Conan the Avenger issue five is one of the most fun issues of the series to date, but not in the traditional sense of the word “fun,” more in the “Conan is finally being a heroic badass and getting over Belit” sense of the word, and that’s a good thing. In this issue, Thuthmes finally tracks himself down a witch, and puts Agara the Witchfinder in a real bind. Meanwhile, Conan is a huge badass and Tanada is the baddest bitch around and it’s the best. I honestly don’t have much more than that, because at this point I’d be rehashing things to readers, and I want to get down to examining the characters.
This issue is another one that has a lot of set-up for next month (spoiler alert: it’s probably going to be Conan vs. the Giant Pig Man, which I am 10000% on board for). The biggest set piece is easily Conan facing off against Tanada, whom he realizes is using slaves and servants and torturing them for information. It’s the first time in the series that we’ve seen a truly moral Conan, and it’s a nice change. I’m okay with an amoral protagonist, sure, but this series has had a lot of amoral Conan who also doesn’t seem to have a strong driving goal aside from the need to forget Belit and the last volume of Conan adventures. He has had a negative goal of not wanting things for four issues, so seeing him turn into a moral hero, or at least a quasi-moral hero who’s interested in protecting the weak and finding all the damn treasure, is a refreshing change of pace.
The complete Conan turn begins about halfway through this issue when Tanada tries to tell Conan that he’s nothing without her, and Conan responds the only way a true warrior can: a hearty goddamn belly laugh. It’s the first time we’ve seen Conan being his own person, and not someone who’s decided by Belit or Tanada or Agara. He’s making his own choices, and that’s fantastic.
Eduardo Francisco knocks the art on this out of the park, as he is wont to do. He renders each beat clearly and with his particular sketchy brand of linework. He also makes the grotesque scenes in the book look fantastic, which is no small feat, as well as each of the interpersonal beats. Even if you’re not super into swords’n sandals, it might be worth picking up this book to get a gander at what Francisco is doing every month.
I like where this series is going, but as we head towards part six, I’m still sort of lost at sea as to where it wants to go. In fairness, I also don’t know much about Conan, so I don’t know if this is a typical kind of way to tell a Conan yarn, it’s just that we’re five issues in and I’m not sure what the hero wants the world to look like if he achieves his goals. Meanwhile, I’ll keep checking back in every month.
Writer: Fred Van Lente Artist: Eduardo Francisco Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 8/27/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital