Writer and Artist: P. Craig Russell
Colors: Lovern Kindzierski
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Plot: A battle hardened Conan arrives in the kingdom of Keshan to steal a fabled treasure called the Teeth of Gwahlur, but in order to disguise his true intentions he offers up his services to the region's ruler, and the man proves to be quite eager to have the infamous Conan training his army. However, Conan soon discovers he's not the only thief looking to get his hands on the kingdom's treasure, as he stumbles across a rival's plans that employs a rather involved deception that takes advantage of an ancient tribal custom.
Comments: One of the nice things about being a relatively new fan of Conan is that I'm not overly familiar with the various adventures that Robert E. Howard created, and as such, I get the opportunity to judge for myself how enjoyable the comic book version of the story is without having Robert E. Howard's version in my head. Now I plans to start tracking down the Robert E. Howard's stories, but truth be told I'm a little reluctant to do so, as to me it would be like reading the novel before going to see the movie, and frankly I'd rather enter these comics with the ability to be surprised by the twists and turns that the story takes, as frankly I find comic books to be a more engaging medium when it comes to delivering Conan's adventures. In any event, getting to the actual story, this adventure is set quite a bit after Conan's adventures in the monthly title, as in this miniseries he's a recognized commodity and highly respected warrior. This in turn results in an adventure that isn't quite as engaging as the monthly title as one does get the sense that Conan knows how the game is played, and he's no longer a pawn who can be moved around the board, but rather he's the one controlling the game. Still, this does have the potential to become an entertaining game of bait and switch as Conan matches wits against another thief who also has his eyes on the Teeth of Gwahlur. This issue also effectively establish an elaborate back-story for Conan and his rival to exploit, though it does make the Keshan ruler and his advisors out to be a little slow. Also while I normally don't make a practice of discussing the letters that are written to a comic, I have to say that Miguel Mateus does a lovely job of spelling out one of my chief complaints, and the response that's offered up leaves me hopeful that the creative team is aware of this problem and is working to address it.
I was a little surprised by the rather simple appearance of this issue, as P. Craig Russell's past work has struck me as being a little more detailed than this issue offers up and as such the more simplistic appearance of this miniseries felt a bit underwhelming. Now truth be told there's nothing wrong with his work on this issue, as it tells the story in a clear, easy to follow manner, and while there's not a wealth of detail on the page, the art does have moments that left me quite impressed, such as the flashback scene which does a lovely job of laying the groundwork visually for the story that follows. The art also provides nice little details, like the sequence where Conan comes to realize that the unmoving statue is alive. It also does a solid work visually capturing the sudden personality shift when Conan exposes the lie, and high and mighty goddess suddenly transforms into a terrified young woman. Still, I did enter this miniseries expecting the art to be a little more fleshed out than it was.
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