SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #45

“The Gem in the Tower”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by L. Sprague De Camp & Lin Carter
Artists: John Buscema & Tony Dezuniga

Conan is the second mate to a Barachan pirate named Gonzago. The crew has landed on a small island off the coast of Stygia. Its inhabitant is a sorcerer who was using a gem that controlled the weather to extort from the pirates tribute in exchange for fair weather. Now it is rumored he died so Gonzago has come to steal the gem. They find the tower which has no door and it’s sides are unclimbable. As they camp for the night the captain is found with his throat slit. Later some guards are also found dead. Conan decides to set a huge fire to smoke out the creature. It works and a bat-thing attacks the crew. Conan manages to grab it and it takes him up to the tower. There he thinks he finally kills it. Then goes into the tower and finds the sorcerer dead. The creature is still alive and continues to attack Conan until Conan shatters the gem and this destroys the creature. Conan finds some valuables for the trouble and climbs down to take command of the pirate ship.

“Chains and Fetters A Study of Slavery in the Hyborian Age Part I”
By Jim Neal

An article on slavery in Conan’s time. This part dealt with slavery in the east, the Black Kingdoms, and the barbarian nations.

“A Conan Quiz”
By Jim Neal

A quiz about the Conan comics.

“Master of Shadows”
Writer: Christy Marx
Artists: John Buscema & Tony Dezuniga

Sonja is in a small city in northern Zamora. She is lying around a park bench enjoying the sun and minding her own business. Yet some creepy guys come and hit on her. Naturally Sonja beats them up. But these guys are members of The House of Shadow. A secret assassins guild. So now she has to fight these guys off.

Another DeCamp/Carter pastiche. This one was an OK story. Nothing really stood out but it was an amusing story nonetheless. It had all that you would expect in a Conan story. Pirates on a nameless island. A mysterious tower with a sorcerer. A dangerous bat-thing monster. Not to mention a lost treasure.

The article on slavery was very interesting. I am looking forward to the other installments. A very well researched article. The quiz was fun. I didn’t take it but I have to admit that ever after reading all the comics I still probably would not get a high score. Can’t remember all the names and place that well.

My favorite part of this issue was the Red Sonja story. It opens with a full page of Sonja lying stretched out on a park bench. Such a beautiful scene. The story with her and the battle with this assassins guilt had plenty of action and some comedy. Naturally Sonja won and you are always rooting for her throughout the story. An good issue.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #85

“Of Swordsmen and Sorcerers!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan and Zula are heading toward Kheshatta on stolen giant hawks. They land to take a break and tell each others stories. Conan tells how he met Belit and why they are in Stygia. Zula tells how as a young boy his tribe the Zamballahs were attacked by Kushites on a slave raid. Zula is the prince of the tribe and the last surviving male. He was eventually sold to a Stygian sorcerer named Shu-Onoru. While his slave he taught himself to read the magical texts and watched his master while playing dumb. Shu-Onoru had too much contempt for blacks to think his slave could learn anything. Yet Zula when he reached manhood decided to try and summon a demon to free himself. It didn’t work and his master sold him to a slaver. That is how he ended up in Harakht. Now he wants to go back for revenge. Conan decides that his vow to Belit is more important and will leave for Luxor. The two fight but Conan manages to convince Zula to help him on his quest for Belit in exchange he will than go to Kheshatta and help Zula. The giant hawks die in the night and they must continue on foot. In Luxor Belit and Neftha turn back to humans and are under the palace in Luxor.

Roy decided to use this issue to give us two things. First was a recap of Conan and how he came to be with Belit. Not a bad idea since the story was sidetracked for several issues and helps to refresh established readers and those that just jumped on board. The second was to give us a backstory for Zula. It was an interesting story for an interesting character. Roy also wisely decided to forgo another side trip and instead get on with the main story. So we are off to Luxor and hopefully reunite Conan and Belit. Then the big final confrontation with King Ctesphon.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #8

“Conan the Gambler Part 2 Fortune Favors the Bold”
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Patch Zircher

Conan was hired as a bodyguard to a rich merchant. Now that merchant has been poisoned and Conan is forced by the Demon’s Den to assume his former employers debt. Thus Conan has to play the card game Serpent’s Bluff. A sort of combination 21 and poker. He plays against Keto in a high stakes game. Conan actually manages to have a winning streak. Keto decides to go all in. He bets his entire fortune against what Conan won. Conan decides to gamble and loses. Now the house wants what’s due to them. Conan gets real angry and starts chopping down people. Yet the numbers are against him. He is subdued and thrown into the pit with the giant monster.

