Thursday, July 29, 2004

Ghostbusters: Legion #2 - A Review

Written by: Andrew Dobb
Penciled by: Steve Kurth
Inked by: Serge LaPointe
Colored by: Blond
Lettered by: Ed Duheshire
Editor: Sebastien Clavet
Publisher: 88 MPH Studios

I’ll admit to a slight bias here at the beginning. Ghostbusters is one of my favorite movies of all time and the animated series based on it was one of my favorites as a kid. So I picked up the first issue, read it, and loved it instantly. The characters were spot-on perfect. Venkman was just as smarmy and sarcastic as Bill Murray made him to be, Egon as intellectually oblivious as ever and Winston as… well, there as ever.

And now after a slight delay, Issue Two has hit the streets and continues the fine work of the first issue. The characterization is spot on, even as we continue to find the familiar characters developed even further to humorous results. The first issue had the moment where they discussed the reasons why Peter always spoke to the press beyond feeding his own ego (Winston and Ray won’t talk to reporters and Egon isn’t allowed to after “the incident”). This issue has Winston attacking the clown emblems in the Krazy Clown fast-food place they are protecting, explaining his deep-rooted fear of clowns and then screaming in terror as they return to the office where Jeanine has just finished putting into practice the theories of “Make Up & Make Him Yours” into practice in yet another attempt to get Egon’s attention.

Fun as this all is though, the comic has been a little slow in getting a big plot going, focusing half upon character scenes and half upon action scenes with a lot of smart dialogue. For those of us who know these characters and want to read about Ray’s crisis of faith regarding their work, Dana’s annoyance that Peter’s fame is interfering with their dates and Louis Tully becoming a sex symbol in the wake of nerd chic becoming the new big thing, this is good. For those of us more concerned with the plot involving ghosts becoming more intelligent and an old colleague of Ray, Peter and Egon who apparently nearly killed Ray after going crazy being on the loose… well, we’re going to have to wait another issue. This slow development is the greatest and only flaw behind this title and while it might be forgivable in a regular series, it is somewhat worrying in a four-issue miniseries.

Still, the artwork is top notch despite any problems with the speed of the story. All the characters are easily recognizable compared to their movie counterparts, despite the cartoonish style. The ghosts all look sufficiently slimy and scary. And Steve Kurth has a real gift for visual storytelling that flows well from panel to panel.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Black Cat Crossing

For those of you who were expecting a review of Catwoman this week, I’m sorry. There isn’t one. There isn’t going to be one. I know you’ve all gotten used to Unca Starman doing a review of any and every comic-based movie that comes out. But this time… I couldn’t do it. I could not justify spending my eight bucks on a film that insulted every fiber of my being just by existing.

You see, I have a small cheering session in my head and all of them are screaming like a Spider-Sense. The comic purist is whining about how the movie had nothing to do with the books. The film freak cried bloody murder about how poorly shot the trailers looked and how bad the acting seemed. The writer in me started out quietly listing every other story that was ripped off to make the “plot” of the movie and then started yelling along with the inner cynic, who was wondering why Halle Berry agreed to this movie when she considered playing Storm an “insult” and how she had been "reduced to playing" comic book movies because Hollywood didn’t offer African American women decent roles.

“Oh yeah! Now I remember,” the cynic said sarcastically. “This time nobody expects her to ACT. She just has to put on a skimpy costume and walk around in the spotlight.”

Mind you, I did consider several options that would let me see the movie without paying for it. I’m friendly with a few theater managers who might consider giving me a pass or having let me in on the Thursday night preview. I thought about playing the press card on some of the theater people I wasn’t so friendly with. I even briefly considered setting up a Pay Pal link on the site and asking for donations, but rejected that idea after deciding that YOU shouldn’t have to pay to support the movie either.

Thankfully it appears that the fanboys, despite most of them usually being easily swayed by anything with cleavage, have stood firm in their resolve to not promote this movie in any way. I can attest to this as a comic book shop employee: I have not seen ONE copy of the new Catwoman: The Movie comic sold in my store.

Lord knows I did TRY and sell it to people (it was one of my sales goals this week) and Lord knows DC did try to make it easier for me to do so. Perhaps they too sensed what a turkey this was going to be and in an effort to apologize to the comic community in general, they had Jim Lee do a cover for the book.

