CONAN THE BARBARIAN #15

“The Green Empress of Melnibone”
Writers: Roy Thomas, Michael Moorcock and J. Cawthorn
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan, Elric and Zephra are fighting off hordes of various demons on the way to Yagala which is under the Sighing Lake. They reach it but find that Kulan Gath who is working for Xiombarg has already started to awaken Terhali the Green Empress. And Gaynor and the Chaos Pack also arrive and a big free for all fight ensues. Elric manages to stab Gaynor which turns him to dust. Terhali blasts Kulan Gath to pieces and also knocks out Conan and Elric. Then the Lords of Law possess Zephra and she manages to defeat Terhali but dies in the process. Elric goes home and Conan delivers the body of Zephra to her father.

“My head aches with names I have no faces for.” exclaims Conan in the story. I can relate. There are a whole slew of characters that get thrown at you. It can be hard to follow. In fact Conan is for the most part a spectator in this issue. The real heavy lifting is done by Zephra possessed. An interesting idea to combine Conan and Elric but just didn’t work out. It has some positive moments. The end with Conan delivering Zephra to Zukala was touching. This evil wizard is now a broken old man and truly loved his daughter. Conan of course has disdain for all this sorcery and many weird named cast of characters. I think it was a good idea to wrap this up quickly. So on a sad note this was Barry Smith’s final issue. His artwork really brought Conan alive and I think he is an important reason this series was a success.

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SHEENA QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE #6

“Untitled”
Writers: Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujillo
Artist: Maria Sanapo

Sheena is finding a rot spreading among the trees and fruit of Mother Forest. So she goes back to her village and shows it to her friend Lirio who is the plant expert. The Chieftainess comes back and has news that a huntress is spreading the rot. She is also looking for Sheena. So Sheena and Lirio go in search of this huntress. While out they are attacked by a Mapinguari. A Mapinguari is a creature from legend that has four arms, a huge eye and a large mouth in it’s chest. Sheena’s weapons prove useless but Lirio finds poison flowers and throws them into its mouth. This kills it but now they have to face the mysterious huntress.

Another intriguing story. Sheena is despondent and blames herself for the face stealer incident. I really don’t see what she did wrong. Anyway we now have her friend accompanying her and introducing the Mapinguari. This was a creature established in the older series and is indeed a weird looking creature. It ends with the mysterious huntress that is searching for Sheena. I do love the new artist. She seems to capture what Sheena should look like.

RED SONJA #20

“The Blade of Skath”
Writers: Amy Chu & Erik Brunham
Artists: Carlos Gomez & Vincenzo Federici

Sonja has found Skath only he is a drunk that nobody recognizes. So she hears his story. After he lost his blade he started drinking. He decided to go on a quest to find it but had no luck. When he returned he found Sandak had taken over. Skath was beaten and thrown in the gutter. Sonja and her two friends convince him to sober up. So they clean him up and present him to the people. The peasants are all hyped up and ready to fight. Only just before the big battle Skath falls off the wagon and is passed out drunk. So Sonja leads the peasants to overthrown Sandak. A big fight occurs with Sonja getting knocked into the moat. A moat that has a shark.

Well this story flowed nicely. We find Skath who is a has been and apparently still a drunk. Yet Sonja takes it on herself to free the people of Sandak who is a tool. His guests think that the battle is put on for their benefit. Also interesting that Sandak has enough money to bring a shark all the way to Cimmeria.

THE WARLORD #120

“Vale of the Snowmen”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: Art Thibert and Pablo Marcos

Redmond finds himself in one of the cloud covered valleys that populate Skartaris. He collapses and is rescued by Sasquatch men. They have an advanced civilization descended from Atlanteans. The valley transforms men into beasts and also starts to transform Redmond. Morgan battles the Kraken Pentacle on their island and manages to escape by taking one of them prisoner and forcing him to show how to keep the kraken in the lake from attacking. Later as Morgan rides home he comes on members of Kiro’s elite guard pillaging a Shamballah village. Morgan drives them off and wonders why a staunch ally would turn on Shamballah. In Kiro Machiste is approached by ambassadors from neighboring city states that Shamballah is attacking them. Machiste wants more proof but when they see Tara with Machiste they think that maybe he is allied with Shamballah. In fact Y’smalla in disguise as Tara is working on the behalf of Desaad to foment war in Skartaris. Jennifer senses evil and traces the evil to the tomb of Arion. There she manages to free Kara from the spell of the demon.

