"The Hanumar Road"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: Cary Nord and Tom Mandrake
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
As Conan wakes up in a jail cell in a town he doesn't recognize, we see he manages to secure his release when he convinces a passing caravan that he would make the ideal bodyguard. After testing his skills against a female warrior by the name of Janissa, we see Conan finds himself hired on the spot, but he may soon have cause to regret it as this caravan has been targeted by a powerful wizard. We also see Janissa has some serious trust issues, thanks to a troubling past.
A pretty enjoyable issue as the books opens with Conan and us readers trying to figure out what Conan's current situation is, and as he puts the pieces together, the new plot that emerges is quite engaging thanks largely to the introduction of a female warrior who has one of the more unsettling backstories I've come across is quite some time. I mean her story makes the character into a bit of a tragic figure, as the training methods that were used are extreme enough that even Conan expresses sympathy toward her, but her back story also makes it easy to understand why she is bearing such hostility toward everyone. The issue also offers up a pretty exciting little clash as if there's been one thing lacking in the previous issues it's been a threat that can hold it's own against Conan, and his fight against Janissa does a good job of making one question whether Conan would emerge the victor, and you just know that before this arc ends these two warriors are going to cross swords again. The idea that Conan has been brought on board to act as a bodyguard for a priest who has been targeted for death by a powerful magic user is also quite promising, as magic normally equals giant monsters, and the last page would seem to suggest the first attack is going to slam our group next issue, though these blood beetles might be used to take possession of people, rather than transform into the giant monsters that I'm hoping for. In the end this was a solid opening chapter, and Kurt Busiek has made a pretty engaging addition to Conan's world by introducing the character of Janissa.
Tom Mandrake joins the book as the inker, and I have to say the art is all the more impressive, as it gains a more grounded appearance and frankly Conan's world comes into sharper focus. I mean the colours could be a little bolder, but frankly I'm not going to make too much noise, as frankly this issue is a sheer visual delight. From the credit page shot of the village that Conan wakes up in, to the sheer visual intensity of the fight between Conan and Janissa, the art on this title is about as good as it gets. There's also a nice establishing shot of the mountains that Conan and his group have to make their way through, and the nightmare training session that Janissa recounts is nicely conveyed by the art. The only quibble that I have with the art is that I couldn't help but feel the emergence of the blood beetles could've made for a more striking sequence. I also have to say I wasn't overly impressed by the cover, as while it's a moody image, it doesn't really convey the excitement one finds inside the book.
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