CONAN THE BARBARIAN #54

“The Oracle of Ophir!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema

The princess Yvonna has been taken to Ronnoco where she finds out that she is being married off to its prince to form an alliance. Just then Yusef the last survivor of the group sent to retrieve the Shadow Ring comes riding in. He tells of the shadow creature that killed everyone else. Conan suggests they need to consult an oracle and luckily one happens to be nearby. So Conan is ordered to consult the oracle and take Tara and Yusef with him. At the oracle’s cave entrance he is confronted by the guardian a giant of a man. The price to see the oracle is having your arm cut off. Naturally Conan finds that too high and instead defeats the guardian.

Later he crawls through a tight passage and consults the oracle. He finds the oracle to be a skeleton that can speak. The oracle gives some cryptic answer that confuses Conan and me. Later as he attempts to leave he finds himself cursed to take the place of the guardian. He uses all his strength to break through the invisible barrier and finds a double of himself. One of the cryptic comments the oracle shared inspires Conan to place the sword of the guardian back into the dead guardian’s hand. The guardian comes alive and destroys the double Conan. Now Conan and his companions are free to return to Ronnoco.

Well this story didn’t really do much for me. In fact it was a dud. I mean it seemed to advance the plot in no way and was a time waster. Like Conan the oracle’s advice made no sense although I suppose in the next issue it might. Still that is not bad to go over fifty issues until to run into a complete dud. So you do have to be forgiving because you are bound to get some and the ratio of excellent to dud is miniscule.

DEJAH THORIS #10

“Untitled”
Writer: Amy Chu
Artist: Pasquale Qualano

The Xataxian is under attack by the Tharks. Dejah, her grandfather and Dekana are the only ones left. When it looks like the end old Sajad comes riding in on a malagor. He can only take one and takes the wounded Tardos Mors. After he leaves than Dejah attacks Dekana for she knows that she was part of the conspiracy. They fight and at the end Dejah is rescued by her friend Xahar who is dying from her wounds. Dekana falls to her death and now Dejah has no choice but to surrender to the victorious Tharks who manage to board the ship as it crashes to the ground. They loot the ship and take Dejah captive. It is here she hears of the mysterious stranger from Jasoom.

So the final issue in the series wraps everything up nicely. Dejah gets to take care of Dekana who she never liked or trusted. At the end she is prisoner of the Tharks which is how she first met John Carter in the very first book A Princess of Mars. A cool idea to give us the backstory to the scientific expedition that Dejah was on. An interesting story to something that was probably assumed to be a dull scientific expedition. I do love Dejah and Dynamite has been giving her plenty of quality stories.

SWORDQUEST #5

“Where One Game Ends….A New Adventure Begins”
Writers: Chad Bowers and Chris Sims
Artist: Ghostwriter X

Konrad Juros wants to know what happened to Peter Case. He has the twins and Terry captive. The activation of the sword has brought back some magic which Konrad can now use. He creates a strand of light and pokes out the eye of Terry. Terry remains defiant but luckily Peter comes back and stabs Konrad with the sword. Konrad dissolves into a red light. Peter tells how he found himself on Atara. The last of the hooded ones tells him that he is the reincarnated soul of Rulero and can free Atara from Tyrannus. So Peter comes back to save his friends. The police show up but Peter uses the sword to transport them back home to Chicago. Peter decides to spend his last moments of life to free Atara. The Perez twins join him and together they enter the portal to Atara.

So the ending of Swordquest was quite satisfying. We get to find out Peter is the reincarnated soul of the hero. That his obsession with the Swordquest game was actually his spirit continuing the quest. He reconciles with his friends and defeats the evil wizard. It also left it open for more adventures. I wouldn’t mind seeing them but I think this series didn’t do so well. Dynamite has seemed to drop its planned Atari based series. Which is a shame since I loved the idea of exploring this nostalgic blast from the past. Still you never know what the future holds.

THE WARLORD #4

“Saga Part 4 The Castle’s Secret”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artists: Joe Prado & Chad Hardin

Tinder and Alysha try to incite the locals against the new golden god. They don’t succeed but Shakira finds them. She tells them that Morgan and Machiste are now prisoners and they decide to rescue them. Inside the dungeon McBane tells Morgan how the group arrived there. He also tells him it is 2009. Tinder and the two girls enter the castle through the sewers and into Deimo’s old laboratory. They meet up with McBane who has decided to join them. So they free Morgan and Machiste. While escaping they knock over a column and release a reptilian minotaur that they have to defeat. The group splits up with Machiste going to summon Tara and the Shamballahian army. Morgan and McBane are going to Tibet to retrieve modern weapons from the Chinese. Ned Hawkins has translated the spell book of Deimos and with a mysterious skull with runes now knows some powerful secret.

