Writer and Artist: P. Craig Russell
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Plot: Conan convinces the young woman who is posing as the goddess Yelaya to tell the arriving priests to hand the Teeth of Gwahlur over to him. Everyone's favourite barbarian heads off to deal with an old enemy, only to discover someone has already dealt with the man in a decidedly ruthless manner. Conan then races back to the temple to protect the young woman, he discovers that the legends about this temple and it's goddess might actually have some merit, as Conan is on hand to witness the arrival of the real goddess Yelaya.
Comments: The problem I find myself having with this miniseries is that there really isn't much for Conan to do beyond playing the role of a passive observer while the story plays out around him. Now the stories where Conan is presented as little more than a sword swinging killing machine aren't all that engaging either, but at least they give the character something to do, plus they have the added advantage of allowing the artist to offer up moments of visual excitement. However, this miniseries has Conan trying to achieve his goals by trying to outwit his opponents, and while I can enjoy a story where Conan is allowed to show he has some brains to backup his brawn, he doesn't really come up with his own plan. Rather he simply alters an existing plan, and then spends the rest of the issue running around the temple, while getting the sense that there's more going on than meets the eye. All my complaints with this story could be easily dismissed if this final issue offers up a rousing climax, but at the moment I can't say I'm overly impressed by the plodding pace that this miniseries has adopted. Still, there are some fun little moments in this issue, as I rather enjoyed the scene where Conan struggles to contain his laughter as he watches Muriela trick the gathered priests, and there's also a nice bit where Conan sends Muriela away so he can finish the task of killing his fallen opponent. The series of drawings that Conan finds in the underground tunnel also looks quite promising, and the cliff-hanger development also raised my interest level, as it would appear Conan has been messing about with a goddess who isn't a fan of people who try and fool her followers. In the end though, this is the first Conan story under the Dark Horse banner that has left me wondering if Robert E. Howard's original stories are all equally deserving of the fanboyish devotion that his fans give them.
While there are moments in this issue where P. Craig Russell's work is really quite impressive, such as the scene where Conan discovers the hanging head, or the panel where a determined Conan prepares to end the life of his fallen opponent, there are also moments where the art left me wanting more detail on the page. This story has Conan running around a temple that was constructed by people who look to be utterly devoted to their goddess, and yet the temple grounds and its interiors are flat and nondescript. The final page arrival of the goddess is also a bit underwhelming, and given this moment is supposed to be the big surprise of the issue, the art really should have done a better job of playing up the visual impact of this scene. The scene where Conan narrowly avoids being crushed under the falling stone weight also lack the visual punch that it needed, as Conan is not even next to the weight when it finally slams to the ground. Still, I will give the cover image full marks for managing to perfectly capture the blind worship that this goddess enjoys.
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