Conan #45

A comic review article by: Jason Sacks
This is the penultimate episode of "Born on the Battlefield", the story of Conan's childhood and youth. "Born on the Battlefield" has run virtually through the entire Dark Horse's Conan series, and it's a tribute to the vision of Dark Horse's editors that this storyline has been seen through so thoroughly. It shows a wonderful commitment to this franchise for the planners of this comic to see through their thorough plans. Back in the day, Marvel's Conan series was remarkably stable series. But under Dark Horse this series has been remarkably consistent in a different sort of way. Artists and writers have changed; heck, editors have changed as well. But this comic has stayed consistently entertaining, consistently true to the vision of Conan's creator, Robert E. Howard.

Kurt Busiek has written each episode of "Born on the Battlefield," and he's done a remarkable job of showing, rather than telling, readers the forces that shaped the barbarian's life. Conan is a hard and intense adult, but Conan was slightly different as a kid. He was incredibly tough, smart and strategic even as a boy. But Conan was also remarkably sensitive when he was young. Not sensitive in an emotional way, of course - that would never fit Conan's character. But he's sensitive to learning about himself, about honor, and about sorts of battles both inside and outside of himself that give the man his deep and intense character.

Greg Ruth's art on issue #45 is wonderfully intense. Since no colorist is listed, it's likely that Ruth colored this issue himself. He does a terrific job of conveying the brutal nature of this issue while also doing a nice job showing the quiet moments. Conan has the same brooding intensity whether sitting around the fire with his friends or cutting off the head of an enemy. Ruth does an especially nice job with backgrounds. The forest seems abstract and dislocated from reality, giving the story a feel of being in another time and another place. He also does a nice job of showing the town of Venarium, Conan mostly watches that town from a distance, and the city is in a bit of a haze, a spectral force that represents the final turning point as the young Conan grows into the mature warrior he would be later on.

We're coming to the end of Dark Horse's first run on this series, after which it will rebooted with a new number one and a new creative team. Hopefully the staff of Dark Horse will pursue their vision of the new series with as much thoroughness and intelligence as they have this series.

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