• Conan The Slayer #12

    Conan The Slayer #12
    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: August 23rd, 2017.
    Written by: Cullen Bunn
    Illustrated by: Sergio Davila
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    “After being lured by Jehungir Agha to the cursed isle of Xapur, Conan and the Nemedian princess Octavia fought for their lives against the awakened demon giant, Khosatral Khel, ancient master of the island’s fortress city. Agha, intending to ambush Conan, was unaware of the existence of the demon, and his pursuit of the Cimmerian soon turned to horror as his warriors were crushed and torn asunder by the seemingly indestructible Khel. Conan, who received visions of Khel’s history, learned of the one weapon capable of piercing Khel’s steely skin, an arcane blade that had held Khel prisoner for centuries within the crumbling fortress. Conan obtained the blade and destroyed the demon, then hunted down Agha and slew him, another monster falling under the Cimmerian’s hand.”

    The Ghul that had followed Conan to Xapur is anxious, though the freshly slaughtered corpses left in Conan’s wake do appease him somewhere. Elsewhere on a nearby island, Ghaznavi finds that the trap he had meant to set for Conan has failed and that he is now the one in grave danger, the soon to be victim of what he assumes are demons. Conan pursues him, much to the dismay of lovely Octavia who requests that they head back and leave him be. Conan, however, wants revenge, even if this quest takes them to what Octavia calls ‘an evil place.’

    When they come across an empty village Conan can’t help but explore, despite his lady friend’s pleas to do no such thing. She notes that the skin and bones that litter the camp indicate that it is likely populated by cannibals but when he hears a scream nearby, he ignores that evidence and instead heads towards it. Here they find the inhabitants of the village about to feast on Ghaznavi. They’re about to leave him to his fate when Conan notices that the tribe also had some captive children on the menu and so, with sword drawn, the Cimmerian rushes in to save them. It goes well at first until one of the cannibals slashes Conan who learns the hard way that these tribesmen are quite adapt at poisoning their foes in combat. Octavia flees and hopes to provide a distraction but it’s no use, she’s captured too.

    When they awake, they’re bound on the altar just like Ghaznavi, which will make escape difficult indeed…

    A stunningly violent issue even by the admittedly very violent standards of the series, this issue nevertheless offers up a genuinely surprising twist and some really great moments of ‘pure’ Conan before it comes to its finish. It’s great stuff, seriously hard edged and played by writer Cullen Bunn with deadly seriousness. It’d be easy after a while for Conan to fall into self-parody or to come off as campy or overdone, but not here. Not in this series. This Conan is ferocious, his sword appropriately savage and his blood lust, while more often than not quite noble, difficult to quench. If he hadn’t been so hungry for revenge and had heeded Octavia’s words the two of them would have been able to easily get to safe ground but this need for true revenge that drives Conan to pursue an already weakened and useless Ghaznavi proves to be a fool’s errand. The dialogue ,the situations, the outcome and those twists, Bunn writes all of this like a seasoned professional, he’s clearly got a deep understanding of the character and the utmost respect for his legacy.

    As to the artwork from Sergio Davila, with beautiful coloring work from Michael Atiyeh, it’s been great since the first issue but it’s only gotten better in the last year or so since that first issue debuted. There’s a ridiculous amount of detail here and some panels that take up almost entire pages really give him a chance to show off how finely tuned his penciling skills are. His penchant for drawing the human body is also impressive. Conan is a sinewy musclebound hulk of a man, but he never looks inhuman, just fit. Octavia is curvy, meant to be attractive of course, but her proportions never seem ridiculous of unrealistic. And those cannibals, they’re genuinely frightening, as is the Ghul that has followed our barbarian friend for the last few issues. Atiyeh’s coloring brings this to life really nicely, making those jungle scenes look lush and green while giving the cannibal tribesmen an eerie, dusty almost alien look that seems wholly fitting. A fine cover piece by Thomas Grindberg is the icing on the cake.

    This is the best issue of this series so far.