CARSON OF VENUS #2

“Realm of the Dead Part 2”
Writer: Mike Wolfer
Artist: Cyrus Mesarcia

Carson has escaped the Zangans by jumping into the River of Death. He makes his way to a sewer system that leads to Skor’s castle. While making his way he comes on one of the zombies chained to the ground. This zombie doesn’t seem to be fully under control of Skor. In fact the zombie is very helpful to Carson, so he frees him to lead him around the castle. They make their way to the castle and have a fight with the guards. The two manage to defeat the zombie guards. Meanwhile Duare is forced to eat dinner with Skor. They have Ulsio or Amtorian rat for the main course. Skor is determined to make Duare his wife. After dinner Duare manages to convince her guards to take her to the lab where the dead are reanimated. There she finds out how it is done but Skor discovers her and vows to make Duare his undead queen.

Another fun issue of Carson and Duare’s adventures in Kormor. The story goes along at a good solid pace. It tells a story without any unnecessary exposition. The fight scenes are not cluttered with description and let the images tell the story. I think Wolfer really has a grasp on Carson. The zombies and how they act are dead on from the novel.(No pun intended) Also Skor is what you would expect from the original Burrough’s book. A good continuation of Carson’s adventures on Venus.

XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS #8

“”Untitled”
Writer: Erica Schultz
Artist: Vicente Cifuentes

Xena and Gabrielle leave Nazar with the Amazons as they go off to confront the Oracle. After they leave the avatar of Artemis attacks the Amazons. Meanwhile Xena and Gabrielle arrive at the Oracle. Xena fights the avatar of Apollo while Gabrielle goes to free Nazar’s parents. Only the Oracle attacks her. Gabrielle manages to get a choke hold on the Oracle and threaten to use a neck pressure technique that will kill the Oracle. So the Oracle surrenders and the avatars revert to green goop. At the end Nazar’s parents reconcile with Nazar. Nazar decides to stay with the Amazons as Xena and Gabrielle ride off to further adventures. Later Callisto visits the defeated Oracle to belittle them for their defeat and how she will destroy Xena.

Well this was a good solid story. We had plenty of action. The Amazons looked like they were completely destroyed but at the end it was revealed that most were just injured and healing just fine. Xena and Gabrielle defeat the two-headed Oracle. Gabrielle was the one to shine in this story. She saved the day with her bluff to kill the Oracle. She didn’t really have any knowledge to do the neck pressure kill. A good story with good art and a nice little foreshadowing of conflict to come.

THE FIGHTIN’ 5 #44

“The Ransome of Big-D”
Writer: Joe Gill
Artist: Montes Bache

General Dynamotors or “Big-D” as its known is the world’s largest corporation. It makes everything from cars to tanks. Missiles, ocean liners, fabrics and steel. Only there is a problem with the quality of products from the corporation lately. Hennessy buys a Big-D sports car and the steering fails. Irv the Nerve is parachuting and the ripcord on the Big-D made parachute fails. Luckily he manages to cut the cord and the chute opens in time. While Granite Gallero is testing a new tank for the army when the fuel line bursts and the tank bursts into flames. It was also a Big-D product.

The Fightin’ 5 decide this is something they must look into. Luckily Hennessy is very rich and is a majority shareholder in the corporation. So the gang head out to the mid-west to visit the corporate office in their trusty jet. First they are attacked by a corporate jet fighter that they manage to shoot down. They get to the HQ and find that a criminal kingpin named Luckens is in control. Apparently he threatened shareholders to give him their proxy vote to give him control of the board. Now his criminal gang is looting the company. They try to escape in a bomber and destroy the HQ with a cobalt bomb but the Fightin’ 5 stop them. So they avert a major depression by saving this massive global corporation.

“The Phantom of the Sahara”
Writer & Artist: Unknown.

Ervin Rommel is sent to North Africa to stop the British 8th Army under Wavell. He manages to use phony tanks to fool the British that his forces are in place to delay them. He was known for riding around in his staff car all over the battlefield. He also used a captured British tank to travel around behind enemy lines. His tactics defeated a force larger than his but the lack of fuel and parts eventually doomed his Afrika Corp.

“The Instant Army”
Writer & Artist: Unknown

The modern American Army division can be airlifted anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. Large jets transport the troops to their destination. Once there helicopters take them to the area. Heavy equipment like artillery and tanks are parachuted to them.