“The Shadow of Vengeance Chapter VIII”
By Scott Oden

Conan wakes up to find he is a prisoner on a pirate ship. What is surprising is to find he is chained with his enemy Dragutin. Dragutin is now a prisoner of Karash Khan and the Lord of Nine. Karash used his sorcery to assume Dragutin’s form and take over his ship. Karash comes with the other nine and cut off a piece of Conan’s skin. Then they feed it to Dragutin and he turns into an image of Conan. Karash has to keelhaul Conan so he uses Dragutin to please the crew while Conan is saved for delivery to Ghaznavi the man who hired the Nine.

This was another good story. This one had Conan uses his wits to try and get out of the situation. He actually almost did it but got a little too greedy. So Conan falls back on just plowing through his enemies just like Howard created the character. You can feel his anger as he chops down the guards and Keto the man he lost to. Yet numbers win out and he now has to face some giant monster.

The prose story continues to get interesting. Now Conan is captured by this mysterious assassins cult that uses magic. I wasn’t expecting Dragutin to go out that way. He seemed an opponent that Conan would have to take care of. Yet I approve how this story is going so far and look forward to the next installment.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #2

“To Live and Die in a Small Town”
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Fernando Ruiz

The gang is having lunch at Pop’s talking about their recent vacation. Someone comes in with news that Cheryl and Jason were killed by some animal. Soon after that Pop’s comes with a cake for the group when the Predator lasers his head off. The gang panic and lock themselves in the kitchen until the police arrive. Betty is convinced she is to blame. She inadvertently cursed Veronica with the Jaguar Blade. So they have to go to Greendale and visit Sabrina since she knows about voodoo.

They get to Sabrina and she agrees to help. She starts a ceremony with some goat head mask when the Predator bursts in and kills her. He than takes her skull and spine as a trophy and blasts Salem the cat. Veronica takes one of Sabrina’s dresses to replace her ruined one and the two have the boys meet them at the school gym. They get there and Moose has brought a bunch of guns and his father who is an army general. The general explains what the Predators are and the rules they operate by. The boys with their guns plan an ambush and dress Jughead up as Veronica to use as bait. Only the Predator ambushes the ambushers.

“Little Mask and his Pals”
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Art-Chie Baltazar

A one page comic. Little Archie and the gang are upset about fireworks being cancelled. Archie finds a green mask and turns into the Mask. He starts his own fireworks but Betty hits him over the head with a broom. The mask falls off and Archie wonders what happened.

So the story continues. I just love how Veronica and Betty are so self absorbed they seem oblivious to the danger they are in. So now we have the guys have some guns and the father general gives them some insight into the Predator. Still don’t know why the Predator is interested in the girls. Also the Jaguar Blade was shattered in the attack on Sabrina. Yet it put itself together and found its way into Veronica’s purse which Jughead was carrying at the end. So there is some link to the blade and the Predator. So far an enjoyable satiric take on the Predator.

ATARI FORCE #15

“Siege”
Writer: Mike Baron
Artist: Eduardo Barreto

Pakrat has been saved by his brother Rident. Now the whole crew of Scanner One has another problem to deal with. Giant ants are surrounding the ship. Rident says that they are very aggressive and ate his ship. So the crew take the wounded Kargg and lock the ship. First they have to deal with a pincher that keeps the door open. These ants are impervious to just about everything. While Martin decides what to do the other members of the crew have their own issues. Morphea offers to use her psychic abilities to probe Blackjack’s mind to see if the Dark Destroyer had implanted something in his mind to control him. She does find a tumor that could be something. Taz leaves the sickbay to hide out in a dark isolated room. The giant ants have managed to clog up the exhaust and prevent the ship from leaving. Other ants are coming with rocket launchers. It is discovered that Babe’s body chemistry is harmful to the ants. So he is chosen to go out and clean off the exhausts. Only when he leaves the ants attack him and he starts to panic.

“To Catch a Pakrat!”
Writer: Andy Helfer
Artist: Mike Chen

Pakrat is at the Deltan embassy to steal it’s jewels. When he climbs the tower and enters the ambassador’s residence he meets a Markian female of his race. Ferra is there to also steal the jewels. As a guard comes in she starts to kiss Pakrat. The guard kicks them out. Later it is revealed that Ferra managed to steal the jewels. She needs a distraction to escape and dumps the punch bowl over Pakrat’s head. Later the guard that discovered them finds out the jewels have been stolen. So the guards chase Pakrat who tries to escape back the way he came in. Only that way is blocked.

This was an interesting story. So far Rident is the new addition and show himself to be a very immovable bureaucrat with little imagination. There is some possibility that Blackjack was being mind controlled by the Dark Destroyer. Kargg apparently was only wounded and seems to be up to something sinister. Basically the whole crew is trapped by intelligent giant ants and the only way they can escape is the infant Babe.

