"The Temple of Kallian Publico"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artists: Cary Nord (p), Thomas Yeates (i)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
When a temple guardsman discovers Conan standing over the body of a slain nobleman inside a locked temple, we see Conan's departure is cut short by the arrival of the inquisitor, and a small army of the night watchmen. While Conan doesn't exactly prove to be all that co-operative in the investigation, he does claim the man was already dead when he made his way inside the temple, and a closer examination of the body would seem to suggest the killer wasn't Conan.
Conan doesn't really lend himself all that well to the storytelling needs of a locked room mystery, and while this issue does make for an interesting change of pace from the hack and slash action that this title normally offers up, I have to say I did find myself growing a bit impatient with the idea that Conan's role in this issue was to stand around with an angry attitude, while the group was piecing together the elements of this mystery. Now the final page would seem to suggest that the killer may very well still be inside the temple, and I imagine it's a pretty safe bet that Conan is going to come into conflict with whatever had been hiding inside that bowl. However, from an entertainment standpoint this issue is very much a talking heads affair, as the material examines why the murder victim made his late-night visit to the temple, and what role, if any did Conan play in the man's death. Now Kurt Busiek does a pretty effective job of holding my attention, as the book opens strong in that it initially looks like Conan is the killer, and the investigation of whether this is actually the case is delivered in a genuinely compelling manner. However, for the readers who come to this book looking for Conan to live up to his "barbarian" moniker, than chances are your going to be disappointed, as except for a couple of tense moments with the night watch, Conan's role in this issue is to stand around looking guilty, while the inquisitor takes a closer look at the details.
Cary Nord's work on this title is impressive as always, but since this is largely a talking heads read, there's not really any moments that I can point to with any real sense of excitement. I mean the art tells the story in a clear enough manner, and the credit page discovery of the body got the issue off to a solid start. However, since Conan's expression is pretty much limited to angry, and more angry, the art isn't really called upon to sell the quieter moments with a wide range of emotional reactions, and the lack of action makes this issue a rather ordinary outing when it comes to the art. However, I did enjoy the look of anticipation of the face of the guard, as he prepared to question Conan, and the expression on the noble man when he arrives to discover the body did an effective job of selling the idea that this little man is clearly holding back information. The last page of this issue also manages to nicely carry us into the next issue.
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