So once again we have multiple plots going on in a short span. Still it works for now. Each is easy to follow and quite interesting. They all seem to be coming to a head with Desaad and Y’smalla pulling the strings to a war. The only complaint is that with Desaad involved and Power Girl in the story the series just seems too much more a superhero book than the original sword and sorcery that it was. Otherwise it is interesting and well written and drawn.

PLANET OF THE APES #5

“Editorial Nightmare!”
By Don McGregor

An editorial on how the artist for the main story drew so big that it make this issue a challenge to get out.

“Evolution’s Nightmare!”
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Ed Hannigan and Jim Mooney

In the forbidden zone wasteland two armies meet. One human and the other gorilla. The two have an epic battle that sees both sides destroyed. Only Jovan a human and Solomon a gorilla survive. Jovan’ legs are damaged while Solomon can’t use his arms. They agree to help each other with Solomon carrying him while Jovan hunts for food. The two come on a cave with a half ape/human hermit named Mordecai. He nurses the two back to health. When they are healed he convinces them to settle their differences with a non-lethal fight with fists. The two beat each other senseless then Mordecai sends them to see the city. There the destruction convinces the two to stop hating and work together. Only they get caught between battling mutant humans and apes and are killed.

“Interview with Dan Striepeke”
By Samuel James Maronie

Dan Striepeke was the one who did the apes makeup for the movies and TV series.

“The Man Who Sold the Planet of the Apes!”
By Gary Gerani

An article on Arthur P. Jacobs the producer of the five apes movies.

“Into the Forbidden Zone”
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: George Tuska and Mike Esposito

Zira and Cornelius with the help of young Lucius break Taylor and Nova out of their cells and take them into the Forbidden Zone. They plan to retrieve proof from an archeological dig that they are not heretics. The reach the site but so does Dr. Zaius and the gorilla police. Taylor takes Zaius hostage at gunpoint and forces him to see the proof that a society predates the ape civilization.

So Evolution’s Nightmare was a very good story. Very poignant and tragic. These other stories that take place around the world between the movies were always a good glimpse into the history of the apes series. Otherwise the articles were good but a bit light this issue. Also the movie adaptation continues to its exciting end.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #14

“A Sword Called Stormbringer!”
Writers: Roy Thomas, Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorn
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan comes on some cloaked riders chasing down a woman. He decides to intervene and finds that the riders are not human. They are faceless, ride beaked horses and bleed black. One the the riders swords just touches Conan and knocks him out. Giant white eagles come and chase the riders away. He wakes up and finds that the woman is Zephra and Zukala was the one who saved them. So he takes Zephra to her father Zukala who is now a broken old man. Still he has some powers and recruits Conan to help him defeat Xiomberg.

So he tells the story of Empress Terhali a green-skinned woman who was defeated and sealed in a tomb. Then the whole city that was her capital was transported from Melniborne to Hyborea and put under a lake. The towers are gold so Conan agrees to help for the gold. Along the way an albino warrior comes through a portal. It is Elric of Melniborne a sorcerer-king. With his magical blade Stormbringer the two fight but later come to the realization they are not the enemy. Then the portal opens and Prince Gaynor the Damned leads an army of demons. The two fight and it is Zephra who calls on her father to bring a rain storm to drive off the demons. Then Elric and Conan agree to continue on the quest.

