"The Devil Within"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Cary Nord and Thomas Yeates, Dave Stewart (colors)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Plot: With the solider who was injured in the previous issue slowing their progress, Conan openly questions the wisdom of not ending the life of this man, if only to rid the group of the danger that he poses. However, the wizard that Conan is charged with protecting is unwilling to kill his friend, and they soon have cause to regret this decision, as the injured man serves as host for a particularly dangerous spell that nearly ends the life of everyone in the group.
Comments: A very exciting issue as Conan and the group that he's protecting have been targeted by a very powerful magic user who works to prevent them from making it to the city of Hanumar, where a powerful mystical gem can be destroyed. To this end, this issue offers up a number of entertaining sequences as Conan battles against all manner of magical attacks, with the show stopper being his efforts against a massive serpent like entity, that very nearly ends the life of our temperamental barbarian. The issue also offers up a wonderful cliffhanger as Conan and company race to escape the seemingly unstoppable monster only to discover the promised safety of the city has been denied them. There's also a number of great little moments, as I had to smile at the scene where Conan saves the life of the wizard, only to discover that his primary reason for doing so has already fallen into the canyon. There's also a great little conversation between Conan and the wizard, where a fairly important question is put to the young warrior, and his lack of response makes it pretty clear that Conan is not nearly as heartless as he pretends to be, though toward the end, the question of whether the wizard could have saved his friend's life should have been brought up. If the wizard couldn't, he really should have spared the man what looked to be a very painful death. In the end this was a very entertaining show as Conan has his first encounter with his most infamous enemy, and based on the show that Thoth-Amon puts on in this issue, one has to wonder how Conan survived this first encounter, let alone multiple future encounters with the evil wizard.
Cary Nord does his usual stellar job in this issue. He's given his first opportunity to deliver a battle with a giant monster, and he does a fantastic job of it, as how can one not be concerned when Conan is caught up in the coils of this creature? In fact, the issue does such an effective job with the big one page shot of the creature, that there's never really any moment where I felt Conan stood any chance against this creature, which in turn adds an extra sense of drama to the final page cliffhanger. There's also some lovely work on the final page reveal as that final battle does a wonderfully conveys that they shouldn't be expecting any help from these guards. There's also some nice work on the little moments, like Conan's expression when the wizard asks him if he would end the life of a friend if it advanced his own interests. The cover image is also quite impressive, as it nicely hints at the danger that threatens these characters inside the book.
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