Well another incredible issue. Tinder is showing that he has the same leadership skills has his father. They manage to escape and get ready for a big fight. Morgan and McBane are headed to the surface to find weapons to defeat Hawkins. One thing I didn’t get was Morgan’s shock about it being 2009. Grell has already had Morgan to the surface so he is aware of the wonky time difference between Skartaris and the surface. Anyway another exciting entry in the new series.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #13

“The Gods of Bal-Sagoth”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on story by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Gil Kane

A reprint from Conan the Barbarian #17.

“The Thing in the Temple”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on story by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Gil Kane

A reprint from Conan the Barbarian #18.

“A Conan for Collectors”
By Fred Blosser

A book review on three new hardcover release with art of Robert E. Howard’s original stories.

“When the Little People Strike”
By Fred Blosser

An article on the stories by Howard that dealt with the little people. Based on the myths of leprechauns and elves it was about a race of small humans that were driven underground and devolved. Some of Howard’s finest stories.

“The Right Hand of Doom”
Writer: Doug Moench based on story by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Steve Gan

Solomon Kane is at an inn and listening to a braggart who tells of how he turned in his friend Roger Simeon who practiced the dark arts in for a hefty reward. John Redley does not impress Kane. Later at night Kane hears something and investigates the next room. He finds a human hand strangling John Redley. He is too late to save the man and has the hand burned. Later while leaving he talks to a young boy and finds out about Roger Simeon. That he had the guards cut off his hand and he threw it outside. Later as he was on the gallows he moved his stump of an arm like he was breaking someones neck. Kane rewards the boy’s story by giving him the ring that was on the severed hand.

So issue thirteen was not a very lucky one. The artist that was supposed to draw the story for his issue couldn’t make the deadline so Roy substituted a reprint from the color comic. It was an excellent story but still a reprint.

The articles were good. Especially the one about the little people. Those story sound awesome and I will have to find them someday.

Finally the only new story was the Solomon Kane one. Adapted from a story by Howard it was a moody one. A tale of revenge and a severed hand was quite creepy. Solomon Kane is probably one of the more underrated characters that Howard created. One that wasn’t a barbarian in a fictional world but based on real history. He was a truly unique character and I was glad that Marvel decided to present his stories.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #53

“Brothers of the Blade!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Frank Spriger

Conan and the Crimson Company arrive at their employers the city-state of Ronnoco. They are instead greeted with a hail of arrows. Seems the city was not expecting them so early and thinks they are a hostile force. Fortunately the misunderstanding is sorted out. Conan manages to deck the prince who ordered the attack and earns his enmity. So they find out that they are to kidnap a princess from a rival city of Pergona. She is headed to the city of Carnolla to marry it’s prince and is guarded by three brothers who had a metal part of their body replaced by a wizard.

So Conan and Tara infiltrate the group disguised as beggars. The three brothers prove to be total dicks and try to kill the beggars for sport. This is when Conan reveals himself and takes on two. Tara manages to defeat the third. After a fierce battle Conan kills the other two brothers. The rest of the Crimson company comes in and routes the other guards. An epilogue has another group of the Crimson Company returning to the crypt for the ring. They are attacked and killed by the shadow creature.

So this was a fun issue. Conan gets exposed to the civilized way of how mercenaries conduct themselves. Tara is shown to be a competent fighter and kills her first man at 17. I do like Tara for she has a lot of spirit. The three brothers were opponents that seems more comicbooky than what you would expect to find in the world of Conan. Still they were evil and unlikable enough for you to root for their deaths. And of course Roy still hasn’t forgotten the shadow creature which I am sure will be in the next issue.

DEJAH THORIS #9

“Untitled”
Writer: Amy Chu
Artist: Pasquale Qualano

The Black Pirates have captured the Xataxian but its captain Keel has a plan. He is going to sacrifice himself by blowing the doors to the pirate ship open. Dejah goes to rescue her grandfather. Tardos Mors is wounded and passes out. The traitor Ando Norak then seems pleased for now the Jeddak’s lover Dekana can release him. They are in league but Dekana decides to end it by stabbing Ando. When Dejah arrives she claims that he escaped and tried to kill the Jeddak.

So Keel succeeds and blows the doors open allowing the Xataxian to escape. Only now the ship is fast loosing altitude as its buoyancy tanks are empty. And to make matters worst the Tharks are waiting for the doomed ship to fall.

Another fast moving issue. It goes so fast I am a bit confused as to how they escaped so easily. Also we finally learn that Dejah has reason to not trust Dekana. Yet we still don’t know what her ulterior motives where in allying with the traitor Ando Norak. Hopefully all will be revealed in the final issue.

SWORDQUEST #4

“Final Level”
Writers: Chad Bowers and Chris Sims
Artist: Ghostwriter X

Peter and his friends plan their heist of the Sword of Ultimate Sorcery from the video game expo. Like any plan it usually doesn’t go as planned. First off Konrad Juros acolytes take Alvin hostage so Amy will behave. Then Peter meets Konrad himself and goads Peter into hitting him. This gets Peter thrown out. But Peter isn’t deterred and steals a senor Bagel costume to get back in.