It’s cynical but it is a tried, true and tested theory: put a Jim Lee cover on it and it will sell. They even did a second version of the comic, featuring some classic Catwoman stories and a Jim Lee sketchbook. Sadly, not even Jim Lee could make this monstrosity look good. And there’s nothing I can say good or bad about the fact that Chuck Austen wrote the thing that anybody on either side of the “Austen Is The Anti-Christ” argument will take seriously, so I won’t bother.

Here’s another sign of how strongly the fandom community is coming out against this movie; the collectibles based on it aren’t selling! And in an industry built upon guys who will buy anything if it’s billed as being an ultra-rare chase figure or “limited to a run of 6000” that is saying something.

Here’s how I discovered it. My girlfriend is a collector of Barbie dolls. I forget how it came up in conversation, but she just mentioned it a few weeks ago. This led me to mention the new line of superheroine Barbie dolls that came out a few months back. She just kinda smiled and said “Oooh, do they have Catwoman? I’d love one of her.” I checked my store and we were sold out. I checked ebay and that’s where I found it… and confirmation that the hordes of collectors out there are not nearly as stupid as the retailers and manufactures hope.

Cheapest Price on a Selina Kyle Catwoman Barbie? $40.

Most expensive bid on a Halle Berry Catwoman Barbie? $10.

Seeing that most of the Halle Berry Barbies are unbid on even with a price that can be paid in pennies and having your hope in humanity justified? Priceless.

Just did a quick check on ebay just now and it looks about the same You can see for yourself how well it’s going, but even this weekend… Halle Berry’s plastic dominatrix likeness is doing just as well as the air conditioner repairman in an Eskimo village.

It was all going so well, too. X-Men 2, while having some weak performances, was an improvement upon the first film and quite enjoyable. Hellboy came out and was a moderate success. It was Number One the week it came out and I hear the buzz on the DVD due out this week is quite good. And Spider-Man 2… oh, Spider-Man 2 was SO good on so many levels. Yes, it was starting to look like there was a light at the end of our tunnel; that Hollywood WAS putting some care into their comic book movies.

And then we get our hands stomped by a stiletto heel just as we’re crawling out of the pit. And before we know it we’re back in the shadows with a long climb ahead of us again.

Et tu, Hollywood?

I wish I could say it can only get better. Sadly, for every bit of good news we get something equally bad comes out.

Good News: Bryan Singer is on for Superman!

Bad News: Someone else is probably going to have to do X-3 and Hugh Jackman, unless some major rescheduling is done, won’t be in it.

Worse News: Jack Black is Kyle Rayner in a slapstick comedy Green Lantern.

But lest we end with a completely hopeless tone, let me give you all something good to come out on, along with an open letter.

To Whom It May Concern at Warner Bros.,

Find the man who made this trailer. Give him a budget. Let him do as he will. Do not let Halle Berry play Lois Lane.

Yours sincerely,

Matt Morrison

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Do Whatever A Spider Can...

It’s no surprise that a man like me who is both a fanatical gamer and a brazen comic geek hailed the arrival of “City of Heroes” as a godsend. I am far from alone in this, as the on-line superhero RPG has become a monster hit in the few short months since its’ initial release. And yet I was somewhat disappointed with the game, good as it is, for one simple reason: I couldn’t recreate my favorite childhood superhero.

You see, City of Heroes doesn’t allow for wall-crawling or web-swinging… and it’s impossible to get Lightning Reflexes and Web Bomb (a grenade that sticks a baddie to the ground) in the same character. So it looked like I would have to put my dreams of playing Spider-Man on hold until the first major update of the game. Or so it seemed, until I played Spider-Man 2: The Game.

Based off the movie in a very liberal way, Spider-Man 2 is brought to us by Treyarch and all the other companies responsible for the Spider-Man games for Playstation as well as the available for all systems Spider-Man: The Movie – The Game (or whatever you’d like to call it). The game is billed as allowing you to go anywhere and be able to do whatever a spider can. While most games fail to live up to their own hype, Spider-Man 2 exceeds it.

The game world is a scale model of New York City, complete with prominent landmarks. You can web swing through Times Square, crawl along the underside of the Brooklyn Bridge and climb to the top of the Empire State Building antenna. One can easily spend hours just swinging through the city, looking around. Thankfully, the game encourages exploration and you can earn “hero points” by finding certain markers for reaching the top of skyscrapers, meeting a physical challenge and even uncovering criminal hideouts!

The level of detail in this game is truly amazing. Thousands of people walk through the streets below you, cheering you on as you swing low or calling you a menace as needed. But they aren’t just there for the sake of detail and adulation: they are there for you to save.

