Writer: Amy Chu
Artist: Pasquale Qualano
A giant black pirate ship is about to capture the Xatatian. They manage to evacuate most of the crew before the ship is swallowed up. In meeting with the blacks the Jeddak finds out that they want the radium cannons and the traitorous architect Ando Norak. The black pirates are also allied with the Zodangans. Naturally Tardos Mors refuses and the crew prepares to fight. They plant radium bombs and set a trap with nets for the attacking pirates.
Another interesting development in the story. The black pirates have made an appearance and are allied with Helium’s enemy Zodanga. The artist portrays the blacks as over eight feet tall which I don’t remember from the original books. The story is fast paced and goes quickly which is not necessarily a bad thing.
“Stage Two Start”
Writers: Chad Bowers and Chris Sims
Artist: Ghostwriter X
Peter, Alvin, Amy and the mysterious man-bun who is named Terry are heading to California. They have to get through the TSA but arrive safely in L.A. The first stop is the headquarters of Conjure Software and a meeting with Conrad Juros. The receptionist can’t get them a meeting until Peter tells him they are there to see the Dark Arcade. Well that works and Mr. Juros greets them all smiles. He shows the Dark Arcade which has all the failed video games from the eighties. The one they are most interested in is Airworld.
Juros leaves Peter alone as the others leave. Juros tells them that the game was never finished and impossible to win. Peter comes out a few minutes later looking dejected and the group leaves. Later Juros discovers Peter won the game. Terry gave Peter a copy of the Airworld comic which had all the clues and Peter easily won. So Juros gets his corporate board together and they don sinister robes. For the sword has chosen its champion and Peter Case must die.
Well this series just keeps getting weirder and weirder. It has plenty of humor like Peter joking about milking his condition for a best case scenario of six months. Or Terry who has a bandolier of burner phones and his response that he doesn’t want the dark sinister forces to monitor him gets a special TSA body search. There is a certain surreal feel to this story. The evil wizard who masquerades as a friendly video game designer. The stuffy board members who can change into evil cultist types. You still wonder if everything is real or just a figment of the characters crazy imagination. Quite an engaging story.
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Joe Prado
Morgan decides to scout out the growing threat from this new self proclaimed deity that is conquering the neighboring lands. He takes Shakira and later finds Tinder also deciding to tag along. Tinder gives a song about the origins of the Warlord. The group then come on slavers and find Machiste a captive. Morgan wants to free his friend but Tinder thinks they should warn the settlers of the approaching threat. They argue and Tinder rides off to warn the settlers. Morgan and Shakira then free Machiste and find out his kingdom Kiro has been conquered. Mariah is a captive and taken north. They decide to follow Tinder to help him.
So the second issue gives us the Morgan of old. The one who goes off adventuring with Shakira. Tinder provides a nice recap of the first issues and Morgan’s origin. Morgan still has some cynicism about his life and the death of his son still haunts him. Interesting he still hasn’t found out that Tinder is his long lost son. We get hints that Deimos may still be alive and a sense that this threat is growing. I can’t tell you how enjoyable it is to read Warlord with Grell back at the helm. His long absence has definitely recharged his creativity for the Warlord.
“The Abode of the Damned”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “The Country of the Knife” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema and Yong Montaro
Mellani of the many men got her name from being a very successful prostitute. Now she just runs a tavern and enjoys her retirement. One night a man knocks at her door. When she open it she finds someone knifing the man who was pounding on the door. She reacts by smashing a jug into his face. This takes out an eye and the murderer tumbles down the stairs. He decides to flee when he hears the approach of people. Mellani finds out the man being stabbed is her brother. He tells her about the Black Tigers from the Abode of the Damned in the wastelands run by a prince whose real name is Nikolav Yvonn. Then he dies.
Mellani decides to seek revenge so hires some men to take her to this Abode of the Damned. Along the way they are ambushed and she is taken prisoner. The group will take her to the Abode but to sell her. Along the way a man calling himself Shirkuh of Zamora joins up as do three strange men. The men look like triplets are bald and have dark eyes. They can also control mentally other men.
So at the Abode of the Damned Shirkuh is revealed to be Conan who has decided to back one of the factions lead by Bellisar Khan. At the auction for the slave Conan challenges the current emir. The emir was secretly a Turanian who infiltrated the abode but found he liked the power and planned to carve himself an empire instead. He wants the girl to kill her and keep her knowledge of his real name. Well the auction results in a fight where Conan manages to rally the populace to his man. But unfortunately someone recognizes him as Conan the head of their former enemies the Zuagir. So now they attack Conan. He manages to rescue Mellani and with the three strangers escape the city. The strangers were aliens that came to stop a creature from hatching from an egg in the treasure chamber. They do this by blowing up the city.
“El Borak and the Barbarians”
By Fred Blosser
An article on the release of the stories of Francis X. Gordon or El Borak. He was a Texan adventurer in contemporary Asia that Howard created. Many stories including the one in this issue were adapted by Thomas into Conan stories.
