"The Tower of Tara-Teth"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Rafael Kayanan, Richard Isanove (colors)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
The latest issue of Conan, unfortunately, marks a (hopefully temporary) down turn for the series. While the opening line spoken by the Cimmerian is promising and very much in the vein of the classic Conan, the book pretty much goes down hill from there.
The first thing that regular readers will note is the change of artist. While Kayanan has his own style and is a more than competent artist, he does not have Nordís flair for bringing Hyboria to life. Conan also, somehow, seems small in this issue, and his movements are often more ballerina than barbarian. Of course, this reviewer is a big fan of Nord, so it is possible that the change of artist just requires some mental shifting of gears. Pick up the issue and make your own call on that one.
The writing suffers from a number of things, though. In issue #38, readers were left with Conan preparing to travel to Koth in order to seek his fortune there as a mercenary. However, this issue breaks with that narrative by picking up with the barbarian once again in the company of Kalanthes. For some unknown reason, the priest has taken Conan to the Western Sea, and thatís where the comic picks up. Other than a small blurb on the inside cover, there isnít much to prepare readers for this sudden change in location and (most likely) time. Now, it should be mentioned that this very well mirrors the original Conan works. Robert Howardís short stories involving the barbarian were anything but linear as he often moved the narrative from one place in Conanís career to another without any discernible rhyme or reason. However, as a reader who was enjoying the stringing together of Howardís original works in a progressive fashion, this sudden jump is disappointing.
The choice of how Conan is represented in this issue also seems flawed. Conan strides boldly into an enchanted tower, impatiently ignoring the warnings of his priestly friend. Later, when fighting a magical bronze statue, the Cimmerian exclaims that he never retreats. Both of these items make little sense when taking into account Conanís fear of sorcery. In The Devil in Iron, an original Howard work, when confronted with the possibility of magic, Conan is paralyzed with primordial fear and nearly retreats from an island that promised much reward. When his courage does win out, he stalks onto the island with great caution. But here in "The Tower of Tara-Teth," Conan boldly strolls towards a magical fortress and through its guardians as if he were made of magic himself.
Lastly is the unfortunate reappearance of Janissa the Widowmaker. More of a plot device than a character, Janissa just isnít that interesting or flushed out, despite an intricate back story introduced earlier. Her outfit, which is molded on the bikini of most fantasy women warriors, is impractical above and beyond not offering much protection. Without any under support for her breasts, sheíd pop out of her top in the first panel she appears in.
Busiek and Kayanan have put together a fun sword and sorcery story. However, as a Conan story, it leaves quite a bit to be desired.
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the authorís work at http://madbastard.hypersites.com
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