As you swing around, you hear cries for help or get a “spider-sense” sign that there’s somebody who needs help nearby. You don’t need to answer every call for help, though there is no reason why you shouldn’t. After all, you’re a hero! And aside from the feelings of peace and contentment you get from stopping a robbery or retrieving a child’s lost balloon, every person you help racks up more hero points.

These hero points allow you to “buy” extra powers and abilities. Some of these are combat enhancers, which make you able to web-swing faster, dodge quicker and fight better. Some are special attacks, like doing a kick at the end of a web-swing that lets you plow over several enemies in one fell swoop. And some are just plain fun, like a feat that allows you to do acrobatic flips as you go into freefall after breaking out of a webswing. So it really is to your benefit to run around, see everything and help as many people as possible.

Thankfully, you don’t go into this blind and without assistance. The Man With The Chin Bruce Campbell has been brought back “at great expense” to once again play the helpful(?) narrator and tutorial guide. There is one change though. Rather than get everything over and done with in one simple tutorial mode, Bruce’s voice will be there throughout the game, giving you advice even as he mocks your competence, at a series of question-mark points scattered throughout the city. Finding these not only gives you helpful game-play tips and a cheap laugh: you even get hero points for seeking out help!

The animation is top-notch and makes even the first Spider-Man movie game, a quantum leap for its’ time, look clunky and unnatural. The voice acting is also top-notch, as well it should be… for not only has Tobey Maguire returned to lend his voice to Spider-Man in the game, the voice cast also boasts Alfred Molina and Kirsten Dunst. Dunst is especially welcome here, as Mary Jane’s strong presence in the first game with another actress doing the voice was especially jarring and out of place.

I haven’t gotten too far into the main plot of the game yet. I’ve been having too much fun just running around, exploring and saving people! But from what I’ve seen, this will be far from a simple retread of the movie plot. Without giving too much away, the opening stages will see Peter rushing to class, rushing to work and rushing to his birthday party as in the start of the movie. Things take a quantum leap from there, however, as Peter runs away from a meeting with Mary Jane to stop a museum robbery only to run into a figure who will be a familiar and welcome sight to all of us fans of the Spider-Man comic.

All in all, if you have a computer or a gaming system and have a cool fifty bucks American to spare, you couldn’t do much better to invest in a copy of Spider-Man 2. All fans of good action games as well as every Spider-fan out there will love this game. I could write a lot more about it but I can’t. I hear another child screaming about their lost balloon...

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Birds of Prey #69 - A Review

Written by: Gail Simone
Penciled by: Ron Adrian
Inked by: Rob Lea
Colored by: Hi-Fi
Lettered by: Jared K. Fletcher
Editor: Lysa Hawkins & Joan Hilty
Publisher: DC Comics

My favorite book published by DC… and for this storyline, I get it TWICE a month?

It’s almost too good to be true, much like Birds of Prey itself.

After a nice breather issue in which our favorite trio of vigilantes bond, argue and get new jobs, this month finds us right back in the action. A number of dead teenagers have been found, each apparently a suicide. While the authorities in general are writing off the deaths, Barbara Gordon found two common links between the teens; they were all part of the same religious order and each was found wearing the costume of a dead teenage superhero. And so the party is split, with the more circumspect Black Canary sent to question the parents of the dead teens while Huntress is sent to investigate the Oregon compound of the cult.

The issue focuses for the most part on Huntress and all I can say is thank goodness for it. Simone has worked wonders with Helena Bertinelli’s character, taking some rather fractured continuity and conflicting portrayals in other books and managed to incorporate everything in a way that is believable and true. Whereas other writers tend to write Helena as a psychotic ice queen or a tramp with a crossbow, Simone knows that Huntress is a character motivated by passion and impulse. This same passion drives her to heroism, as it also makes her prone to go with the moment and romance any guy who expresses an interest.

This issue marks the premiere of the new art team of Adrian & Lee and I honestly didn’t notice the departure of Benes & Lei until I sat down to write this review and double-checked the credits. Looking now, I can see a difference in their styles but they are both find pairings of artist and inker. And the coloring by Hi-Fi is as good as ever, with certain scenes… like Helena’s fight in the rain… looking downright cinematic.

I’ve said it before and no doubt I will say it again many times; this is a good book and everyone who professes to be a fan of superheroic action, spy films, action heroines and the occasional good laugh MUST read it.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Coming Attractions

One of the most gratifying aspects of being a writer and having your own column in any publication is the ability to shed some light on people who might otherwise go ignored. In some cases, this is to shine a light of truth on those who are being dishonest or dishonorable in some way, like in the recent case with Micah Wright. Most of the time, and I am very thankful for this, this ability is used to shine the spotlight on some worthy people or project. With that in mind, I have two such projects – small, independent books – to talk about this week.