“The Scribes of Hyboria”
By Fred Blosser and Roy Thomas
A review of four fanzines for Robert E. Howard fans.
“Conan and the Tower of Vinyl”
By Ed Summer
A review of an available record with recordings of two Conan stories.
So this story was an adaptation of an El Borak story changed to a Conan one. Like many of Howard’s stories they were easily adapted to Conan. This one was just beautiful. A story of intrigue and double dealing. Conan has to negotiate the various tribal politics of this den of thieves. He also has to deal with some aliens who have come to stop some creature from destroying the world. Plus free the prostitute who just wanted to revenge her brother. A very rich and detailed story with a wonderful cast of characters and beautiful artwork.
“Man Born of Demon!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from novel “Kothar and the Conjurer’s Curse” by Gardner F. Fox
Artists: John Buscema & Dick Giordano
Conan comes to the court of Unos with a gift for him. A three-eyed bird that talks and can tell the future. The bird predicts that Stefanya will take her rightful place on the throne. This angers the two wizards but Unos is not concerned. In fact this incident has shown him that he is a puppet to the two wizards. Later he seeks out Conan and finds out the bird was Lupalina the wolf-woman. She helps Unos by summoning his two demon parents. The parents kill the wizards and Unos shows his gratitude by stabbing Lupalina.
Conan has taken Stefanya to the place where the dead wizard was dumped. He has figured out that Unos will want to kill Zoqquanor and thus kill Stefanya. Just then Unos rides up and shoots his lasers from his eyes but that has no effect on Conan. His other magic in levitating rocks and opening fissures in the ground stops Conan. Then he uses his eyes to destroy Zoqquanor. Conan reaches him and crushes him which kills Unos. It was the magic amulet he had around his neck that killed Unos. He uses it to save the live of Stefanya. Then he leaves her to rule Phailkor as he rides off to further adventures.
The final of Fox’s novel adaptation. That was one wild story. Roy really got a lot of mileage out of this adaptation. I have to say it was interesting with many wild characters and situations. Wizards, monsters, demons, treachery, a lost heiress, and a son of demons that could shoot lasers from his eyes. A happy ending yet sad in Stefanya really loved Conan but Conan is still young and has plenty of adventuring to do. Roy managed to adapt this novel well into the Conan universe and this was a worthy addition.
Writer: Amy Chu
Artists: Pasquale Qualano & Vincenzo Federici
Dejah and Keel Kors are searching for the assassin. Dejah studies the plans and notices that there seems to be a secret space in the bottom of the ship. They explore there and find the assassin. It is Ando Norak the architect of the ship. He is angry at the corruption of Helium and claims to control the 8th ray buoyancy tanks. At the end the ship is attacked by the Black Pirates of Barsoom.
So some more interesting developments. We find out the assassin who has control of the ship. Keel Kors is hopelessly in love with Dejah. It ends with introducing the Black Pirates. This was a short and sedate issue but did set up to move the story into more exciting action.
Writers: Chad Bowers and Chris Sims
Artist: Ghostwriter X
Long ago four worlds existed. Earthworld, Fireworld, Waterworld and Airworld. These worlds were unstable so were united into the world of Atara. Yet the four tribes of these worlds were constantly at war with one another. One day a thief Rulero stole the four talismens of the factions and melted them into a sword. This allowed him to be king of Atara. He had twin sons Tarr and Tyran. Tarr the first was more popular and made the heir. This angered Tyran who went to the dark wizard Konjuro for help in killing his brother and his two twin nieces. Then he killed his father but could not make the sword’s magic work. The tyrant Tyrannis the First had Konjuro take the sword to Earth to hide it because a prophecy stated that the true heir would use it to kill Tyrannis.
So man-bun tells the story. Amy has Peter leave man-bun with her brother Alvin so she can talk some sense into Peter. When they return Alvin has decided he wants to help steal the sword which really freaks out Amy. Man-bun says that to win the sword Peter must finish the fourth challenge but Airworld was never made. Amy says she heard one of the developers Konrad Juros is rumored to have the game. Man-bun also confirms that Konrad is the dark wizard Konjuro.
Well this issue had a ton of revelations. We get the story of the real world that inspired the Swordquest games. Then the second part is how this Man-bun was able to convince the two guys and reluctantly Amy to help steal the sword. The whole thing does sound nuts but I find it quite entertaining. A very offbeat series.
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Joe Prado
A young couple in the mountains of Tibet find a dinosaur encased in ice. The woman Alysha Grant takes the head to a paleontologist who is naturally very excited at this discovery. So an expedition is mounded in secret to further explore the cave. A daredevil and some shady guy are recruited to sneak the group in. Once in Tibet they run into a Chinese army camp and flee from the soldiers. They find the cave and there is a triangular doorway to someplace. With the Chinese looking for them they decide to enter the gateway to another world.
Travis Morgan thinks about how his SR-71 spy plane was hit by Soviet missiles and he crashed in Skartaris. While talking to Shakira a giant bird attacks them. They manage to defeat it. The bird like many humans have been fleeing a new kingdom that was established in the Shadow Kingdom. That land where Skartaris meets the surface world. Morgan questions some refugees from Kiro and finds out this new invader uses a powerful weapon that can kill from great distances and puncture armor. It sounds like a bullet from a gun.
