As I opened Conan The Slayer #12 and read the title, I realized that something seemed…wrong. “The Devil In Iron- Part Six”.
Part six? The story was finished in the last issue. The original short story was only twenty-five pages to begin with. This seems weird. Okay, on with the story.
This story is not “The Devil In Iron”. This is some sort of epilogue or sequel that reads like fan fiction. Bad fan fiction. Bad fan fiction that liberally rips off the 2001 movie “The Mummy Returns”.
Our hero, Conan, has just fought for his very existence in the ancient city of Dagon against: a giant snake, the vile Jehungir Agha and his band of cut throat warriors and finally the Demon-Giant Khostrel Kel, a Great Old One made into iron -like flesh that required a mystical blade to kill it. Instead of getting the hell off of the cursed island of Xapur, Conan and his wench of the week Octavia continue in pursuit of the vizier Ghaznavi, sole survivor of the plot to kill Conan. Even though in the original story, Ghaznavi wasn’t even on the island. So he goes further on into the depths of this hellish island, even though in chapter three he almost turned back just upon viewing the ancient city of Dagon magically rebuilt. This seems out of character. Conan may be a barbarian, but he’s not stupid. Eventually Conan and Octavia catch up with Ghaznavi and get captured by evil pint-sized cannibal monsters. You know, just like the evil pint-sized cannibal monsters in “The Mummy Returns”.
By reputation, Cullen Bunn is normally an exceptional writer. If you take a look at the racks of your local comic store you’ll see his name practically everywhere. And maybe that’s part of the problem with this tale. It’s just ‘phoned in’. He’s spreading his talent a little too thinly, like butter over too much bread as the hero of another fantasy franchise might say.
But the story is only part of this comic. How is the art? The art by Dheeraj Verma is INCREDIBLE. His action scenes are brutal. His figure work is exquisite. The designs of Dagon’s architecture and the statue of the ‘Sin-Eater’ are archaic and other-worldly. His use of shadowy blacks and subtle gradient shading create a suitably creepy atmosphere. Why didn’t Dark Horse use Verma for the previous chapters of this tale? It needed this type of moody art.
I’m recommending this issue solely on the strength of Verma’s art. If you’d prefer a good story, do yourself a favor and dig up any of the original Conan tales by Robert E. Howard, or read anything else that has Cullen Bunn’s name on it.
(W) Cullen Bunn (A) Dheeraj Verma (CA) Phroilan Gardner