ATP Presents

This fall, small-press publisher Across the Pond Studios will release its’ second title, “ATP PRESENTS”, and it looks like it will be a scorcher. The goal of this book is to allow some of the hottest new talent in the industry to work alongside some of the stars. Issue #1 will print with two alternate covers and will feature…

- “Metal Locus”, a four-part, science-fiction epic which explores the age old questions of how humanity can survive in a world of technological replacement. Written by Keith Champenge (JSA, Legion) and illustrated by Sergio Cairello (Batman, Sojourn).
- “Gauche-Man” is a comedy about a bumbling superhero. Written by Scott Fry and Stephan Nilson, with art by Scott Fry.
- “Halloween Man”, the cult classic web-comic about a wise-cracking, crime-fighting undead hero appears in its’ first mainstream publication. Written by Halloween Man creator Drew Edwards with illustrations by Nicola Scott (Proximity Effect, Knights of the Dinner Table)
- “Necro-City Chronicles” is about a city where crime is fought with intuition, guns and magic. Written by Scott Parker with illustrations by Mitch Byrd (Guy Gardner, Dinosaur Theories).

Heathen Sent

What if the world were to come to an end and nobody noticed?

That is the central premise of Heathen Sent; a new book about how it isn’t true that the gods must be crazy to work here, but it helps. Written by Christopher Stuck with art by Jill Johansen, this promises to be one of the year’s best comics if not the most controversial.

The Rapture, Armageddon, Ragnarok and the Apocalypse are nigh. The Powers That Be, for the most part, are content to let this happen. A few gods, however, are quite happy with things as they are and would be rather sorry to see the world go. Among them is Loki, Norse god of Fire and Trickery, who decides to organize a resistance on behalf of humanity.

Leading the pack in ensuring that everything goes smoothly is Jesus H. Christ himself. Not a bad guy by any means, but the definite antagonist of the piece. The pretty, popular Johnny Footballhero to Loki’s John Bender.

Premiering at the San Diego Comic Con later this month, the comic is available for order on-line already at Heathen Sent Studios.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Spectacular Spider-Man #16 - A Review

Written by: Paul Jenkins
Penciled by: Michael Ryan
Inked by: Studio F
Colored by: Studio F
Lettered by: Cory Petit
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics

So “Avengers Disassembled” is quickly coming upon us (Indeed, you can sneak a quick look at the first few pages of it Mile High Comics ) and with it have come a number of Disassembled Prologue storylines spread across several books, such as the last issue of Spectacular Spider-Man and this new volume.

The word is that in the wake of the Avengers destruction and inevitable reformation, Spider-Man will play a key role in the events to come. Lord knows what it will be based upon reading this story. Don’t misread me; this is a good comic which concludes a great story. I just don’t see how the events of it connect to The Avengers or the upcoming Avengers Disassembled storyline, aside from the guest-spot by Captain America.

Last issue, a woman calling herself only “The Queen” seized controls of the minds of a number of New Yorker’s and took an entire skyscraper hostage. For some reason, she set off Peter Parker’s Spider-Sense in a bigger way than usual, prompting him to go out and see what great evil nearly made him black out. At the same time, Captain America is put on the warpath after being informed of The Queen being on the loose again. The two heroes meet with Cap telling Spidey to bug off (da-dum-CHING) and Spidey insisting he can help.

Things don’t go well, and this issue opens with Spidey all trussed up, a voice in the back of his head trying to get him to “go with the hive” and The Queen all up in his face about doing the mating dance. Worse still, the good agents of SHIELD are told to stand down by a nameless general who is certain that “Captain America will take care of the situation”… even as we see that Cap is upside down, trussed up and surrounded by armed drones.

It is little moments of humor like this that have made Jenkins work on Spider-Man shine. He finds humor outside of the usual wise-cracks as well as the usual wise-cracks.

Captain America: She’s ready to mate? We’ve been worried about something like this…

Spider-Man: Not half as worried as I am, chief.

But Jenkins presses the drama as well, with The Queen killing minions in an effort to coerce Spider-Man to obeying her. And things come full circle in the closing scene, in which Captain America tries to tell off Spider-Man for risking his life against a villainess he had no chance of beating…

Captain America: You couldn’t win and you knew it. She had ever tactical advantage and you still kept pressing. Looks like you still have a lot to learn, son.

