Dark Horse Comics 2014
Written by Fred Van Lente
Illustrated by Brian Ching
Coloured by Michael Atiyeh
In the wake of a ferocious sandstorm Conan and Natala encounter Valerius, a Khauranian soldier escorting his queen on a secret mission, and Kerim Shah, who claims to be traveling on private business. At last reaching the Oasis of Akrel, the group discovers the fresh remains of nomads slaughtered by raiders, as well as some slave girls who survived the attack. With Kerim Shah suspiciously unaccounted for, Conan and Valerius head off to the Tower of Silence, hot on the heels of the raiders . . .
Fred manages to do what he does here yet again and proves that he’s part magician. Sleight of hand, misdirection all the tricks needed to surprise his audience in the most delightful of ways.
We open with the people of the Fortress of Silence putting one of their own dead outside for the vultures to feast upon. While seemingly harsh it’s rather a fitting tribute to the circle of life. This is the scene that Conan and Valerius come across when scaling the Fortress to enter. Of course they believe they are looking for Kerim Shah and who caused the caravan outside to be slaughtered. However what happens is pretty spectacular. As Velarius sees a mural and starts the explanation of it and how it differs from his own beliefs we see conan in the background killing the armed monks. The way this has been portrayed was brilliant. Kudos to the teamwork between Fred and Brian in breaking this down in this manner.
`Meanwhile outside in her tented carriage the Queen and Natala have a conversation of their own. I have to admit I love that women believe men belong to them like the Queen states. So often it’s perceived as the other way around but in these times and places where women rule as well it’s a two way street. They talk of Natala’s Cimmerian and as she describes him to her you really begin to get the sense that they are continuing to travel on together for comfort and companionship as much for necessity.
Oh Fred girl talk is just men talking, have you lain with him, how was it, I want details. Yeah and while it’s a quick panel of the two in the act it does scream for more and that seeing this while completely unexpected was another moment to demonstrate why I love this book. While Natala says “he makes love...like he was going to war” just gives you that extra sense that he’s animalistic when it comes to that. Just another facet of Conan that you don’t realize means more than you think upon first glance.
The two revelations that happen this issue back to back well they worked on concert to keep me surprised and on my toes.
While I’m not sure I’d say I was a die hard Conan fan I will say that I’m a fan of how Fred and Brian have brought his adventures to life more than any other incarnation i’ve read. The characterization happening in these pages along with a true serial style storytelling and the interior artwork perfectly suited for these adventures make this a series not to be missed.