Well after the shitfest that was the Bruce Jones reboot, I can’t tell you how excited I was to get the real Warlord back. The Warlord created by Mike Grell who came back to write. He wasn’t drawing it but found an artist that did it justice. Right off the bat we are introduced to some new characters from the surface that have found their way into Skartaris. There was a brief recap to remind us of Morgan’s origin. Then another cryptic glimpse of a mysterious new enemy conquering Skartaris with what looks like firearms. This was just a beautiful piece of work and extremely happy to get the return of my buddy Morgan and company in all new exciting adventures.
“Conan the Conqueror”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on novel “The Hour of the Dragon” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema and The Tribe
Conan is entering the Stygian port of Khemi disguised as a fisherman. On the streets he is attacked by a giant python. Snakes are considered sacred and all the people on the street prostrate themselves and accept their fate. Not Conan who slices the snake’s head in two. This blasphemy incites the locals who chase after Conan. He manages to hide away and later ambush a local priest of Set. Thus disguised he enters the temple to search for Thuthothmes and the Heart of Ahriman.
In the temple he has a run in with a beautiful woman who is the vampire princess Akivasha. He finally comes on the main room and Thuthothmes conducting a ceremony to resurrect a dead priest who knows about the Heart of Ahriman. Before he can complete the ritual the Khitian wizards sent by Valerius enter. They are looking for Conan but also want the Heart of Ahriman. A battle ensues with all the Stygians killed and only one Khitain left. Conan then battles him and wins. The priest Thuthothmes resurrected obeys Conan’s commands and leads him to a safe passage out of the city.
Later the conspirators that overthrew Conan gather. Seems there is a rumor Conan is alive and leading an army to reclaim his throne. The former priest Orestes comes to tell them that Xaltotun is plotting to bring back evil ancient Acheron. Xaltotun comes and kills Orestes and threatens the others if they don’t get in line. He also confirms that Conan is alive and leading an army. So they gathers their forces to meet him in battle.
First the puppet king of Aquilonia is approached by a man claiming to know a secret way to ambush Conan from behind. He leads the king into an ambush by those who suffered under his rule. Then the main battle is joined with Conan and the priest of Asura defeating Xaltotun with the Heart of Ahriman. Conan defeats King Tarascus and forces a surrender. At the end he plans to rescue the harem girl Zenobia who freed him and make her his queen.
“Conan the Cannibal”
By Fred Blosser
An article that points out Howard cannibalized from his past writing to come up with his only novel “The Hour of the Dragon.”
“Portrait of the Cimmerian as a Middle-Aged King”
By Roy Thomas
A portfolio of old pulp covers for the story “Conan the Conqueror”. It also had some from Japan.
So they finally decided to finish the adaptation of “The Hour of the Dragon” that was started in the giant-size series. As the article with this issue points out I can see where some of the elements were cannibalized from past stories. Yet it was done very cleverly and is an exciting story. It has Conan in an epic quest to regain his throne. It takes him around and includes his old Black Corsair buddies. Its very sad that Howard died so early. I feel that as a more mature writer he could have accomplished some great novels.
“The Dweller in the Pool!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “Kothar and the Conjurer’s Curse” by Gardner F. Fox
Artists: John Buscema & Dick Giordano
Conan is confronted by Pthassiass a giant creature that lived under the pool in the garden of Torkah Moh. Pthassiass knocks Conan into the carnivorous plants. While chopping them as they try to eat him, Conan notices that Pthassiass is scared of the plants. After the creature eats the serving wench that guided Conan, he manages to stab it in the neck and it collapses in the plants which make short work of the creature.
So Conan rescues Stefanya and takes her to Lupalina the wolf-woman. Lupalina recognizes Stefanya as the daughter of Chrysala the wife of the regent of Phalkor. So she tells the story of how in her youth she helped the wizards kill Stefanya’s parents so that general Themas Herklar could assume power. Lupalina took the baby Stefanya and gave the wizard Zoqqanor to raise. She then uses magic to see what is happening in Phalkor. The wizards have overthrown Themas and placed Unos on the throne. Unos can shoot lasers from his eyes.
Lupalina uses her magic to transport Conan to the dungeon to rescue Themas but is too late for he dies. Then Conan has to fight the demons that guard the dungeon. He is transported back to Lupalina’s hut. There the three decide to overthrow Unos and the two wizards.
The big 50 issue. A milestone for a series to reach that number. They didn’t have any special issue but continued with the story. And what a story. As you can read there was a lot going on. From lake monsters, carnivorous plants, to a guy that shoots lasers from his eyes. Seems a bit over the top but it flows smoothly. So we get some background for both Lupalina and Stefanya. Roy really does a good job of adapting this book into a Conan story. It feels like something that Howard would have written and is filled with many exciting twists and turns. Looking forward to the next fifty which gets even better.