giants. However Conan is able to make pretty quick work of these sizeable opponents, but when he turns his attention back to the woman he's jolted back into consciousness by his allies, who believe he was delirious from his head wound.

The Good:
The one thing I took note of in this issue is that Conan is not your typical hero, as he is perfectly willing to engage in behavior that even the most ruthless of anti-heroes at Marvel and DC would back away from. I mean he kills without remorse and seems to deliberately pick attacks that are about as ruthless as one could imagine. However even more notable was the method of revenge that he decided upon to exact revenge on the ice woman after he dispatched her larger brothers. I mean on one hand this element of the character is a little unsettling, but on the other hand it does serve the character apart from his counterparts, as he's the only one that really seems to be deserving of the title Barbarian. I also rather enjoy the fact that Conan is allowed to come across as a bit slow, as there's something rather refreshing about a character who will walk knowingly into a trap, after offering up a warning that that the people trying to ensnare him will die regretting their efforts to trap him. I also rather enjoyed the rather simple conclusions that Conan arrives at when he's confronted by a naked woman in the middle of a snowy wasteland, as well as his reaction to the news that he might be dead, and the other side wasn't the glorious battlefield that he had imagined. The book also manages to redeem itself in its final panel as Kurt Busiek manages to avoid the "it was all a dream" feel by making it clear that Conan's adventure in this issue really happened. The opening shot of Conan standing in the middle of a body strewn battle field was also a powerful opening scene the bring readers into the issue.

Cary Nordís work is a sight to behold, as he seems to have tapped into a previously unseen ability to deliver some amazing looking art, that feels like it was tailor made to deliver the adventures of Conan. I mean I've seen Cary Nord's work before and I enjoyed it, but his work on this series is truly amazing. I mean the double page shot in the early pages of this issue, that has Conan standing in the middle of a blood soaked battle field is a wonderful visual introduction to the character. The Frost Giant's daughter is also a wonderfully tempting visual, as she has an ethereal quality to her that had me waiting for the moment where her darker side would emerge, as there is something rather ominous about the idea of a beautiful woman in fantasy literature who always seems to be just out of the reach of our hero. This issue also offers up a fantastic visual as we see Conan confronted by a pair of Frost Giants, though during the battle there really should've been a reaction on the face of the Frost Giant whose leg is cut in two by Conan's sword, as the lack of emotion on his face fails to capture the intensity of Conan's attack.

The Bad:
This big impact moment in this issue has Conan squaring off against a pair of Frost Giants and when I hit this point of the issue I was more than ready for a memorable exchange that had Conan fighting for his life against a pair of towering adversaries. Instead what this issue offers up is Conan quickly dispatching these two giants and frankly the entertainment value of this display of fighting prowess is rather limited. I mean I realize that it's relatively early in this series, and Kurt Busiek want to sell us on the idea that Conan is a fighting machine, but if he's able to easily overcome every obstacle that crosses his path than my interest in following his adventures is going to quickly dissipate, as there's nothing as dull as a battle where the outcome is a certainty before the sword are even drawn. Now Kurt Busiek is a smart writer, and I'm sure he recognizes that offering up threats that are able to endanger the life of his hero and do a convincing job of it, is far more engaging than the display of Conan's fighting skill that this issue offers up. However, as I finished this issue I found myself still waiting for moment that convinces me that this is a book I should look forward each month, and I suspect this lack of anticipation is the direct result of the fact that Conan is too effective at dispatching the threats he runs up against. In the end if this book continues to offer up these two page battles that don't allow the threats to act as anything more than warm bodies that Conan can ram his sword into, than this title is quickly going to be one that I leave on the shelf.

You're As Cold As Ice:
An enjoyable issue in that it manages to give us a good look at the character of Conan with his at times amusing interaction with the world around him. I mean it's fun to watch his reaction to encountering a naked woman in the middle of a snowy wilderness, as his first reaction is that she's leading an attack, and than when he's feels comfortable that he's not in immediate danger he starts in on the idea of helping his allies. I rather enjoyed the fact that Conan had to be reminded that he's supposed to be tempted by the sight of a naked woman, and that even when he's being led into the wilderness by the woman he's taking the time to issue threats to anyone that is looking to trap him. Now Conan's battle with the Frost Giants was over far too quickly, and I'm starting to become impatient for a battle that has Conan endangered by the opponent he's fighting. However, I did find Conan's actions after he defeats the giants to be a powerful reminder that in spite of his heroic actions Conan is not a hero, as he's shown to be capable of some truly horrific behavior, and the book isn't shy about casting the character in a negative light.



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