HERCULES UNBOUND #1

“Hercules Unbound!”

Writer: Gerry Conway

Artists: J.L Garcia and Wally Wood

Hercules has been chained on a small island in the Aegean by Ares for thousands of years. Suddenly he is free and soon comes to the rescue of a teen boy and his dog being attacked by giant octopus. The boy Kevin and his husky Basil are grateful for the rescue. Hercules finds out the boy is blind and that a nuclear war has occurred four weeks ago. Kevin was with his brother on a sailing trip around the Medittereanian Sea when Athens was bombed. His brother died in the bombing and two weeks later Kevin and Basil emerged from the shelter and were attacked by mutants. They managed to make it to a sailboat and sail away.

Hercules agrees to accompany Kevin to the Vatican because that is where his father a diplomat was stationed. They first have to battle minotaurs sent by Ares. Then they arrive in Rome and find soldiers battling using sticks and stones. Hercules stops them and confronts Ares who is behind this. Ares sends a big red hulk called the Smasher to beat up Hercules. Thankfully with the help of Kevin and Basil the Smasher is defeated. Only Kevin finds out that the Smasher was his father and is now dead.

I love post-nuke adventures and always wanted to give this series a try. I am not disappointed. What a cool idea to use Hercules and transport him to a post-nuke world. Ares imprisoned Hercules and seems to be somehow responsible for the war. Now the Greek name is Heracles and how he can speak English is a bit of a mystery. I suppose series back then didn’t concern themselves with such trivia. Yet I love the characters. Kevin and Basil are perfect for his companions in this world. Ares is a perfect opponent. There are many possibilities in the post-nuke world, and I look forward to exploring them.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #151

“Fury of the Near-Men”

Writer: Charles Dixon

Artists: Gary Kwapisz and Ernie Chan

Conan is riding across the grass plains of Darfur when he is attacked by a pack of wild dogs. They kill his horse, but Conan manages to drive them off. He later comes on a caravan run by a Corinthian and his son and daughter. Conan saves the daughter from a sabretooth and gets welcomed by the father. They recognize Conan from his gladiator days and the daughter has an infatuation with Conan. Later the caravan is attacked by monkey-men and a storm floods the area and washes Conan away. He is saved by another race of beast-men. After killing the leader, Conan is the new leader. He teaches them how to build spears and bow and arrows. Then leads them to the monkey-men to rescue his friends. He is too later for the father and son but manages to rescue the daughter. After burning down the monkey-men village he and the daughter continue on to civilization. The beast-men start to worship Conan as a god.

“A Bond of Blood”

Writer: John Arcudi

Artist: Mark Pacella

The guy who summoned the demon to kill Kull last issue is at it again. He summons the father of the demon who is pissed to hear that Kull killed his son. This demon though starts to boss around the guy who summoned him. Kull finds this guy and convinces him to help send the demon back. Kull uses the skin from the demon he killed to cover his arm. This is effective in beating up the demon and the guy can complete the spell to open the portal. Only Kull is not in a forgiving mood and tosses the guy into the portal after the demon.

This was an offbeat issue. What with two non-human types. There are the evil monkey guys and the peaceful kinda lion type guys. An original story that was interesting. Of course, once again we get the wonderful Kwapisz/Chan artwork. The Kull story was also an enjoyable one. Kull defeats another demon and gets rid of the troublemaker as only Kull could. Definitely enjoying this run of Savage Sword.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #182

“Testament”

Writer: Jim Owsley

Artists: John Buscema and Ernie Chan

Conan has been made the warlord of the Kothian city-state of El Shah Maddoc. Yet the king had to give him this title for saving his father. He gives Conan as assignment to take his troops and destroy roving bands of M’Gal, a Kushite nomadic tribe. Only the troops given him are not real soldiers, but dregs taken from the dungeon. Maddoc wants Conan to die and his former warlord Shapur, his daughter Anneka and grandson Jahli. A messenger arrives from the M’Gal with an offer to allow Conan to go free. Conan refuses and this inspires his men. They ambush the attacking M’Gal but are almost wiped out when the M’Gal see something and suddenly flee. Imhotep has arrived. Meanwhile Tetra makes an alliance with the mad king Maddoc.

This was an excellent issue. Conan has to fight a savage horde with substandard men. Yet he manages and we find out some more stuff. That his page is the grandson of the man he deposed. This boy is also the king’s illegitimate son. Shapur is originally arrogant with losing his job but rallies behind Conan to save himself and his daughter. Tetra is making an alliance with the bat shit crazy king who thinks he is a god. Ends with the cliffhanger of Imhotep arriving and a hint at a big battle between him and Conan. An excellent issue with one minor thing. It was originally established that the city was in Shem but now it is in Koth. A minor continuity issue but still something that bugs me.