Spider-Man: Yeah, well I heard you used to be a lot like me back in the day. I guess you just forgot.

The artwork matches the story note for note, forming quite the beautiful symphony. I can’t remember seeing any of Michael Ryan’s work before, but I hope he’ll get a monthly book to work on sometime soon. It’s a shame that he’ll be off this title after the return of the vastly inferior (though somehow more popular) Humberto Ramos.

Monday, July 5, 2004

Looking To The Stars: Spider-Man 2 - A Review

I started writing these words at 2:42 AM, CST on June the 30th. I’ve just arrived home from a midnight showing of Spider-Man 2. I need to be at work before 9 AM tomorrow and part of me thinks it wise to go to bed now, be refreshed for work and worry about writing down my thoughts on this movie later. The other part of me can’t sleep. And it thinks that I should get these thoughts down while they are fresh on my mind, and while I am too excited by the amazing, spectacular and astonishing sights that have filled my eyes for the past two hours to contemplate sleep or indeed, anything else but writing.

So please forgive me, Gentle Reader, if my description of the movie should miss certain details that you wish to see discussed. I have seen this film but once so far and plan to see it many, many more times so that I can see everything that I missed the first time. Maybe then I’ll write more. But for now, here are my thoughts, such as they are, upon my first viewing of Spider-Man 2.

I enjoyed this film as both a comic geek and a film geek. Sam Raimi’s direction has never been better and the script was everything you could hope for, offering a fine balance of action, drama, romance and comedy. Raimi’s love of the characters is obvious and every frame of this film screams of his desire to take his favorite comic book as a kid and translate it to the silver screen.

A dedicated fan of the original Stan Lee books could have a field day picking apart the various references hidden in this film. Among the ones I can remember spotting with little trouble are…

1. Harry’s alcoholism in the wake of his father’s death (although he was something of a drinker and druggie beforehand in the comics)

2. Numerous references to Amazing Spider-Man #50 (aka “Spider-Man, No More!), up to and including the infamous scene in the alley with the trashcan and J. Jonah Jameson being given the Spider-Man costume later.

3. Peter trapped under a collapsing wall, struggling to move it to save a loved one resembles Amazing Spider-Man #31.

4. Peter loosing his powers temporarily in the wake of some illness or crisis of faith refers to numerous stories, including one of his earliest battles with Doctor Octopus. (Amazing Spider-Man #12)

Raimi also sneaks in some literary allusions amidst all the comic references, using “The Importance of Being Earnest” as a counterpoint to Peter’s situation with Mary Jane. To quote the play, and the lines of MJ’s character, I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time.”

The first Spider-Man movie housed a number of cinematic references to the first film adaptation of DC Comics’s greatest hero; Superman. Spider-Man 2 continues that trend and is full of echoes to another famous superhero sequel: Superman 2.

1. Both sequels opened with a credits sequence that showed the events of the first movie. This time, rather than seeing selected scenes from the movie played to the music of John Williams, we get to see painter Alex Ross’ renditions of selected scenes from the first movie to the music of Danny Elfman.

2. Both movies also centered around the plot of a hero giving up his identity and loosing his powers in the wake of trying to win the love of his life and having to reclaim his identity in the wake of a new super-powered threat to the world.

3. Both movies feature the hero having a conversation with a dead parent in arguing with themselves over whether or not they should quite their life as a hero.

The performances are top-notch, all-around. Tobey Maguire continues to be the perfect Peter Parker and is now a Spider-Man worthy of the name. I heard some complaints about the first movie and how clumsy Maguire seemed when doing the scenes as Spider-Man. This was, I believed, an intentional choice, showing him slowly easing into the role of a hero. It is also worth noting that Peter didn’t crack wise much in his first year as Spider-Man in the original books, you know? But crack wise he does here. And he does well, proving a worthy Parker and Spider-Man.

I doubt anything I can stay about Kirsten Dunst will change the minds of those hell-bent on deriding her casting as Mary Jane. In my opinion, she did the part total justice in the first film and does so again here, making MJ out for the spitfire she is in the comics. This was limited to one scene in the original movie, where she fought off the mob trying to pin her before being overpowered. This was still proof of her fiery spirit. It is less subtle this time around, with MJ making it clear that she is not going to sit around and wait for Peter to figure out what he wants. She also, in true Spider-Man fashion, struggles, insults the bad guy and tries actually fighting back when she is taken hostage.

