“The Secret of Skull River!”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on plot by John Jakes
Artists: Jim Starlin & Al Milgrom

A reprint from Savage Tales #5.

So we didn’t get the story that the cover advertised. The colorist had some problem in getting the story done so they decided to give us a reprint. It’s a good solid story from the early Savage Tales days. Still it is a reprint. So we have to wait for next week to find out about the Fiends of the Feathered Serpent.


Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: German Garcia

Barbarella and Dejah make it to an island on the surface. There they watch as the invaders rain down destruction on the undersea kingdom. They have a lengthy conversation about themselves and their feelings. A brief fight with some flying creatures and they go back below the surface. They travel a ways and come to a giant white egg. They enter and find themselves in a white space floating around. Then the notes from Dr. Gitu that Barbarella was carrying form into a talking image of Dr. Gitu. They find out that they are on Mars and he wants the two to not save the planet but help it die.

So this issue had a lot of the two talking about their feelings. Traveling around the bottom of the ocean and floating around some odd pocket dimension. They finally get to meet up with some program from Dr. Gitu who reveals the big shocking secret. They are on Mars. Sadly the story is just so dull with nothing happening that I really have no excitement at all of the shocking reveal. Once again I like the two characters and they interact well. Artist has the two beautifully drawn. Just really no substance to the story. Sad.


Writer: Luke Lieberman
Artist: Sergio Davila

Sonja and King Andol’s forces have attacked the field of the drug that Raka is growing. A savage fight ensues. Ozzyus attacks Raka. Raka stabs him with his sword which is covered in his drug. This turns Ozzyus into one of Raka’s zombies and Sonja is forced to stab him. Then Sonja goes after Raka and cuts off his hand. This forces Raka to take his new improved zombie drug. It turns him into a giant and grows his hand back. Yet Sonja still manages to come out on top by splitting Raka’s head with an ax. Shashanna comes and finishes Raka off. A month later the kingdom is back on it’s feet. Andol offers Sonja the chance to be his queen. She declines in favor of a sack of gold and the freedom of the road.

So ends the mini-series of Sonja in her early days. It was a very action packed issue. Sonja shows herself to be the badass she is. Even a drugged up enhanced cult leader can’t get the better of her. This was an interesting look at Sonja in her teen years. It kept the origin that Roy Thomas created yet gave her some interesting backstory. Ozzyus the man that raised her was a compelling character. Her relationship with Shashanna who was a friend that she let down. Managed to save her and the world. An enjoyable series that was respectful to her origins and yet a fresh new look at my favorite female comic character.


“Dragon’s Lair”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Chad Hardin

Joshua and his friends are battling the creature from the meteor. Joshua gets his hand burned but survives by hiding behind some metal wreckage from the meteor. Later he goes back to the village and enlists the blacksmith to build him a sword from the metal. In Shamballah Tara has pain from her unborn daughter. The daughter has power and senses the pain of her brother. So Joshua’s miraculously heals.

Back at the village Alysha is kidnapped by a villager to sacrifice to the dragon. So Joshua, Shakira and McBane follow to the dragon’s lair. Only they find out it is a spacecraft and conducting experiments on humans. They rescue Alysha. When Alysha uses a pistol to put the kidnapper who is half dissected out of his misery, it alerts the alien. Joshua manages to defeat it but the alien’s last act is to set the self destruct on his ship. He also sends out a message using the pyramids on the surface.

So we find out that the dragon from the meteor was an alien. One that is disappointed with how primitive humans still are. Also the daughter of Tara and Morgan has some very powerful magic and is linked to her brother. Joshua seems to be adapting well to the role of Warlord. He shows bravery and ingenuity just like his father. The new alien threat was a very interesting development to the story and sets up an exciting coming conflict.


“The Tower of the Elephant”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema & Alfredo Alcala

In a tavern at night in the City of Thieves a boisterous Kothian brags about women stealing. He mentions the Tower of the Elephant and a young barbarian asks him about it. He tells of the jewel known as the Elephant’s Heart and how its guarded by magic. A fight breaks out and Conan has to kill the braggart. He later decides to steal this jewel from the tower. Climbing over the wall he finds a dead guard and runs into Taurus of Nemedia. Considered the greatest thief he is there also to steal the jewel. The two decide to join forces.

First they have to battle lions but Taurus has a powder of Black Lotus which kills them. Then they climb the tower and Taurus is killed by a giant spider. Conan manages to defeat the spider. Then he finds Yag-Kosha a man with the head of an elephant. Only Yag’s limbs are broken and he is blind. Conan takes pity on the poor creature and listens to his story. Yag and others had to flee their world and came to Earth. They lost their wings and witnessed the rise of man. Yag was the last of his kind and discovered by the evil wizard Yara. Yara tricked him into teaching him some powerful magic that was used to enslave Yag. He begs Conan to kill him and cut his heart out. Then squeeze the blood onto the gem and take it to Yara.

