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.