Thursday, June 12, 2008

Discount Bin Finds -- "Conan The Barbarian" #195

Welcome to the furry underwear group!  CONAN THE BARBARIAN #195
My RL- and online-pal Adama snagged this one for me, along with several other issues of Marvel's long running sword-and-sorcery epic, during a quarter-bin hunt at one of his local comic shops down in Atlanta, Galactic Quest. See, it pays to have friends who are also into comics, as they will find stuff like this for you even when you are not around. Thanks, Adama!

Anyway, our story opens in a temple with the remains of the Devourer of Souls, who was defeated by the hero Kaleb The Destroyer, leaving only his cloak, cowl, and massive sword. A looter decides to pick up the sword, and faster than you can say "bad idea," the Devourer is reborn, and swears his vengeance as is typical. Meanwhile, Conan, who has been traveling with a group of soldiers and a princess named Annika, broods uncontrollably, much to the dismay of Annika. Another member of the party, an Eastern prince named Kobe, clashes with the captain of the soldiery, Shapur, after Kobe allows the command horses to run free. Sending Kobe to retrieve the horses, the prince is set upon by bandits lead by the warlord Bahkt.

Shapur eventually sets out to find Kobe, only to discover that Conan has gone ahead to confront the well spoken Bahkt. Our favorite barbarian easily defeats the bandit lord, while Shapur rescues Kobe from the poison-spiked prison he was being held in. Back at the camp, Kaleb's daughter Solaise has some strange -- that is, arcane -- interactions with her cat, causing several blinding flashes of light at the bandit's camp, while off in the capital, Emperor Strabonus hires a certain She-Devil with a Sword to hunt down Conan and bring an end to his travels in this region.

Overall, this issue is confusing on the details but decent on the action. There's a ton of characters, most of whom are not introduced very well or expanded upon all that much. This makes it very difficult for a reader coming in without having read the previous chapters to make heads or tails about the relationships of these characters. Why is Conan traveling with these soldiers? Who is Annika, and why is she so concerned with Conan's brooding? What is the Emperor's connection to all this? It's all very dense reading which is hard to comprehend, and scribe Jim Owsley doesn't seem interested in explaining all that much.

Beyond that, though, this is a perfectly fine example of the long-running series. Valdis Semeiks, who's name sounds like a character one might encounter in a Conan story, turns in a good set of pencils which portray the Hyborian setting nicely. His Conan is big and beefy, as he should be, and the action sequences, though bloodless, flow nicely. The Andy Kubert cover is nice, too. It's a simple enough story underneath the details -- just a rescue, essentially -- and it moves along at a good clip while setting up some future conflicts at the same time. In a sense it's nice to see some thought being given to driving the bigger story forward instead of 22 pages of hack-n-slash; even if the end results end up being confusing to the casual reader, I suspect that the long-term subscriber would enjoy such developments.

If I had the other installments in this saga, I think this issue would have been much better. But as it stands, this can be safely skipped as a single -- look for a run, instead.

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