RED SONJA BLACK WHITE RED #3

“Dawn of a Crimson Day”

Writer: Gail Simone

Artists: Walter Geovani, Dearbhla Kelly and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Red Sonja is born and as a young girl sees her village slaughtered. She learns how to fight and becomes a great warrior. She gets pregnant and the baby dies. She loses an eye and as an old woman visits the graves of her parents.

“Small Tales”

Writer: Dearbhla Kelly

Artists: Soo Lee & Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Sonja steps in a snare that was set by a young girl. This girl named Rua claims to be an orphan and her parents killed by bandits. Sonja agrees to take her to the next village. Sonja starts to bond with Rua going on about all the tall tales she heard about Sonja. At night they are attacked by wolves and Sonja gets her to safety. At the village Sonja finds out her parents are alive and worried. Rua ran away to find Sonja and become her apprentice. Sonja tells her to stay with her loving parents.

“SSSHHHHHH!”

Writer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Artists: Jonathan Lau & Dearbhla Kelly

Sonja comes to collect a bounty for killing a fire breathing dragon. She is shown a dark crevasse and is attacked by a flame. She discovers that it is a phony dragon, and it was a trap to get Sonja. The people behind it were after a bounty on Sonja. Sonja pretends to be their prisoner so she can gain access to this king that wants her.

The first and third story had no dialogue at all. The first was just a rehash of Sonja’s life but the third had a fun little story. The middle story was my favorite. I loved the little girl and nice to see Sonja get bested by a little girl in the beginning. The main draw for this issue is the artwork. All the stories had incredible artwork and that alone was worth the price.

DEJAH THORIS #9

“Untitled”

Writer: Dan Abnett

Artist: Sebastian Piriz

Dejah and her companions meet Matai Shang and the Therns at the estate of John Carter in New York. The Therns tell Dejah that the instability both on Barsoom and Earth is being caused by a race called the Longborn. This ancient race wants to cleanse life from all the planets of the solar system and repopulate them. The Therns show Dejah and friends this with a thought projection. It shows the future of Barsoom. A dead world with every race at war with one another. Dejah agrees to ally with the Therns and go back to Barsoom and stop the evil war plans of the Jeddak Kurz and his ally the Jeddara of Zodanga. They get transported back to Barsoom just as the US Army arrives to capture them.

This wasn’t a bad issue. We get to find out some stuff like why is Barsoom going to Hell and for that matter Earth. The Longborn are an intriguing opponent that have potential. The issue was a bit on the exposition side. I liked the inclusion of Edgar as a fun nod to the writer. I still don’t buy bringing back Matai Shang from the dead or making the Therns these all-powerful ancient beings. The writer is definitely using the Disney movie and not the original novels. Also, I didn’t care for the adventures on Earth. I had high hopes, but it all seemed pointless and unexciting. So, we shall see what happens when Dejah and friends go back to Barsoom.

A.R.M. #3

“Heart Attack”

Writer: Bill Spangler adapted from “Death by Ecstasy” by Larry Niven

Artists: Terry Tidwell and Steve Stiles

Gil Hamilton manages to find the proof that his friend was murdered by organleggers. He finds everything in a locker in Death Valley. Only problem is that the guy who sold his friend the ecstasy plug killed himself before he could be arrested. Now he has no leads to the leader Loren. Loren though manages to kidnap Gil. Tied up like a mummy, Gil finds that Loren kept him alive to find out where the incriminating evidence is. He also has a fascination with psychic powers and Gil has this phantom arm from an accident. Gil tries to burn out his eyes using a cigarette he was using to demonstrate his powers. Loren tries to stop him and gets too close. Gil uses his third arm to squeeze Loren’s heart and save himself.

The third issue ties up the story quite nicely. I do remember reading the book way back when. It was a really good futuristic criminal mystery. The writer did a fantastic job of adapting it. A fascinating if now very heavily seventies version of the future. I will have to read more Niven in the future. He was one of my favorite writers. I also love these old Adventure titles. This company really put out a lot of cool stuff.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #150

“Call to the Slain”

Writer: Charles Dixon

Artists: Gary Kwapisz and Ernie Chan

Conan is still in Kush and with his crew have finished building their boat. Then a man comes down the river and claims that a shaman is raising an army of the dead. The village now has to prepare while the village shaman resurrects the spirit of their warrior god to save them. Conan’s crew abandons him but are ambushed by the dead army and join them. With the ship this army arrives earlier. A big fight ensues with the dead about to overrun the village. The shaman finally completes the ritual, and the mummified body of their god arises. Then falls apart into dust. Only his spirit goes and occupies Conan. The occupied spirit manages to defeat the army. Later Conan sneaks into the evil shaman’s camp and sprinkles salt on the surviving zombies. This unlocks their memories of life, and the zombies take revenge on the evil shaman.

