Written by Scott Tipton and Mariah Huehner
Art by Elena Casagrande
Illyria walks into a world she does not know. She makes her way to The Deeper Well. Though she doesn't really want to return to the place where her spirit was kept in prison for so long, she needs answers. She needs to know why she is here. The Guardian of the Well looks like as close as a demon can get to a cute old grandmother. Though she tries to deter Illyria from her path, Illyria is strong. Stronger than most living things on Earth. She enters the well, but she is cautioned not to touch anything. She wanders among the rotted gods but finds her old prison. In an oddly heart-touching moment, we see how sad Illyria is about what she is lost. I say oddly because really, she wasn't a creature we should feel for. She was about violence, chaos, and pain. But now, she cannot be that thing anymore and she is trapped in a human body and she's confused. That does spark compassion. I won't give away the rest of the plot, but big things happen.
Issue 3 is packed with emotion and action. I love when those things strike an equal balance. The way Tipton writes the story really makes you experience Illyria and everything she is feeling. The art has the same effect. You can read so much from a character in any scene just from the way they are standing. Casagrande continues to capture the essence of Illyria with every line.
Written by Ron Martz
Pencils by Whilce Portacio
The fifth issue of Artifacts opens with a little pizza delivery humor. It's nice to mix a little normal into a world with cyborgs and Artifacts bearers. It segues quickly into an action sequence with Aphrodite IV. She's clearly up to no good; she is trying to recruit people to join in the fight against Sara and the other “good” guys. In the meantime, Sara and Jackie continue the search for their daughter. They are sidetracked by events that cannot be aside. Just as they are reporting the latest to those on their side, Aphrodite and her new allies show up. We see the battle start, but who knows how it will end?
I enjoy Artifacts, but the story jumps a lot and abruptly between characters. If I didn't review the summary of the last issue at the beginning of the current issue, I'd be lost. The “Players of Artifacts” section at the end of each issue is invaluable. I still have to occasionally refer back to past issues too. I have learned just to roll with things that don't make sense in the Artifacts series because one way or another, you'll figure it out.
Written by Roy Thomas
Pencils by Mike Hawthorne
Conan is off the ship now and escorting his lovely new lady, Olivia, home via the Road of Kings. He has to earn money for that journey first, so they detour to the city of Shadizar. He and fellow pirate Krimsar plan and execute a robbery. They still from some royal, and they get a considerable booty. Conan does have a knack for thieving after all. Olivia is thrilled about the spoils, but she wants to get home and doesn't want Conan to fall back into his old ways. She reminds him that they have plenty to get on with their journey. He gives in. Krimsar mentions one more plan though. This robbery could bring them untold fortunes. Conan can't resist, but he's smart enough to hide it from Olivia. In the dark night hours, he and Krimsar set out to the merchant Nitos' mansion to become rich.
The second issue of Road of Kings really pulled me in. Conan strikes a perfect mix of dashing, brawny, and kick-ass. His sidekick is a nice, bumbling offset. I have to say that one thing I love about the Conan comics that I've read is that the locations are more like characters instead of just a backdrop. Hawthorne does a great job making Shadizar (the wicked city) moody. The images of the city emanate a cutthroat and unfriendly vibe. Looking forward to issue 3!