"The Crown of Tiamat"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Art: Cary Nord
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
"Conan, the Kept Man"
A pretty entertaining done-in-one adventure that nicely plays off the fact that we're still following the adventures of a relatively young Conan, and as such there are people in the world who are able to lead him around by the nose (so to speak). Now there's not much action to be found in this issue, as Conan is able to pull off his one late night visit to the Tiamat temple without encountering a single guard, and it does seem to be a bit of a running gag in this issue that while there are dangers to be found in these pages, Conan manages to just avoid having any encounters with them. Still, if every issue featured Conan doing battle with the city guards, or latest monster that he unleashed when he disturbed its resting place when he made off with an mystical item, then this book would start to feel like it was stuck in a ever repeating loop, and as such it was rather refreshing to get an issue where Conan spent the entire time completely oblivious to the dangers that his actions unleashed. I also rather enjoyed the simple fact that the final page offers up a nice little moment where we see Conan clearly recognizes that there are things about the world that he doesn't know, and it wouldn't hurt to listen to the people who appear to know information that he doesn't possess.
"And I am a material girl"
This issue also adds a character to the mix that I hope sticks around for a while, as while Conan doesn't really need a sidekick I have to say the character of Jiara is a pretty entertaining character in her own right, as how can one not love the moment where we see the character seated before the pile of riches that she uncovered in Conan's room, and she's trying to decide if this pile is enough to invalidate the threat that Conan made against her. It's also hard to write the character off as a mere sidekick when in many ways she's far smarter than Conan, and one has to love any character whose primary motivation is greed. Now the next arc is the much anticipated Tower of the Elephant, which if the letter page is to be believed is very much a fan favourite, and I'm looking forward to seeing if it lives up to the advanced billing, but my fingers are crossed that when the dust settles from this story, Jiara is still on hand to guide Conan toward treasure that she would like to make off with. Plus if nothing else Conan's gruff demeanour needs a more endearing personality to interact with, and the final page conversation made me smile. The cat fight between the two women was also a cute little moment, as both women clearly recognized the advantage of being Conan's girl.
"Guess you broke into the wrong God damn rec room, didn't ya!"
Cary Nord continues to provide art that leaves me a curious what it would look like if an inker was brought in to bring it into sharper focus, as there are moments in the issue where the art looks a little soft around the edges, and the raw power of key scenes is lost (e.g. the final moments of Tinanna). On the other hand the style does serve to set this book apart from the crowd, and there are moments when I couldn't be more impressed by the art, as the worm creature's emergence, and voyage through the city streets made for an exciting show. The art also does a wonderful job of playing up Jiara's indecision as she tries to decide if her greed is greater than potentially facing Conan's wrath at a future date. There are a couple a curious visual moments in this issue though, such as the panel where the city guard has his back to the worm creature, while he orders it to stay back, and the art also doesn't quite explain how Conan's theft of the crown served to unleash the worm monster, but since it was drawn directly to the crown the connection is pretty hard to miss. Still in my mind the story would've been better served if the art had drawn a better connection between the actual theft and the monster's emergence.
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