Conan does this and takes the gem to Yara. It shrinks Yara and he goes into the gem where a vengeful Yag awaits him. Then the tower starts to shake and Conan runs out in time before the whole tower comes crashing down.

“Swackles, Thuds and Blunders”
By Don & Maggie Thompson.

An article on Amra a fanzine about Conan. The name for this title comes from the names the publication gives its editorials and letters.

“Fionn McCumhal Day in East-Mere or How Conan Might Spend a Sunday in Buffalo, New York”
By Michael C. Mahaney
Photos by Larry Stachniak and Greg Puchalski

An article with pictures of the Society for Creative Anachronism celebrating the day to honor the Gaelic folk hero.

Poem by Robert E. Howard
Artists: Barry Smith & Tim Conrad

A poem by Howard put to an artistic rendition.

So Roy Thomas loves this story. He already adopted it back in the Conan comic series but wanted to expand it with double the pages and new artists. I will say that this isn’t my favorite Conan story but it does have a very poignant quality to it. Yag-Kosha comes as such a tragic figure you can’t help but feel sorry for him. It also has a young Conan in his thief days battling various supernatural threats. The expanded version does do the story justice. We do get some beautiful artwork with expanded fight scenes with the giant spider.

Otherwise the articles were average. Neither real good or real bad. The Howard poem they have printed before but putting it to a visual story was new. Smith and Conrad drew a very beautiful story to a haunting poem by Howard. A good issue if not one of the best.


“Death Among the Ruins!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema

Makeda has lead Conan and his three Watambis warriors to the ruined temple of Amra. In spite of its evil aura Conan fearlessly goes in to rescue Belit. Inside Amra is planning to marry Belit but the ghouls that Makeda released open a secret door in the floor and kidnap Belit. Then they pour out and attack. Only they don’t fair very well against Amra and his savage pride of lions. Then Amra jumps down to go after the ones who kidnapped Belit.

Conan and his companions enter the underground and also have to fight the little four-armed ghouls. Then Conan and Amra both catch up with the ones that kidnapped Belit and a big fight ensues. It results in the ghouls killed and Belit rescued. Now Conan and Amra must fight for Belit. A savage epic fight that Conan wins. They then have to flee the city because the ghouls cause it to come crashing down. Outside the survivors face the black lion Sholo. It decides not to attack and goes away. The natives proclaim Conan the new Amra.

This was a well done story. Amra and Conan both have to fight the hordes of ghouls. Then the big epic battle. Amra and Conan both savage beasts. An equal fight with the winner in doubt. Well not really. I mean we know Conan will win since this is his book. The fight was handled well. Sort of a Conan verses Tarzan if Tarzan was a total tool. The big result is an origin for the name Amra that Conan was know as among the people of the Black Coast.


Writer: Leah Williams
Artist: German Garcia

Dejah and Barbarella find themselves trapped in a bubble under an ocean. Dejah being from a desert world panics but Barbarella keeps her cool. One of the creatures outside start chewing into the bubble. Barbarella calmly finds materials to make oxygen as Dejah slices off the head of the creature with her sword. Barbarella solves the oxygen problem but the side effect is the process makes the water they are in toxic. Barbarella consults the notes that Dr. Gitu left as a giant creature swallows the bubble and spits it out at another place.

This place has some squid that can turn into oxygen mask. Snail like creatures with spears then show up and escort the two ladies to the big giant snail king. The king in very pidgin English describes the problem they are facing. The land they occupy contains R.U.S.T a very powerful element in Barbarella’s time. Invaders are attacking and I guess the snail people need help. A laser beam from the surface then strikes the snail king as the two girls take off.

So the second issue is filled with a lot of talky conversation and exposition. Not a lot of action. Also the snail king makes Yoda sound like Sir John Gielgud. I mean his speech is just very unintelligible and Barbarella spends the time translating. I suppose the writer thought it was real hip but I just found it annoying. So far I get a very vague idea of what’s going on. For a four issue series and still not knowing where this story is going is not a good sigh. A positive note is I love the art. The two women look beautiful and I like the interaction between the two.


