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Conan and the Demons of Khitai #1

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Conan and the Demons of Khitai #1

Credits

  • Words: Akira Yoshida
  • Art: Paul Lee
  • Inks: N/A
  • Colors: Paul Lee
  • Story Title: Culture Shock
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Oct 5, 2005

King Conan journeys to the Orient on a diplomatic mission and is quickly drawn into danger and adventure.

It is late in the life of the legendary Conan of Cimmeria. The barbarian warrior has ascended to the throne of Aquilonia. A mysterious priestess from the Far East has given King Conan a map to her land of Khitai in the hopes of establishing an alliance between their kingdoms. But when the king and his men follow the route, they find a monstrous aquatic beast called a kappa and soldiers who know nothing of Conan’s mission or any promised alliance.

Dark Horse’s spin-offs of their popular Conan series have each attempted to offer a change of pace from the rough, archaic style established by Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord. This latest installment is perhaps the most successful in this regard. There are several elements that really allow this issue to stand out from the monthly, the first being the time period in which it is set. The older, more experienced Conan provides for a different sort of story than what fans have been accustomed to. It’s interesting to see Conan as a commander of men with responsibilities and concerns beyond the largely carefree life of his younger self.

The second is the locale. Khitai is a captivating and exotic realm that draws from many diverse aspects of Eastern culture. As the letter column asserts, Khitai is essentially all of Asia rolled into one. Akira Yoshida’s script does a great job conveying the fish-out-of-water qualities of a European-style fantasy hero like Conan in a world of samurai, geishas, Asian architecture, and Eastern religion. The two styles play off each other surprisingly well in the story and already we have intrigue and conspiracy at work that will leave readers anxious for the next issue.

Paul Lee’s artwork is simply breathtaking, a gorgeous hybrid of comic book illustration and the graceful artistry of a painting. The colors are rich and deep and contribute to the gravity and drama of the images. His rendition of the kappa is exquisitely grotesque and there are, of course, few greater pleasures for Conan fans than to see the Cimmerian locked in savage combat with inhuman monsters. Despite the obvious mishmash of cultural influences, the comic achieves an impressive authenticity thanks to its largely Asian creative team. Yoshida’s script hits the proper notes and Lee’s beautiful designs keep Khitai from becoming simply a Western misconception or parody of Asia.

So far, Dark Horse has another winner with this debut issue. They continue to produce some of the best fantasy tales in comics.

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