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Robert E. Howard's memorable villain finally gets an origin story of his own in this volume, which collects a four-issue miniseries of the same name. Thoth is a beggar "in the blighted city of Memphia," his morals slowly eroded by an abusive father and harsh life on the streets. When his friend Amon receives an invitation to apprentice in the house of the kindly priest of Ibis, Thoth kills Amon and takes his place in the priest's home. Busiek (Astro City, JLA/Avengers) and the legendary Wein (Swamp Thing) do a fine job telescoping a lifetime's worth of sinister plotting and backstabbing into relatively few pages. Narration is well-executed and evocative ("a new wind did waft through Memphia, thin and dry though it was") and the narrator's identity, revealed at the end, is a nice twist. There is much blood shed in the book, but most of it is implied; only a few scenes contain graphic violence, although virtually every page bears at least one image that is genuinely terrifying or haunting. Liberal use of shadows and wiry outlines in Kelley's solid but moody art give shape to a world where even the agents of light do not seem entirely trustworthy. (Dec.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.