"Horror on Uskuth Hill"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Cary Nord
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Plot: After Conan wakes up to discover all of his money has been stolen by the friends that he had made the previous night, he sets off after them in a very sour mood. This cloud of anger blinds him to the warnings of a young boy who tells him the hills where Conan plans to camp for the night are home to a host of demons. However, while Conan discovers that the boy's attempts to warn him were genuine, the demons discover Conan is not ready to be that night's victim.
Comments: On one hand, having the book open with an active reminder that Conan will live a long and storied life does serve to rob this adventure of a great deal of its tension, as all the various threats by his enemies that they'll feast on his bones don't really carry the same weight. On the other hand, one could make this same case for most established characters as we know Superman will always survive to fight another day, and as such the entertainment value of such a title comes not from whether the character will survive but rather how, and I'll give this issue full marks for backing Conan into a corner where one is left to wonder how he'll make it through the night. This issue also manages to deftly play up the idea that while Conan might be extremely skilled on the battle field he's not a very good judge of a person's character. As such, this makes him an easy mark for the various con-artista and thieves that happen to spot his bulging money pouch. I also rather enjoy the fact that character is allowed to have moments where his immaturity is expressed, such as the opening scene where he vents his frustration on the inn keeper after he discovers all his money has vanished with his friends from the previous evening. The scene where he lashes out at the child who simply wanted to warn him about sleeping in the hills was also a nice moment, as it nicely reflects the idea that Conan is still harbouring a serious grudge so he looks upon everyone as a potential enemy. The issue also benefits from the simple fact that the demon creatures that spend the night tormenting Conan prove to be quite formidable, and I love the fact that Conan's first solution only served to make the problem worse. Plus, how can one not love the scene where Conan and the demons come to realize that Conan has gotten his hands on a blade that can cut them?
Cary Nord is back on the title, and it looks like he put the month break to good use, as this stands up as one of his sharpest looking issues yet. In addition to some tighter line work, the art also impressively present the big impact moments, from the opening eruption of anger as Conan vents his frustration on the inn keeper, to the lovely one-page shot where Conan discovers that the boy's warnings about the hills were not a lie designed to get him to sleep at his father's inn. Conan's battle against these demons is also well presented by the art as his frustration when his attacks aren't making contact helped to sell the danger that the character's up against. However, the highlight visual of this issue would have to be the panel where Conan comes to realize that he has a blade that can cut these creatures. There's also a lovely looking moment where Conan emerges from the morning fog. I also rather enjoy Cary Nord's first cover, and barring the arrival of an earlier fan favourite Conan artist I'd actually prefer Cary Nord continue to provide the covers, as this one accurately reflects the story provided within.
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