The backup story gives us a look at Pakrat before his time with the force. This was a very enjoyable story so far. We get introduced to a female of Pakrat’s race and she is definitely an intriguing character. Definitely a woman perfect for Pakrat. Interesting to see how this ends. A good solid start to the new storyline.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #44

“The Star of Khorala”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by L. Sprague De Camp & Lin Carter
Artists: Sal Buscema & Tony Dezuniga

After his adventures in Zamboula Conan has the Star of Khorala. A diamond ring that was stolen from the queen of Ophir. There is a reward for it so he heads off to get it. When he gets to the capital at an inn he finds out the current situation. Seems Queen Marala has been imprisoned by the king. King Moranthes is a weak willed monarch who has fallen under the influence of Rigello. The queen’s former commander of her guard Garus comes into the tavern and Conan tries to strike up a conversation. Than Rigello’s men come to arrest him and Conan sides with Garus and they manage to defeat the guards.

Conan convinces him to help in rescuing the queen. He gets some special climbing equipment and manages to climb the tower she is imprisoned in. Later the three are heading to Aquilonia but are found by Rigello and his men. They take shelter in the ruins of a castle and fight them off. Conan has given Marsala her ring back which she uses the magic to summon her dead ancestors to route Rigello’s men. Marsala herself plants a crossbow bolt in the head of Rigello. Later she loses the ring and decides that she can’t ever rally her country to her cause without it. So he goes to relatives in Aquilonia and becomes the countess Albonia. Conan decides to visit his homeland.

“Notes on Hyborian Heraldry and Cartography”
By Fred Blosser

Has coats of arms for the major nation in the Hyborian age.

“Conan the Conquistador”
By Douglas Menville

An article on a blonde Conan comic series that appeared in Mexico in the late fifties.

“The Bullpen’s Barbarians”

A portfolio of images of Conan and Red Sonja drawn by Ernie Chan, Marshall Rogers, Joe Jusko, Will Meugniot and Tony Dezuniga.

So we get the adaptation of another pastiche by De Camp and Carter. This one tells about a dangling plot threat that Howard had in one of his stories he never got around to writing. I think the story was an enjoyable one. Sal draws very much like his brother and the artwork was beautiful.

The supplemental articles and portfolio were somewhat interesting but nothing very spectacular. Still it was an enjoyable issue.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #84

“Two Against the Hawk-City!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: Ernie Chan and John Buscema

Conan has come back to Harakht after completing his mission and finds his mate Belit missing. He goes to the temple and confronts the king Mer-ath. Mer-ath tells him that while Conan was gone he had a dream. A dream of Harakht being destroyed because of the actions of Belit. So he tried to have her arrested but Belit managed to grab Mer-ath and threaten his life to gain her freedom. She also took Neftha along as a shield since Mer-ath was her lover. So now Mer-ath plans to use Conan as a hostage until Neftha is returned to him.

Conan tries to fight his way out and a net brings him down. A black slave than knocks him out. Conan is taken to a dungeon and chained to the wall. His only companion is the slave who brained him. The slave named Zula has a proposition. If he frees Conan than Conan will accompany him to Kheshatta so he can take care of unfinished business. Conan agrees and Zula produces a vial of acid that dissolves their chains. Then they fake a fight so the guards come. They ambush the guards and fight their way to the giant hawks. Zula knows how to control them so the two escape Harakht.

Meanwhile Belit and Neftha reach Luxor. Neftha knows a way in and takes them to a small temple of Set. Neftha chants a spell which turns the two women into snakes so they can slither into the palace.

I enjoyed the side trip that Conan took. We got some great reimaging of Howard stories but it is nice to get back to the main plot. We find out what has happened to Belit and Neftha. The slave girl they rescued is proving to be genuine in knowing stuff to help Belit gain entry to the palace in Luxor. Another big thing is the introduction of a new character to the Conan universe. Zula a black slave who is a warrior and aspires to be a wizard is a favorite of mine. A mysterious and powerful companion that will show up throughout the Marvel Conan. This was a really great story filled with action, suspense and the return of the great John Buscema.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #7

“Conan the Gambler Part I”
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Patch Zircher

Conan is in Shadizar and comes on a man being robbed. The man offers to pay Conan his weight in gold if he will save him. Conan needs some money so quickly dispatches the four thugs. The man Marandus than hires Conan as his bodyguard. Marandus takes him to a gambling place known as the Demon’s Den. A lot of high rollers in the place. Marandus gets into a game of Serpent’s Bluff with his rival Kero the Callous. The game goes well for Marandus when he clutches his chest and dies. Someone has poisoned him. The house than demands that Conan settle Marandus’s very substantial debt. If he doesn’t then Conan gets thrown into the Debtor’s Lounge and faces some big creature in a pit. So Conan continues the game.

“The Shadow of Vengeance Part VII”
By Scott Oden

Octavia is about to be hanged by the Red Brotherhood. Conan comes riding up and demands she be set free. The Brotherhood under his rival Dragutin refuses. So Conan frees her with a thrown spear. His fellow Kozaks help him and take Octavia away. Unfortunately a spear gets Conan’s horse. A coward than knocks him on the back of his head with a well thrown stone.