The rest of the supporting cast succeeds in maintaining the high level of quality. James Franco brilliantly portrays Harry Osborn’s descent into an alcohol-fueled downward spiral. Rosemary Harris is given a chance to give much more depth to Aunt May than in the first film and conveys the kindly wisdom of Peter’s foster mother perfectly. And J.K. Simmons plays the boss we all love to hate, once again offering the biggest laughs in the whole movie as Jolly J. Jonah Jameson.

This brings us to my favorite bad guy, and doubtlessly the character that has everyone the most worried: Doctor Octopus. Without giving too much away, I will say that any worries I had going in about too much being changed and the arms looking cheesy were groundless.

Yes, the origin of Octavius here does play fast and loose with the original Stan Lee one. Yes, he is a married man and his “evil” is caused by the independent AI controlling the arms and not a brain injury or any predisposition towards being an evil guy. Various elements from the Ultimate Universe version of Octavius seem to have been used here and I can already hear the Spider-Man purists… the same ones who held the idea of organic webbing as proof of the absence of a just and loving god-like being watching over us… whining about how Sam Raimi just doesn’t get it.

Bullocks! Doc Ock is here in all his glory and the origin isn’t important. The character is there and once more, his purpose as a dark mirror to Peter is made all the stronger in this incarnation (See last week’s Looking To The Stars for the full Dark Mirror theory). Whereas Peter gives up what he wants in order to save the woman he loves, Octavius is so blinded by his goals that he does not even notice his wife is in danger because of him until it is too late. Alfred Molina does the part perfectly and things are left open enough that Doc Ock returning is unlikely, but not impossible. (C’mon Sinister Six Movie!)

Speaking of Doc Ock, I should mention that the arms look amazing. The special effects are greatly improved since the first film; no surprise considering the leaps and bounds that have been made in computer animation even in just two years. Whereas the last time the CGI was obvious at times, it flows much more smoothly here so that while there are still scenes that are obviously computer-made, it is only because of the sheer physics involved that you know this. There are just as many which could have been done as stunts but it is hard to say one way or the other.

Overall, this is not only one of the rare sequels that is better the original. This is quite easily the greatest comic book adaptation ever, in any medium, and the new standard for any comic book movie after to follow. 10 Out Of 10, Five Stars Out Of Five.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Friday, July 2, 2004

Conan #5 - A Review

Story Title: Ashes & Dust
Written by: Robert E. Howard with adaptation by Kurt Busiek
Penciled by: Cary Nord and Thomas Yeates
Inked by: Cary Nord and Thomas Yeats
Colored by: Dave Stewart
Lettered by: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Editor: Scot Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

It’s funny how an issue so filled with action can seem so slow. There is much excitement in this comic, no doubt. And it is a worthy tribute to the most famous creation of pulp-master Robert E. Howard. Still, compared to previous issues this middle third of this three-part story seems to plod along at the face of a resting horse. Still, one can feel that a mighty gallop is coming up soon…

Traveling to seek adventure, fortune and some of the lands from his grandfather’s stories, Conan sets out northward, with little more than a helmet his father made, a sword and the clothes on his back. Betrayed by some among his new comrades in arms among the Viking-like Aesir and sold into slavery, Conan finally gets to see his first goal: the fabled land of milk and honey that is Hyperborea. To his surprised, Conan finds that the land is all the legends promised, full of perfect weather year round and long-life… for the Hyperboreans. To the slaves who live and die for the immortals of that land, life is miserable indeed and only a good deal of drugs are able to slack the rage of Conan.

Thankfully, Conan was freed thanks to a slavegirl looking for a means of escape and seeing the burly warrior as her best protector. Conan, honorable in his own way, refuses to abandon his comrades in arms and demands they wait until she can procure enough of the healing herbs she used to free his mind to save them. This issue continues to build the drama, as we find that Conan’s new master is growing bored with his immortal life and is contemplating suicide: an act that will result in all his possessions, slaves included, also being killed to as to serve him in the great beyond.

Though this issue is a little slower-paced, we learn much of the history of Hyperborea and its’ people. And for the action fans who care little for such detail in their fantasy settings, we get a wonderfully epic scene where Conan leads a slave revolt.

All of this is beautifully illustrated by Nord and Yeates, whom will be nominated for every art award in the industry if there is any justice left in this world. Everything looks epic, from the battle scenes and the long historical moments depicting the history of Hyperborean. Even the somewhat comedic scene of Conan crashing through a roof and into the chambers of the slavegirl helping him escape as he retreats from a pack of lions set loose in the palace looks heroically fantastic! And that is as it should be.