"Blood for Blood"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Cary Nord with Thomas Yeates
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
As Conan doggedly tracks down the pair of cowards that betrayed him and his Aesir allies to the Hyperboreans, we see he is quick to make an example of the two, and with his need for vengeance sated the young warrior decides to set off for a new destination. However, we discover that he's heading in the same direction as a chillingly effective female assassin whom we witness dispatching a wealthy merchant and an army of armed guards that he had hired.
The cowards that Conan tracks down don't put up much of a fight, but Conan's method of dealing with them is so extreme in nature that one couldn't help but be impressed, as both men are subjected to deaths that send a very clear message that Conan is not someone you want angry at you. There's also a very amusing exchange where the local authorities briefly consider taking Conan to task for his savagery but quickly reconsider this position when they get a look at how he would respond to their efforts to bring him in. I also enjoyed the way that the two men tried to reason with Conan as they say he was coming for them as it does a nice job of selling Conan's driving need for vengeance that he pays their comments no mind as he carries out the killings. This issue also deftly addresses my only real concern when it comes to this series, as the second half of this issue introduces readers to a female assassin who not only looks like she would give Conan a rough time of it, but truth be told I could easily see her taking our young warrior apart. In fact, this issue's display of how effective she is with those daggers of hers leave one to wonder how Conan will deal with this long range attack, combined with the sheer speed which she is able to employ. Now just because they're heading to the same local doesn't mean the two will fight, but I think it's a pretty safe bet, and I for one can't wait for this clash between grace and brute force.
This issue is a telling display of the impact that art can have on a story, as while the script could make some suggestions about the methods that Conan kills the two cowards, it's the art that responsible for the sheer impact of the deaths, and I have to say the reveal of the second death stands up as one of the most unsettling images I'm seen in quite some time. The art also does a fantastic job of building up the danger that the female assassin poses, as we watch her make her way into the castle, before delivering a telling display of her sheer effectiveness, as she deals out death to the armed guards. My only quibble with the art on this issue would have to be the cover image as while it's a powerful image, the blur effect that is used to convey the speed of Conan's sword swing was robbed the image of a great deal of its impact.
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