Now this story has some real potential. A unique idea to have Conan get involved in a high stakes game of chance. A very James Bond type of set up in the Hyborean age. The story was well plotted and I enjoyed this artists take on the character. They also have released this game Serpent’s Bluff. Sounds like a cross between poker and 21. The letters page gave a concise description so the reader knows what’s going on.

The prose story continues to keep my interest. Conan now rescues his woman but is himself now a prisoner. Very interested in finding out more of this mysterious assassin out to get Conan.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #1

“When You Wish Upon A Star”
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Fernando Ruiz

It is Spring Break in Riverdale and the gang wants to do something new. The rich snobs Cheryl and Jason come to taunt them of their wonderful vacation in the Caribbean. Luckily Jughead wins a vacation to a resort from his bag of chips. So the gang goes off to Los Perdidos. (Wow this contest is generous. He like brings along a dozen people.) One the guys is worried about getting his yearbook stuff done. Archie suggests a contest to find the best dressed girl. Veronica seems sure to win. Betty is upset but gets help from the evil Cheryl who with her brother has come around to lord it over the plebes. She loans Betty a Chanil which helps her win.

So this sets off Veronica and a catfight ensues. Betty gets her nose broken but worse Archie tries to stop the fight and ends up falling on Veronica. She kisses him and Betty runs off into the jungle crying. She thinks Archie doesn’t car about her. She wanders to a jaguar temple and inadvertently steals a knife. She gets back and Veronica makes up with her. They decide to go back home early. Oh and the Predator has landed and harvested Cheryl and Jason as trophies. He also has for some reason developed a fixation on Betty and Veronica.

“Sabrina Meets Hellboy”
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Robert Hack

A short one page backup story. Eight year old Sabrina is left alone with her cat Salem. Hellboy comes to visit the cat for some reason. The cat introduces the future King of Hell to the future Queen of the witches. Sabrina wants to play Legos.

When this first came out everyone thought this was a joke but this was a real thing. Another one of those wacky crossovers. Now I do have to wonder what the Hell would a Predator be interested in the gang from Riverdale. I mean they don’t seem the challenge that these aliens seek. So far the issue has been a very Archie-centric story. Most of it has the crazy teenage shenanigans that you would expect in an Archie comic. All the drama with the rivalry between Betty and Veronica for the love of Archie.(Never really understood that.) Jughead eating everything in sight. The snobby rich kids.

At the same time the Predator who has little screen time does still show that he is also in character. Namely skinning people and pulling out their skulls and spine. Both have very two different styles which really makes this two worlds colliding. Interesting to see what the hell the Predator wants with them. Definitely a kooky idea.

ATARI FORCE #14

“Lost in the Multiverse”
Writer: Mike Baron
Artist: Ed Barreto

Scanner One is now lost in the multiverse after escaping the destruction of their universe. Martin Champion is more or less wallowing in self pity. Pakrat decides he wants to check out the hold for any goodies to loot. He finds Taz ties up to the door. Than Kargg who managed to stow away on the ship attacks. Pakrat gets chased into an escape pod and launches to escape him. The pod lands on a planet with no atmosphere. As Pakrat dons a suit and explores he finds that Kargg has managed to hang on to the pod. Apparently he doesn’t need any air to breath. So he goes after Pakrat but is stopped by Rident. Rident has crashed on this planet after the explosion and manages to shoot Kargg. Then the rest of the crew from Scanner One comes and finds them.

“A Babe in Arms”
Writer: Dave Manak
Artist: Klaus Janson

Babe is sleeping on his mother who is a giant mountain on the planet Egg. Babe gets knocked off the ledge by a newborn Eggite who has just been popped out of the mountain. After falling to the ground he sees two ships fighting each other. The one is forced to land and the other lands next to it. Out of the first is a red humanoid who is prepared to fight the occupants of the second ship. The second ship disgorges a horde of carnivorous little creatures. Babe comes blundering in and the horde decides that he would make a good meal. Only Babe is rock and they quickly lose interest as Babe thinks they want to play and rolls around and crushes them. They flee and the red alien is saved. As a reward he uses his ship to bring Babe back to his mother.

So the first issue with a new team and a new storyline. An enjoyable issue. It hints that maybe their universe isn’t destroyed because Dart had a vision that Blackjack would be piloting Scanner One into Atari station. Rident the brother of Pakrat is brought back and actually saves his criminal brother. A good set up to this new story of the crew trying to find their way after this devastating tragedy.

The backup which will now spotlight a crewmember gives us a fun little story about Babe before his kidnapping from his homeworld. A very lighthearted story to balance the more grim story from the main feature. I am enjoying these little spotlights on the crew.