Wow I did not know that it was so easy to take over a major corporation. You just need to threaten the major stockholders and they just roll over. So this was an unexpected story. I never though about the criminals threatening the free world by taking over the a major corporation. Luckily the head of the group is filthy rich and they seem to just do anything they want. It does confuse me how they managed to take over the company if Hennessy is the majority shareholder.

I also love how this corporation has access to such high tech stuff as jets, bombers and a cobalt bomb. Good to know that there is such tight oversight of these things by the government. The cover is a bit misleading. They never fight a giant so not really sure what that was about. I guess it was to symbolize the giant corporation.

As for the backup there are another treat. The Rommel story seems very far fetched but just nuts if true. I might have to look into Rommel. He probably has a very interesting story. The second seems to make the transfer of heavy divisions look a little too easy. Still troops can be moved about much faster then in the WWII/Korea era.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #87

“The Armor of Zuulda Thaal”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

A Brythunian scholar and his apprentice are exploring the tomb of Zuulda Thaal. Zuulda was a person who lived in ancient Khuthchemes. He asked an ancient god for help in overthrowing a tyrant. The god gave him a jeweled breastplate, gauntlets and a bow. These magical items made him invincible and he easily overthrew the tyrant and set himself up as king. Only thieves managed to kill him. His father to save the magical items used his magic to teleport them to three inhospitable locations.

Conan at this time in leader of the Zuagirs and his band come on the young apprentice being attacked by riders on giant bats. He saves the young man and finds out that his master was killed by the riders. They also find out the location of these jeweled items and decide to set out for them. The first stop is a cave in the Kezankian mountains. Conan has to defeat a giant snow ape to get the breastplate. Then a volcano for the gauntlets and he has to fight a fire demon. The final item a bow is under the Vilayet Sea and Conan fights a giant eel.

Once the items are all together the apprentice shows his true colors. He killed his master for these items. He then beats Conan to death and takes command of the Zuagirs. Conan is found by a kindly old couple and nursed back to health. He finds out the apprentice is now king of Turan. So he goes to the palace and confronts the king. Conan destroys the bow and manages to toss the apprentice into the forge where he burns up.

“Escape from the Temple”
Artist: Ernie Chan

A series of full page portfolios that tell the story of Conan rescuing a beautiful blonde from a temple in Kush.

So we are back to the quality that I have come to expect from this series. Fleisher gives us another exciting story that takes us all over the place. He fights all sorts of monsters and gets betrayed by this young punk. I loved how Fleisher portrayed the determination of Conan to get back into shape to fight the apprentice. Plus we also have the return of the Buscema/Chan team to get that beautiful artwork.

Chan also gets to shine by himself with the backup portfolio. It was a beautiful series of full page drawings that told a story without any words. A nice little filler to end this issue with.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #123

“The Horror Beneath the Hills!”
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artists: John Buscema and Bob McLeod

Conan and his companions are in the dungeons awaiting their fate. They are taken to the ruler of Pergona who just so happens to be an old friend of Conan. Murilo the former captain of the Crimson Company, a mercenary band that Conan served in greets his old friend. Murilo is a bit overweight and balding and is married to Yvonne a young woman he kidnapped during Conan’s time with the mercenaries. Now Yvonne is also a bit overweight.

After getting cleaned up, Conan and Murilo have a conversation. Murilo asks Conan to go with him to check out the mines. Seems they have stopped sending shipments and soldiers sent to investigate never return. So Conan with his companions Atreah, Jonnwalli and Dukenrik accompany Murilo and his troops to the mine. Once there they find some miners dead and go into the mines to explore. They are attacked by small red creatures and the shear numbers overwhelm Conan and his men. He wakes up a prisoner to a dark-haired woman called Eilaynia Princess of Mist.

It is nice to see DeMatteis is familiar with Conan’s history. He brings back an old friend from issue 55. I like that he makes Murilo an overweight and balding guy. Someone who is completely henpecked by his wife. Yes sometimes the good life can make a person soft. Murilo is portrayed as someone who really misses his old youthful days. Conan’s presence give him the courage to mount this expedition. A very realistic portrayal. So now we are also introduced to this intriguing woman. Definitely an ending that keeps the reader hooked to come back for more.

