"The City of Thieves"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: Cary Nord
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Plot: Conan arrives in the City of Thieves by stealing a highly prized treasure, and he soon discovers that he might have aimed a little too high, as the item proves to be next to impossible to get any money for as no fence in the city will touch it. However, Conan learns of one possible means of moving this item, and after dealing with an expected betrayal by a traitorous double-dealer, Conan enters into a business relationship with a very powerful player in the City of Thieves.
Comments: This is a pretty conventional adventure for Conan, as the story pretty much unfolds exactly as it should. If I had to make one complaint about this issue it's that Conan is made a little too self aware of how the story is playing out. One of the more endearing qualities of the younger Conan who stars in the monthly title is the idea that he's still new to the game, and as such he's capable of making costly mistakes. However, this issue presents the character as an old hand when it comes to his dealings in the City of Thieves, and this made for a less engaging adventure. The issue was still quite entertaining, as the logic the Conan uses to figure out that he's being played for a fool was well presented, and one can't help but be impressed by the idea that Conan freely walked into an ambush because he was confident that he would be the last man standing. There's also a nice little opening bit where a sullen Conan in the bar discovers that he may have bitten off more than he can chew. I rather enjoyed the exchange where he weighs his various opinions, as how can one not smile when one hits the final page and we see one of the more humorous elements of this opening internal monologue gets followed up on? There's also a number of solid little Conan moments, from the smile inducing scene where he steals a golden goblet from a young woman, to the wonderfully chilling scene where Conan leaves a man to bleed to death in a rat infested courtyard. The scene where Conan comes to an understanding with the powerful player in the City of Thieves was also a nicely written exchange, as was the follow-up scene where Conan has a conversation with the woman in the front room. Plus, I have to make mention once again of that last page, as it's a perfect final moment when it comes to capturing what makes Conan a fan favourite.
The use of a guest-artist on the next issue leaves me a bit concerned, as I had become quite comfortable with the pattern of Cary Nord providing the art for a six issue stretch, and then the book would give him a one month break to give him the extra time he needed to keep this book's monthly shipping schedule. However, the book already made use of its guest issue only a couple issues back, and as such next issue's visit is cause for concern. Still, in today's market Cary Nord has proven to be a pretty steady artist, as I don't believe the book has missed any of its shipping dates, and providing art for 16 of the 18 issues does earn him significant credit in the bank when it comes to proof of his ability to provide the art for this series. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he has a very unique style that lends itself perfectly to this title, as there's some lovely big impact visuals in this issue, from the head chopping display by Conan, to the lovely final page image that closes the issue. There's also a lovely little sequence where Conan steals a golden goblet, as the unspoken exchange between the two characters is perfectly captured by the art.
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