So this issue is a crossover with Michael Moorcock’s hero Elric. Kind of a fascinating idea. I never read any Elric but it does sound interesting. A somewhat convoluted plot and I am must have missed why Conan needs to go to the sunken city. But the fate of the world depends on it. Also this is the first introduction of Kulan Gath. He is mentioned but so far I have no idea what his part is in the story. I know Gath goes on to be a famous villain that takes on the modern superheroes. Not to mention the bane of Red Sonja. Also Thomas brings back Zephra and her father Zukala. I admit this doesn’t feel like a normal Conan story but I still find it interesting.

SHEENA QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE #5

“Untitled”
Writers: Marguerite Bennett and Christina Trujillo
Artist: Maria Sanapo

The Cadwell strip mining operation has unearthed hordes of face stealers. Bullets don’t effect them. Only Sheena’s knife seems to kill them. Luckily her tribe comes and their poisoned arrows and blow darts also kill them. Still the horde is endless and Sheena decides the only way to stop them is to close the door. So with the help of Chano they fight their way to the stone slab that kept them prisoner. They push it together but only Sheena’s knife can fuse the crack shut. Then the face stealers all die. The tribe is saved and Cadwell’s mercenaries are taken prisoner to be turned over authorities. Chano’s video will seriously hurt Cadwell’s reputation. At the end two tribesmen are observing Sheena and talk about not telling her the truth about her past. That a door has been opened and they do not know what will step through.

So this story comes to an exciting conclusion. Sheena saves the day and the face stealers and Cadwell’s mining operation are stopped. Yet it leaves us with a mystery about Sheena’s past and a very new threat that will probably come. An enjoyable story with beautiful art especially Sheena.

RED SONJA #19

“The Blade of Skath”
Writers: Amy Chu & Erik Burnham
Artist: Carlos Gomez

So Lord Sandak has made an offer to Sonja and her companions to drive off the local villagers so he can rent out their homes. Lera is quick to accept the offer which really angers Sonja. So they go to the village to check it out. Once there they have to fight off some more rabid followers of Kulan Gath. Lera has an idea on talking Sandak out of his plan. So she goes to him and discusses the economical advantages to keeping the peasants so they grow cheap food while he just charges more to his guests. The reason they will charge more is to see Sonja in action. So this plan is accepted but once again Sonja is angry at Lera making agreements on her behalf. So she takes a walk and stumbles on a drunk. The drunk is Lord Skath.

This is an enjoyable story. Lera we know is carrying an amulet of Gath which is why his followers have no trouble finding them. Wisely she knows that will anger Sonja so keeps quiet. She does have a knack for talking her way out of situations. So at the end we find Lord Skath the man she was looking for only he is somewhat of a drunk. So where will this story go?

SECRET ORIGINS #16

“The Warlord Exiles”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artist: Adam Kubert

In a Soviet gulag in Siberia we are introduced to Danny Maddox. He is a survivor and supplements his dinner with the rats he can catch. He thinks back to how he got her. Back in junior high he was a bully. One day a new kid Travis Morgan stopped his bullying. So he tried the Air Force after school to be a pilot but got kicked out for punching an officer. So he joined the Army and became a supply sergeant in Vietnam. A crooked one who sold supplies to the VC and information to the Russians. One day Lt. Colonel Morgan stops by to inform about his men stealing supplies. So now once again Maddox’s racked is busted by Morgan.

So he comes up with a plan to lure him into a trap. He makes up a story about a secret biological weapon base so they will send Morgan to investigate. Then he defects to the Soviets and is there when Morgan’s plane arrives. Only he manages to escape and now Maddox is in trouble with the Russians. Seems the research base is real and now the Americans will know. So he jumps in a fighter and takes off. Only Morgan is the better pilot and shoots him down. Now he has been in the gulag waiting for his revenge.

“Secret Origin of ‘Mazing Man”
Writer: Bob Rozakis
Artist: Stephen DeStefanio

A little guy is looking through the trash. He finds a helmet with a W mounded in front. The W inverts to a M and he comes up with the name ‘Mazing Man.