CARSON OF VENUS #1

“Realm of the Dead Part 1”
Writer: Mike Wolfer
Artist: Cyrus Mesarcia

Duare has been kidnapped by Skor the evil Jong of Morov. So Carson takes off though the trees to avoid the dangerous ground life. Only there are dangers in the trees and a giant snake forces him to the ground. He lands in the mud and is covered with it. One of Skor’s zombies comes and thinks that Carson is one of them. So Carson plays along until a Kazan attacks. Since the Kazan will only attack a living man that exposes Carson. Only the zombie is far enough away from Skor to have some free will. He implores Carson to kill him which Carson does after getting some info on Skor’s castle. Later he is attacked by savage beast men. Carson runs and jumps into the river escaping them.

So they are continuing the story from the Fear on Four Worlds story. Nice to see they don’t forget some dangling plots. This story like all of Wolfer’s stories is just spot on in getting Burroughs right. The creatures and feel of Amtor is just as I would image it. The art really captures the world, people and creatures. The story is told with a minimum of dialogue and written description. It just lets the art tell the story and that is a sign of a good writer. Looking forward to the next issue.

XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS #7

“Untitled”
Writer: Erica Schultz
Artist: Vicente Cifuentes

Ten years ago Nazar and her sister Jacoba are playing when Nazar gets her visions. Jacoba goes to get their parents and instead trips and hits her head, killing her. At the funeral pyre Nazar rescues Jacoba’s doll to remember her by. Now ten years later the Oracle has the doll thanks to her parents. The Oracle uses their magic to cut the doll in two and create soulless avatars of Apollo and Artemis. Apollo is sent to kidnap Nazar’s parents while Artemis to kill Nazar. She attacks her but has to fight Xena and Gabrielle. The fight ends in victory and the Artemis avatar is recalled.

Xena decides that Nazar would be safe with the Amazons so takes her there. The queen Keenta has issues with Xena and when she hears that the Oracle is after Nazar wants nothing to do with her. Only Nazar channels her psychic abilities and convinces Keenta that she will be a great seer and benefit to the tribe. So she agrees to take Nazar in while Xena and Gabrielle go off to rescue Nazar’s parents and confront the Oracle.

This has been a decent story so far. It has a good villain in the two headed Oracle of Delphi. The faceless and soulless avatars make for a formidable foe for Xena to fight. We get some back story on Nazar and a clear goal for Xena. Plus the beautiful art of Cifuentes is also welcome.

THE FIGHTIN’ 5 #43

“The Aztec Destroyers”
Writer: Joe Gill
Artist: Montes Bache

Lev is a Soviet agent sent to the Sierra Madres to train the local Aztecs in sabotage. One of these Aztecs manage to sneak aboard an aircraft carrier and denotate a bomb. The guy survives and realizes that Lev lied about America. So he tells the Fightin’ 5 about his secret base. The 5 then infiltrate to Mexico. There Hennessy and Frenchy capture the Aztec queen. Only she manages to escape through a trap door and because the guys don’t want to shoot the innocent Aztecs, Hennessy is captured. Later Tom-Tom is also captured and the two are going to be sacrificed to their sun god. Only Tom-Tom is so strong that he breaks the chains. An old legends tells that someone would do this and lead the Aztecs against evil.

Lev decides to flee and shoots the Aztec princess seriously wounding her. So the 5 then attack Lev’s base which is inside a giant stone statue on the mountainside. Lev decides to launch his nuclear missiles to save himself. As he says, “Almost all the world will die but I will live.” OK well luckily the Aztecs show up and turn against the Commies. They manage to destroy the nuclear missiles and capture Lev. The princess survives and wants Hennessy to say with her but Hennessy has a greater mission, to continue with his team to fight the threats to freedom.

“The Space Warriors”
Writer & Artist: Unknown

In the future soldiers will be equipped with laser rifles, rocket packs and little jet powered capsules. They take less then a day to accomplish what took 2,000,000 to accomplish a hundred years ago.

“They Made a Man”
Writer & Artist: Unknown

PFC Billy Cleeve is scrawny kid just out of high school. The army turns him into a lean, mean fighting machine. He joins the special forces and helps the Vietnamese train to fight the VC.

Oh those evil Commie bastards. They use these poor naive Aztecs that just want to worship their sun god and offer him human sacrifices. Instead they are turned into ruthless saboteurs for world Communism. I love these old stories. They are just so off the wall goofy. Didn’t know the Commies would just casually send off a bunch of nuclear missiles to a training camp in Mexico…and give control of them to a very unstable guy. I really fail to see the logic of launching the missiles. Sure they would destroy the world but they wouldn’t stop the Fightin’ 5. They’d still be close enough to kill him.

