"Born on the Battlefield, Part 1"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Greg Ruth
Publisher: Dark Horse
When Conan's mother gives birth in the midst of a heated battle, we see the gathered witnesses all agree this is a sign that the infant Conan is destined to become a great warrior. However, this prediction for Conan's future becomes a source of resentment for one of Conan's fellow children, as he believes he should be leading the pack, and this belief results in a violent clash in which one of the children suffers a serious injury.
The main problem that I had with this issue is that itís far too easy to spot the path this story is going to take, and it's devoid of any unexpected twists and turns that it needed to have to really grab my attention. I mean the set-up is that Conan is born in the midst of a battle, and the witnesses to his birth view this as a sign that he'll grow up to be a mighty warrior. However, while Conan grows to manhood his bright future makes him a target of resentment, and this builds to an intense stand-off between a young Conan and another child. However, the story offers up a series of familiar plot devices that one can't help but notice that Kurt Busiek is holding our hand as we move through the story, as Conan is presented as perfectly reasonable, and naive enough that he simply doesn't understand where the resentment comes from. Meanwhile Conan's young rival is shown to be heavily influenced by his father, who appears to be using his child as a method of expressing his own feelings of resentment toward Conan's parents. We also have the other children siding with Conan, as he's likeable and not prone to acts of unprovoked violence, and when the final encounter arrives the story clearly establishes the other child as the aggressor, even going as far to giving Conan's attacker the opportunity to run away when Conan gets his hands on the knife. Now the final outcome of this encounter makes for a powerful finish, but the steps we took to get there were too predictable for my liking.
Cary Nord takes a month off, and Greg Ruth steps in to provide some very powerful guest-art, as the art takes a decidedly harsher edge, from the sheer impact of the first one-page spread as Conan's mother acts to save her husband, to the unsettling image of Conan standing over his rival with the blood soaked weapon. The violence of the attack that drives Conan to strike back was also a well presented, as while one knows Conan is going to survive this attack, the impact shots can't help but leave one concerned. My only quibble with the art is that there are times when it's difficult to tell the characters apart, as all of the children look virtually identical, and this made the scenes that require one is able to tell them apart more dependant on the dialogue than they should've been. Still, the art tells the story in a visually exciting manner, and the cover visual stands up as the most eye-catching image we've received thus far.
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