Writer: Luke Lieberman
Artist: Sergio Davila

Sonja with her companions arrive at a port city. The city is deserted but they find one boy. The boy is under the influence of Raka’s drug and attacks. Soon other residences come at them. Ozzyus’s contact Talos finds them and lead them to safety. They find out the whole kingdom has fallen to Raka and his mind control cult. At the camp of King Andol Sonja find Shasanna. Only Shasanna is under the drug. Sonja offers to help King Andol in taking back his kingdom.

They scout the capital city and watch as an invading army is torn to pieces by the cult. They barely manage to escape from the city themselves. Sonja comes back and finds that Shasanna seems to be returning to normal. The drug is wearing off and that gives Sonja an idea. Raka has imprisoned men of science to improve his drug. They succeed in making it more potent and Raka goes off to get more of the Djinn Lotus. At his fields he finds them set on fire by Sonja.

So this issue has Sonja find Raka and Shasanna. It establishes the true evil of Raka and how powerful he has become. A fairly talky issue that does sometime drag the plot down. Still the story is basically a strong one. Sonja has her issues with Ozzyus and herself. Raka is truly a loathsome and dangerous enemy. Sets up a possible exciting confrontation to this story.


“Son Rise”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Chad Hardin

An asteroid hurtles toward the North Pole. The people at NORAD brace for catastrophe but nothing happens. The asteroid goes through the polar opening and crashes in Skartaris. It causes devastation and unleashed some creature that terrorizes the locals. Tinder now has to take up the mantle of the Warlord. He has doubts but friends. So with McBane, Alysha and Shakira they accompany him to kill this beast. They find a young girl being sacrificed and rescue her. Only the girl wanted to be sacrificed and runs toward the cave that the creature is in. It comes out and incinerates the girl with a laser eye.

So the first post-Travis Morgan issue. Grell doesn’t waste any time mourning Morgan. He jumps right in to a new story and it is intriguing. Now most of this issue is spent exploring Joshua’s doubt on being able to live up to his father’s reputation. True he isn’t Morgan but Joshua does show many of his traits. He fearlessly rides out to confront a terrible creature. Like his father he seems to save the beautiful maidens that don’t want to be saved. I will admit that I miss Morgan but Grell does have a plan for this series and it was still a salvageable.


“Torrent of Doom”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story “The Pool of the Black One” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema & Alfredo Alcala

Conan and Sancha watch as the black giants bring back the unconscious crew. They throw them down on the ground outside the gates as they go to do their weird rituals. Conan goes to the crew and finds them drugged with the fruit they ate but they are waking up. He has Sancha wake and arm them as he distracts the giants. He goes and leads the giants into the strange city. He gets trapped but luckily the crew of the Wastrel comes to his rescue. They attack the giants and manage to kill them. The leader sees that its over and jumps into the green pool after reciting some spell. The pool erupts and the green water comes after Conan and his men. They manage to make it to their ship and flee the island. Conan plans to continue his live of piracy and rebuild the ship’s crew.

“Stygia Serpent of the South”
By Robert Yaple
Art by Rick Hoberg

An article on Stygia. Its origins of a strange race that after the cataclysm made its way to lands controlled by serpent-men. After killing the serpent-men they adapted a serpent cult. Goes into the politics, army and economy of the nation during and after Conan’s time.

“The Striking of the Gong”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by Robert E. Howard
Artists: Rick Hoberg and Bill Wray

King Kull finds himself in a place of darkness. He searches and comes on stars in the sky. A mysterious figure tells him he is between dimensions and sees the many wonders of the universe. He then wakes up and finds out he was almost assassinated but Brule saved him.

“A New Song of Sonja”
By Wendy Pini

A poem of Red Sonja and a picture by talented cosplayer who can write and draw.

Red Sonja at the Mall”
By Chris Padovano
Photos by Chris Padovano and Bob Pinaha

Photos from a recent Red Sonja convention in a mall in New Jersey. Has Frank Thorne an artist on Red Sonja dressed as a wizard with Red Sonja cosplayers Wendy Pini and Linda Behrle.

“Wizards of the Black Sun”
Writers: Roy Thomas & Clara Noto
Artist: Frank Thorne

Reprinted in The Red Sonja Holiday Special.

The ending of the Howard adaptation was another excellent story. The only complaint was I think this adaptation should have not been split up. But I suppose there were deadlines not met so I am happy with the end result.

The article by Yaple was another fine one of scholarly research into the world of Conan. The guy does his homework and has notes to prove it. The photo essay was a good filler. As I’ve said I always love looking at beautiful women dressed as Red Sonja.

The Kull story was a weird one. A deep one about life after death. Howard had some interesting takes on that.

Finally the Red Sonja story you can read my take in another review in the link. Because of the shortened main story we did get a grab bag of articles and backup stories. Not a strong issue but still enjoyable.