The small little backup stories were a hoot. The first was very upbeat about how easy the war of the future will be. The second seems like a recruitment to get young boys to sign up for special forces to fight the VC. God do I love these old stories.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #86

“Revenge of the Sorcerer!”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: Gil Kane, Luke McDonnell & Zoran Vanjaka

Conan has come to the stronghold of the wizard G’Humen Thak to rescue the Goddess-Princess Ayella. He finds out he has to kill the wizard so sets out to look for him. He runs into a priest who wants to help him when they get distracted by a scream. Conan goes to check it out and finds the sleeping guard killed. Seems another priest killed him for being asleep. He finds this guy and kills him. Then he is confronted by a whole bunch of priest but Ayella triggers a trap door that puts him in a dungeon.

This was a good thing since it saved Conan. Ayella with some other priest gets him out but this other priest proves to be a traitor. He pushes Conan into a pit with a man-ape lizardman. Conan has to kill it and continues his quest to find Ayella. This takes him outside where he ambushes a wandering old priest to show him where G’Humen Thak is. He also finds the first priest that was to help him dead but they come on Ayella who now is in the custody of the General of Khambuja that tried to kill Conan. Conan fights him and is about to win but this general decides he can’t live with being defeated by Conan so jumps over a cliff.

Well Conan hooks up with his Afghuli tribesmen and split into two groups. One to go on to G’Humen Thak and the other to stop the Khambujan army. Conan manages to set a fire and drive them into a pass where a rockslide destroys them. He goes back and hooks up with the rest of his men. He come on a huge door into a mountain and the chamber of the wizard. The wizard uses a gem to attack Conan and his men. Fortunately Conan throws a chalice and knocks the gem out of his hand. Conan skewers the fleeing wizard with a thrown sword and gets all the treasure and the girl.

“Lion of the Waves”
Writer: Alan Zelenetz
Artist: Pablo Marcos

A six page portfolio with a poetic story of Conan and the Black Corsairs attacking a pirate ship to rescue Belit.

Well this second part story was just a mess. I mean it seemed like Fleisher was just pulling stuff out of his ass left and right to get this thing done. I mean I was confused that the second priest wasn’t the first priest but apparently wasn’t. Also why did the general leave his men to somehow capture the princess alone. Then he just kills himself instead of be defeated by Conan. The whole story just meanders along aimlessly before coming to a merciful end.

As for the art it is also a hot mess. With three artists each contributing a part of the art it just looks horrible. I love Fleisher’s writing but this just looked like the whole story as being a rush job to get something in at the last minute. Oh well I suppose everyone writes a clunker now and then.

The real redeeming part of this issue was the backup story. Six beautiful full page drawings by Pablo Marcos with equally enjoyable poetic rhyme.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #122

“The City Where Time Stood Still”
Writer: J.M. Dematteis
Artists: John Buscema & Bob McLeod

Conan and Atreah are in some barren lands after their escape from the cloud city. They come on a man fleeing on horseback and learn they are in Ophir. The city of Pergona is nearby but the man claims it is cursed and runs off. So the two take his horse and ride to the city. There they find that the people are frozen in time. Only there are two others not frozen. Two young teenagers named Jonnwalli and Dukenrik. The four are later attacked by the citizens that come unfrozen but possessed. The people drive the group to the palace. There they find a small girl and her dog. So they go into the palace to loot it and hear music. They go to the basement and find a small dwarf playing a lute.

This dwarf called Narbobbo tells of the priest Shuin-Shann. Shuin was exiled after the old lord died because of malicious rumors that Narbobbo spread. Shuin went to Khaitai to find an amulet only he found half. The other half was with Narbobbo who used it to freeze the people and could control them. The other half can disguise it’s holder. One of the group is Shuin-Shann. Conan decides to leave and is forced to fight Narbobbo. During the fight Narbobbo drops the amulet and Jonnwalli picks it up. This was a trick for the amulet was an illusion. Only the real Shuin was disguised as a dog and controlled the minds of Jonnwalli and the little girl, who he uses to stab Narbobbo. With the two amulets Shuin goes about getting his revenge by destroying the city. Atreah throws a rock that knocks the amulet out of his hand. Conan then kills him. Only at the end the palace guards now awake arrest Conan and his companions.

This was a really good story. I remember it as a kid and thinking that Conan has really started to get good. DeMatteis is starting to get comfortable with the series. He introduces interesting characters and a good solid plot. He also gives Conan some companions. Now I had reservations about giving him some teens since that didn’t seem like Conan’s style but Jonnwalli and Dukenrik are solid characters. Looks like the series is in good hands.