"Over the Walls"
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist(s): Greg Ruth, Richard Starkings (l)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
This issue of Conan sees the Cimmerian get bloodied. While he may have fought and killed before, those were rushed times, in the heat of it, where there was little time to consider one’s actions. In “Over the Walls” Conan has plenty of time to reflect on the circumstances as he holds the cold bodies of those he once loved.
The beginning of #46 is very much what readers would expect it to be coming out of the previous issue. Angered beyond comprehension by the invasion of their land and the killing of their fellow tribesmen Cimmerians, one and all, gather around the Aquilonian fortress to tear it down to the ground. The first few pages, as such, aren’t surprising and are pretty standard. Even in this opening, though, both the art and the writing are to be complimented as they look unflinchingly at the brutal combat of tribal warfare. This, as in much of Dark Horse’s Conan series, stays true to the work of Robert Howard as the original author never did back away from the savageries of life.
Once the battle is done with, though, the book takes a rare turn as Conan becomes introspective. While this was something somewhat common in Howard’s work, that author never chose to allow readers into the Cimmerian’s head, but could only guess at his thoughts from what little the taciturn barbarian said. Here, though, the writing skillfully uses captions to give readers a look. Perhaps most importantly, this gives us a good idea of what exactly drove Conan from his home, why he chose to leave the only place he had ever known. Crossing into the unknown is a difficult thing for the bravest of people and, as such, those that do it tend to have strong reasons. As does Conan, and they are presented here in a way that makes it clear not just why Conan left to begin with, but why he stayed away.
Strangely, the book takes a touching turn with two deaths. Cimmerian society is a hard one, even by Hyborian standards, so readers know that Conan has seen death before and, as the book points out, even killed before. However, in this issue Conan comes to understand the horrible, damnable finality of it. This is a universal struggle for all young people who haven’t even begun to comprehend their own mortality. The art and writing capture it extremely well, taking something that could be boring or sermonizing and turn it into an emotive, if cold, moment.
This issue brings to an end “Death on the Battlefield”, with a strong and insightful conclusion. If you’ve been keeping up with this story, then the final issue is definitely worth your time and may be the strongest chapter. If you haven’t been keeping up, this definitely isn’t the issue to jump in, but the series will be collected into Conan: Volume 0 next year. Grab it then and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
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