At the panel that Amy is giving Konrad comes to present the sword. Peter is discovered and security come to arrest him. Amy knocks the sword out of Konrad’s hands and Peter manages to pick it up. There is bright flash and Peter disappears with the sword. He finds himself transported to another world.

The big heist for the sword was a fun story. Terry the man-bun guy is a total fruitcake and gets distracted. Amy and Alvin are threatened by Konrad’s hooded acolytes with guns. Peter Case the chosen by the sword manages to continue and get the sword. He finds himself in the mythical world of Swordquest. So a charming story that I look forward to seeing how it ends.

THE WARLORD #3

“Saga Part 3 Shadowland”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Chad Hardin

Morgan, Shakira and Machiste come on a man and his family fleeing the slavers. They find out from him that Tinder came by and warned them. Then he set the field on fire and held off the slavers so the family could get away. The last the fleeing family saw was Tinder hit by an arrow and falling into a river. Tinder didn’t die because he later saves Alysha Grant the beautiful blonde from the surface world from a dinosaur.

Morgan and friends come to the fortress of the new god that is terrorizing Skartaris. They ambush some men and enter disguised. They find that Mariah is captive of the leader who is one of the men from the surface. Ned Hawkins and Kate Archer are in charge and want Mariah to help decipher the secret of Atlantis. Morgan and friends attack but are captured although Shakira manages to turn into a cat and escape.

So a lot happens in this issue and all of its exciting. Tinder has the youthful enthusiasm of Morgan’s dream of freedom which puts shame to Morgan and his pessimism. We find out the members from the surface are responsible for the new god that is causing terror in Skartaris. Ends with the group captured. I really love how Grell keeps the story moving fast paced with interesting stories. Once again I am just excited to have him back writing this series.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #12

“The Haunters of Castle Crimson”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on “The Slave Princess” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala

Conan comes on the city of Kizil-Bezzin being sacked by raiders. He manages to rescue a beautiful slave girl and escape into the desert. He then goes to Castle Crimson where his old friend from Khoraja Malthom of Nemedia is the lord. Malthon as a reward was given the castle after it’s original lord was killed by the traitor Mordek. The lord and one hundred of his followers were put to the sword and buried in a secret crypt under the castle.

Conan has a plan. He wants to pass the slave girl off as the lost princess Corma daughter to Abdullah Bin Khor. He then will sell her to her betrothed Kehlru-Shan. Kelru-Shan would gain a powerful alliance if he could marry Corma. So Conan goes to Kelru-Shan’s castle and makes the deal. Kelru-Shan comes with his army and soon Conan will pawn off the slave girl. Only problem is his friend Malthom has fallen in love with her and doesn’t want to sell. They begin fighting but have to stop as Kelru-Shan’s forces have penetrated the castle.

The traitor Mordek is working for Kelru-Shan and has secretly entered Crimson Castle. He has kidnapped the slave girl and opened the gates. Conan sees him fleeing and follows to a secret passage. It leads to the chamber where the original inhabitants were slaughtered. A fight ensues with Mordek that cuts him. The blood from Mordek revives the skeletons of the dead lord and his men. They kill Mordek then fall on the forces of Kelru-Shan.

Later the father of Corma comes demanding his daughter. The slave girl convinces him that she is the daughter and also that she should marry Malthon. Everyone is happy and Conan plans to head off to Zamboula to seek adventure and fortune.

“Chivalry is Alive and Well and Living in Berkeley Among Others”
By Sam Maronie

An article on the Society of Creative Anachronism. A group that started in Berkeley and has grown nationwide. It dresses up as medieval warriors and stages mock fights.

“The Hyborian Age Chapter 3 The Hyborian Kingdoms”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on essay by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Walt Simonson

Circe 14,000 to 10,000 B.C. The Hybori tribes start to push south and establish their present kingdoms. The Lemurians become the Hyrkanians. The Shemites and Zingara are formed as well as the Cimmerians and Pict lands. Until we are in the age of Conan.

So the main story was another Howard adaptation of his non-Conan stories. My guess is it was one set in the Crusades for it has that feel. Obviously it was another winner. A story of Conan with his crazy scheme to sell off a slave girl as a princess. It had a heavy supernatural element with the dead skeletons coming to life for their revenge. Thomas manages to weave the story flawlessly into the Conan timeline. He has the lord an old friend from “Black Colossus” as the new lord of Crimson Castle.

The article on the Creative Society for Anachronism was a fascinating story about this group. I did check and it is now international. The website lists chapters all over Canada, Austalia, New Zealand, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Japan, Korea. Definitely something that is popular.

Finally the Hyborian Age continues to chronicle the rise of the fictitious Hyborian Age.