Overview

Conan and the Demons of Khitai #4

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Conan and the Demons of Khitai #4

Credits

  • Words: Akira Yoshida
  • Art: Paul Lee
  • Inks: Paul Lee
  • Colors: Paul Lee
  • Story Title: The Power of the Priestess
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Feb 1, 2006

Conan battles a demon warrior and comes face to face with the person responsible for his ill-fated journey to the East.

After being lured to the Far Eastern land of Khitai, watching his men get slaughtered, and facing monsters, demons, and culture shock, King Conan has had enough. At last, he confronts the supernatural warrior Shinzen, seemingly the source of the kingdom’s woes. Yet Shinzen is merely a pawn of a more powerful mistress, one with a particular interest in the handsome Aquilonian king.

It has been impressive that with only a few exceptions, Dark Horse’s Conan spin-offs have maintained the same level of quality and artistry as the monthly series. Demons of Khitai was one of the strongest Conan miniseries we’ve seen thus far, a gracefully illustrated and absorbing tale of East-meets-West sensibilities. Issue 4 is largely an action-driven story, finally bringing the payoff of Conan and Shinzen’s confrontation and the reveal of the puppetmaster behind it all. However, Akira Yoshida reinterprets the familiar sword-and-sorcery elements through a veil of influences from Asian culture, breathing new life into the characters and genre. In the opening pages, a local wisewoman converts Conan’s travails into a metaphorical folk tale of a mighty lion pursuing a clever fox. And there continues to be both visual and cultural contrast in the juxtaposing of the barbaric Conan with deadly samurai and elegant kimono-clad ladies.

For all the strengths of this series, there was one aspect that left me unsatisfied. The origins of the central villain were left a bit unclear. Was she a priestess? A demoness? A spirit? Or are we not meant to know? This issue being delayed did not help to make the backstory clearer either. Some more clarity on just who and what Conan is facing would have been appreciated.

These concerns seem minor of course when compared to the visual splendor of Paul Lee’s artwork. Lee’s dramatic style brings a rich, painterly quality to the images and brings out the many subtle hues and shadows of the figures. It’s a sumptuous approach that (like the story) marries the Western fantasy traditions with an Eastern flavor. The aforementioned folk tale is a highlight of the issue, as Lee renders this like a simple but beautiful Japanese oil painting.

Despite a somewhat confusing denouement, Conan and the Demons of Khitai was a striking new interpretation of the barbarian hero. In my eyes, Cimmeria’s champion remains unchallenged on the throne of fantasy comics.

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