In Review: Conan the Slayer #9

Ancient ruins, beautiful women, and unimaginable terrors make this Conan tale outstanding.

The cover: With his back to a rocky cliff, Conan ascends some stairs, his long sword held in his right hand to vanquish any foes that have the stupidity to challenge him. He looks up intently, as the wind that slams the waves against the mountainside move his hair and cape about violently. This cover by Phroilan Gardner makes the Cimmerian look great, with his muscular arms, chest, and legs looking strong. The setting is also strong, with terrific work done on the mountainside, as well as the outstanding waves behind him. Excellent cover. Overall grade: A

The story: Though this is Part 3 of “The Devil In Iron,” this is an excellent issue to begin reading the comic book adventures of Robert E. Howard’s greatest creation. There’s a summary on the inside front cover, under the credits but writer Cullen Bunn’s story is easy enough to follow without it. Conan is making his way through the jungles of the island of Xapur in search of the beautiful Octavia. He arrives at massive stone wall that gives him pause: he had been on the island less than a month ago and there were no structures like this at the time. He considers leaving, realizing that something foul has built this citadel, but he spies a rag hanging from a tree. He bring the torn item close to his face and smells the girl’s perfume. This is all he needs to continue his quest. Taking a few steps, he spies footprints. “These tracks…made by a man…and a brute at that! Could it be? Was he carrying the girl?” He dashes to the wall, feeling that time is now important, reaches the top of the wall, and is greeted by something equally surprising. What is it? You’ll have to read the issue for yourself! Needless to say, Conan has his sword ready as the makes his way through the citadel. On Page 8 he has a surprising encounter, with the character giving him some information, as well as offering Conan something he’s fond of. There’s a nice conclusion by Conan on 12 to explain what’s happened, yet the barbarian proceeds deeper into the structure. Beginning on 14, Bunn uses a very slick device for Conan to receive a flashback, which leads to a sensational reveal on 20. If a reader wants some more direct action for the title character, this is where it begins and it does not disappoint. The final page has a great, surprising action sequence, with some hilarious, yet appropriate, dialogue between Conan and Octavia. The fight’s not finished and will continue into next issue. This was perfect Conan reading. Overall grade: A

The art: There are certain expectations for an artist that illustrates a Conan tale. The barbarian has got to be buff, the women have to be beautiful, the settings have to be epic, and the creatures have to be monsters. Sergio Davila meets and exceeds each of these elements wonderfully. The first page has him creating the buff character going through a dense jungle. It also includes an incredible image of Octavia that would make any man rush to find her. The final image on the page undoubtedly mirrors the reader’s eyes looking upon the woman, though the Cimmerian’s eyes are bulging at what’s revealed on the next page. The stone wall is perfect — monstrous and aged. Davila places the point of view behind and just a little below Conan to make the structure even bigger and it works. Plus, check out the muscles on Conan — Wow! Page 5 shows him getting up the wall and Davila captures his movements extremely well, with his landing at the bottom of the page excellent. What the barbarian sees on 6 is epic. The reveal on 8 is equally well done, though the characters could have been placed higher in the panel: it appears that Davila was expecting some text to be placed above the characters in the first panel. The top of 12 has an outstanding point of view panel that shows everything in a chamber. The title character’s reaction in the fourth panel on 15 is a perfect match for the text. It’s on 20 that Davila has the classic elements of a Conan page in full motion, with every character looking fantastic before the fray. There’s little dialogue on 21, as the story is told well enough through the visuals, and the first two panels on 22 are sensational. The visuals on this book are perfect for a Conan tale. Overall grade: A

The colors: The lush greens of the jungle that Conan is plodding through begin Michael Atiyeh’s work this issue. Every shade of emerald is used to show how healthy this environment is, which could drastically change by the close of this saga. Naturally, Octavia’s skin is deliciously tan, with her pale blue eyes drawing in the reader. The wall and the structures it hides are gorgeously aged with mossy greens and splatterings of brown. When Conan enters the structure on 8, take note how Atiyeh darkens every character’s flesh to show that the action is now away from the sun. The new character emerges from a violet curtain and is clothed in the same colors to give the individual an initially royal flavor. The brilliant emeralds on 13 caught my attention, frightening me as much as they did Conan. The sound on 14 is given a strong pale blue to really make it resound off the page. The skin colors of the character that first appears on 16 are a wonderful rust, which is a color that some people could attain, yet different enough to make the individual stand apart from others. Atiyeh’s work is a strong component of this book. Overall grade: A 

The letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft provide this issue’s text, which includes narration, dialogue, sounds, yells, and the tease for the next chapter. The narration for this book, which has been present since its first issue, is unique among all the comics I read and looks incredible. It creates a tone for the reader and gives an air of authority to the proceedings. One sound is very important to this story and it will ring through the reader’s head much as it does to Conan. As important as this is, it’s the sound on the final page I’ll remember because of what its result brings. Again, strong work on this book. Overall grade: A

The Adventures of Two-Gun Bob: This one pager showcases a night of adventure for Robert E. Howard and two of his friends. Created by Jim & Ruth Keegan, this captures three young men out and about, doing things that most haven’t. The illustrations capture a lot of movement smoothly, through several settings, culminating in the true goal for this trio. Nicely done. Overall grade: A

The final line: Ancient ruins, beautiful women, and unimaginable terrors make this Conan tale outstanding. High adventure is alive and well with Conan the Slayer. 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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