Dark Horse Comics 2014
Written by Fred Van Lente
Illustrated by Brian Ching
Coloured by Michael Atiyeh
Conan fights his way to the top of the Tower of Silence and defeats the so-called raiders within, only to discover they’re actually the Monks of Gatha, protecting their sacred flame—Conan has been deceived into slaying them! Meanwhile, the slave girls who survived the slaughter at the Oasis of Akrel take Natala, Kerim Shah, and Queen Taramis captive . . . The girls are, in fact, cleverly disguised she-devil warriors, the true perpetrators of the massacre—and their leader is none other than Janissa the Widowmaker . . .
It constantly amazes me that each issue seems to keep adding more depth and dimension to Conan and the world he lives in. I’m in awe of Fred’s ability to keep surprising me month in and month out. Keeping what’s come before in Conan’s history and keeping it fresh and new yet familiar at the same time isn’t daunting for readers not all that familiar with his past adventures. Also that we see so much thought and seeming preparation from Conan in his own brusque and unmistakable way keeps the allure of the character.
While Janissa is on the ground and Conan atop the tower it’s interesting to see what each has to deal with regarding those around them. That Conan is surrounded by men who whimper and moan instead of think and fight makes what he has to do harder and far more impressive. That he remains this steadfast MAN through it all and not ready to take any of that sissiness from these cowards around him just reaffirm that he’s staying true to the man, the myth and the legend.
Janissa and her right hand woman Sanna having their own banter back and forth is nice. By questioning what Janissa is doing and how she goes about it shows us this trust between them, regardless of the threats, and keeps showing us not only why Janissa does what she does but her reasoning. It’s more difficult to showcase this when dealing with two such distinct personalities but watching them go at each other verbally with different points of view is really amazing well done.
On a side note when Conan emerges to face Janissa wow is that one hell of shot from Brian! I do wish he’d have chest hair but that’s personal preference. His work on Conan alone is worth reading this because his subtle facial expressions really make it a joy to read the story.
This story keeps getting more intense, action packed and full of What the Heck moments as it goes forward. Not only is this such character driven but it’s got these moments you don’t expect and the revelations and surprises Fred delivers really showcases his ability to thrill and entertain readers. Conan is fighter and for us to be so drawn into him and his world in these ways without having to always resort to such bloodthirsty adventures make him that much more interesting a man.
When you get a series that can stay true to what is expected, then surpass that and make it universal in new ways it something that should be applauded. The writing, action and characterization not to mention the story progression really set this run apart.