“Trial by Fear”

Writer: John Arcudi

Artist: Mark Pacella

An evil cult resurrects a demon to kill Kull. Later a baby with a mark on its forehead is found at the gates of the palace. Kull takes it in. Later at night it transforms into a demon that instills fear in its victims. It almost kills Kull but Brule wounds it. It flees and they find the baby only without an arm and not showing any emotion. Kull realizes it is a demon in disguise and cuts it’s head off.

150 issues are a big milestone in comics. They didn’t really do anything special for this event. Still the story was up to its excellent quality that this run has been having under Dixon. A fairly simple story of zombies which back in the day were not that common. Also has a good solid Kull backup.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #181

“Maddoc’s Reign”

Writer: Jim Owsley

Artists: John Buscema and Ernie Chan

Conan arrives in El Shah Maddoc a small city state in Shem. It was renamed after the mercenary that captured it and usurped the crown. Now his son Maddoc II is the king. He is an arrogant man who kills guys in the arena with his bare hands to show how powerful he is. He is also a nut job who thinks he rules the world. Conan with Kiev offers to save his city from Imhotep. Swain the king’s slave who also can see the future convinces him to hire Conan. Maddoc agrees if Conan will go to the tower his father build and retrieve the signet ring. His father was rumored to be stolen by witches and taken to this tall tower that was built to commemorate his rule. Conan agrees and finds a demon that he slays. He finds the old king still alive and takes him back to his son. The king makes Conan the warlord of the city which pisses off the guy had the job. Tetra is revealed to be behind some plot to bring down Conan at the end.

This was a really good story. The king of this city is a total egotistical nutjob that loves himself. Conan comes in with a ton of confidence and manages to rescue the old king from this tall tower. He gets made the warlord which sets up a rivalry with the old kiss ass warlord that Maddoc had. Tetra is still around plotting something nefarious. Imhotep is still out there after the amulet. This starts up a long story arc that involves Conan’s adventures in this city-state.

RED SONJA BLACK WHITE RED #2

“Proelium Finalis”

Writer & Artist: Jonboy Meyers

Red Sonja is queen and leads her kingdom against the invading Lemurians. A race of goblin type creatures that come from underground. They are led by a wizard that uses his magic to kill Sonja. Only Sonja chops his head off. This demoralizes the army, and they retreat.

“Edible”

Writer: Jeff Parker

Artist: Natalie Nourigat

A hawk leads Sonja to a village. A nearby bog has taken many of the villagers and a couple beg for Sonja to rescue their young daughter. Naturally Sonja agrees and finds the daughter. Only they are trapped by a sentient form of mushroom. To escape Sonja and the daughter start to eat the mushrooms which causes the mushroom entity to let them go.

“Listen Close”

Writer: David F. Walker

Artists: Will Robson & Hassan Otsmane-Ellaou

Sonja is hired by a fat king to retrieve his kidnapped betrothed. Sonja goes to the castle and confronts a snakelike creature that can turn men into stone. Only this creature has been giving shelter to the women. They were being forced to marry. Sonja instead takes the snake creature back and has the fat king turned to stone. Now the freed women have a castle and treasure.

This was an interesting issue. All the stories were offbeat and had a unique style of artwork. I am liking the various styles and format of this anthology series.

DEJAH THORIS #8

“Untitled”

Writer: Dan Abnett

Artist: Sebastian Piriz

Dejah and her companions have stopped in Pineville, Pennsylvania. Dejah with Marohk go to the theater while Llana and Jefferson steal a car. Two FBI agents find them in the theater and a fight ensues with Dejah coming out on top. Only when they leave the theater it is surrounded by soldiers. Llana tosses a car and attacks, but Marohk uses his telepathic power to freeze the soldiers. They continue on to the Carter estate in Croton-On-Hudson. Edgar is there to greet them. He also reveals that he has other guests from Barsoom. Matai Shang and some Therns.

This was not a really good issue. I had high hopes for an adventure on Earth, but this is just a bust. Not a lot happens except some minor tussles. The abomination of Llana who dresses as a man (no surprise) and stomps around and shows off her superpowers. God her character becomes more and more insufferable as this series continues. A guest appearance by ERB does nothing for the story. Also, I thought that Matai Shang was killed in the book series. And what the hell are Therns doing on Earth. Burroughs basically portrayed them as just dumb tools that were used by the First Born. They didn’t have any special powers or technology. Abnett seems to be adapting the Disney movie version of the Therns. This series is really becoming a disappointment.