In Review: Conan the Slayer #10

This is Conan at his raw finest and it couldn't be better.

The cover: If you missed last issue, this cover catches you up with this image: Conan is battling the awakened giant Khosatral Khel. The title character swings a mighty sword back to bring down upon the giant, but the supernatural creature looks indignantly at the barbarian, knowing that the blade will do no damage to him. The figures are strong and the background sumptuously detailed in this creation by Sergio Dávila. The colors by Michael Atiyeh are also excellent. The red title draws the reader’s eye, with it moving to the slayer’s sword, leading to Conan’s figure. His pink flesh stands out, as does the ruddy skin of the giant. Excellent. Overall grade: A

The story: Though this is the fourth part of “The Devil In Iron” by Cullen Bunn, any reader can start with this issue, thanks to the concise summary on the inside front cover and the characters’ dialogue. The issue opens with the instigator of this tale, Jehungir Agha, who sent Conan to search for Octavia. He waits with him men in four small boats for Conan’s return, so that he can be slain. No sign of the title character has been seen for an hour, so Jehungir takes ten of his best men to find Conan. Making their way through the jungles, they are surprised when they come upon the ruins. Jehungir knows that Conan must be within. He wants to enter, but one of his men hesitates, “But — M’lord — what of the warnings? We have all heard the stories! This place is cursed — haunted!” Jehungir rebukes the man and they continue forward, unaware that within the giant Khosatral Khel holds Conan by the throat, several feet off the floor, while Octavia looks on screaming. The action is intense, with Conan doing all that can to protect the woman and avoid the monster. Page 10 has him making a realization that can help him in his plight, which leads him to another room that he passed through in the previous issue. Once there, a complication arises and he is in a different kind of battle for his life. It’s not easy going, and if the reader has forgotten the giant, he reappears in the final three pages in ferocious fashion. I especially like how one character’s true mettle was shown on the penultimate page. This was a very entertaining Conan story. Overall grade: A

The art: Sergio Dávila is the right artist for this book. Look how well he establishes the villains on the first page: a close-up of Jehunghir’s eyes that show his hatred. The second panel shows the antagonists in their boat, followed by a panel looking over their shoulder at the cliff’s stairs. This is followed by Ghaznavi getting some focus, showing him to be a cowled coward. The page ends with all the boats hiding in the tall water reeds. The third page reveals the walls of the city to the villains and it’s beautiful and also quite foreboding. Conan is introduced fighting for his life on Page 4, though he is not the focus of the largest panel; that is reserved to show the height and strength of Khosatral Khel. A tiny panel that’s close up on Conan introduces the title character, and he looks angrily at the giant as he struggles to free himself from its grasp. Something happens to the foe’s head on the following page and it increases his visual ferocity. A broken blade is reintroduced on 6 and Dávila makes the hilt extremely ornate, which is fine touch to make this tale epic. 10 is made up primarily of nine equal sized squares that build tension very well, with the characters’ reactions being cool and funny. The battle that starts on 16 has been done before in other comics countless times, but never this effectively — the reader will feel the building pressure of this conflict. The last three pages are the showstoppers of the book; this is a graphic fight and it has to look like this. This is wonderful and frightening work. Overall grade: A

The colors: The colors are key to increasing the visuals’ mood and leading the reader’s eye. Michael Atiyeh makes Jehunghir stand apart from his men by putting him in the only crimson colored clothes, which also suggest his temperament. The reveal of the city on Page 3 has it colored in gray-green, suggesting that the jungle has overrun the structure. Notice also how in that same panel the characters closest to the reader are shaded by the jungle, showing they have yet to be clear of it. The ruddy skin of Khosatral Khel is outstanding. He’s not given a blanket shade, but given a natural blend of colors as normal humans have. The color used for the giant’s crown increases his supernatural nature. Sounds are also strong due to their colors, with the repetitive sound used for Conan’s final battle given a specific shade so as to stand apart from the combatants. Overall grade: A

The letters: The narrator’s text, dialogue, yells, sounds, screams, and a drumbeat are created by Richard Starkings & Comicraft. The narrator’s text is outstanding, giving the tale a Robert E. Howard feel. The sounds are terrific, with the drumbeat being my favorite of the issue. Overall grade: A

The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob: This one pager, created by Jim & Ruth Keegan shows young Bob Howard out and about with friends Clyde Smith and Truett Vinson. There are six illustrated panels and three photos. It’s always neat to see Howard’s life outside of his writing. Overall grade: A

The final line: This is Conan at his raw finest and it couldn’t be better. Overall grade: A 

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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