“The Secret Origin of Hourman”
Writers: Roy and Dann Thomas
Artist: Michael Bair

Rex Tyler is a chemist working on antidotes for chemical weapons in 1939. He is a weak and timid man. He is secretly working on a formula to boost strength. One night his test rat shows success. So out at a carnival he decides to take it and gains super strength. He busts the bell and runs from the carnies. He dons an acrobats custom and escapes. He decides to become a superhero and takes an ad out in the papers soliciting those in need of help. One letter from an old woman tells of how a gang is forcing her son to join a robbery on New Years Eve. So Tyler in his new Hourman guise manages to stop it. This is how he became a superhero but there is a nasty addiction to his formula he named Miraclo. This is a letter to his son who is now using the same formula in 1984 to be another Hourman.

So Secret Origins was a series that showcased the secret origins of DC characters. Usually a modern one and one from the Golden Age of comics. I got this issue because of the Warlord story. An interesting new character in Maddox. Still it was a character that while having some potential just never worked out. I found the whole revisionist origin a bit silly. A guy who is just a supply sergeant is taught to fly fighters by the Soviets. That he comes up with this goofy plot to get Morgan. That the SR-71 has no weapons but manages to shoot down a MIG fighter. Still Maddox will join the series in upcoming stories so it is important to read this issue.

The Hourman story was an interesting one. This character is a very obscure one from the ’40’s but was being revived so it made sense to give him an origin story. Thomas as always manages to weave an interesting tale.

Finally the ‘Mazing Man was cute if a bit short at only one page. I’m not familiar with the character so not much to say about him.

PLANET OF THE APES #4

“A Riverboat Named Simian”
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Mike Ploog and Frank Chiaramonte

Jason, Alexander the Lawgiver and Warko have escaped from the mutant city. Warko decides to hijack the flying craft they are on. The resulting fight crashes the ship in the Forbidden Zone. Thus our three heroes must make the trek out. Along the way they battle the mutant creatures and come to a stream. They get caught in the current and swept over a waterfall. They find themselves at a lake and build a raft. Soon they come on a settlement of apes and humans living peacefully together. They are greeted by Gunpowder Julius an ape dressed in buckskins and a coon hat. Gunpowder and his human friend Steely Dan operate a riverboat named Simian. They agree to help take out friends back to their city.

Meanwhile Brutus arrives at the mutant city to talk to the Gestalt minds. Brutus is allied with the mutants to help overthrown the city and put him in charge. Hearing of the escape of the Lawgiver he is given some of the mutant’s war machines to track them down. They find the settlement and plan to attack but luckily their plans are overheard by one of the settlement’s inhabitants. They are able to set a trap by digging a ditch filled with gunpowder that destroys the war machines. They then successfully drive off the attackers.

“A Half-hour With Harper”
By Chris Claremont

An interview with Ron Harper who plays astronaut Virdon on the TV series. He talks about how he had to interrupt his honeymoon to do a screen test. Also what they are doing on the show and what interests him about acting.

“Planet of the Apes Fashions”
By Ed Lawrence

Talks about how the ape clothing was conceived for the movie.

“Trial”
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: George Tuska and Mike Esposito

Taylor is taken to a court hearing that is accusing Zira and Cornelius of heresy. The proceedings are definitely stacked against them and Taylor is not allowed to mound a defense. Later he is taken to Dr. Zaius who wants to know where his tribe is located. Taylor spits in his face and is taken away.

So the Terror story is coming along with our heroes now having escaped with the Lawgiver. They know that the mutants are planning to attack them and Brutus is in league with them. What Brutus doesn’t know is the Gestalt minds plan to wipe out both humans and apes including him and his followers. I enjoyed the introduction of Gunpowder Julius and the whole mountainapes that introduced some more colorful characters.

The interview was another interesting one. The fashion one was OK but didn’t really tell you much.

Finally the movie adaptation is another installment that sticks closely to the script. This one was the famous trial scene. A very talky scene but loaded with satire and humor.