CONAN THE BARBARIAN ANNUAL #3

“At the Mountain of the Moon-God”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Pablo Marcos

Reprint for Savage Sword of Conan #3.

“Beast from the Abyss”
Writer: Steve Englehart adapted from story “Black Abyss” by Robert E. Howard & Lin Carter
Artists: Howard Chaykin & The Crusty Bunkers

Reprint for Savage Sword of Conan #2.

So the third annual was filled with reprints from the early Savage Swords. The stories were excellent but sadly in this format they left much to be desired. The coloring was not the best. Also being shrunk down to fit also degraded the artwork. Thankfully this was the last time they used reprints for an annual. After this the annuals were original works and excellent.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #10

“Dark Cavern Dark Crystal”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Alan Davis

Conan is at a border town in Vendya fighting some other guy in a tavern. When his compatriot manages to get enough bets then Conan doesn’t hold back. He dispatches his opponent with ease. Just than a beautiful Corinthian noblewoman approaches him. She wants to hire Conan to guard her expedition to the Himelian mountains. Her brother was lost looking for a treasure. Conan agrees and has a distrust of the Vendyan nobleman who she also hired.

So as the expedition makes its way they are stopped by a tribe of Afghuli. Conan challenges the leader to a fight for control of the tribe. The man Dakim instead has his lackeys drop a net on Conan. Than they tie him to a tree as he takes control of the expedition and forces the noblewoman to lead him to the treasure.

“The Shadow of Vengeance Part X”
By Scott Oden

Conan has exposed Karash Khan to the Red Brotherhood. The man that looked like Conan turns into the real Dragutin and soon the pirates turn against the Sicari. Conan manages to kill Karash Khan in a swordfight. Yet before he dies Karash Khan manages to use magic to bring to life a wooden carving on the ship.

Yes a Roy Thomas Conan story. He is still going strong at 79 bless his soul. This man is the greatest writer of Conan since Howard. It was a real treat to read a new story from him. He still has it. This story felt like a true Conan story from the old days. I’m real happy they decided to bring back Roy for story to the new Marvel Savage Sword.

The prose story continues to be very interesting. Conan manages to defeat Karash Khan yet now has to face some magical creature. Scott Oden has a good grasp on the character and makes a story that feels true to the spirit of Howard and Conan.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #4

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Fernando Ruiz

The Predator has mortally wounded Archie. Betty and Veronica are cowering in fear. Yet the Predator after tearing off the skin on his Dilton trophy just leaves the Jaguar blade and leaves them alone. Betty passes out and wakes in the bedroom of Veronica. Veronica has a nice dress on and gives one to Betty. She says “if I’m going to die, you can bet it’s going to be in couture.” She than has Betty help them bring Archie into the panic room. First she sets the self destruct. Than they put Archie in some medical healing machine. Only Veronica sets it to way too high and it alters Archie into a super steroid muscleman.

Veronica than arms herself with a Uzi and waits for the Predator. She doesn’t have long to wait. Veronica attacks but just makes the Predator mad. Betty trips and knocks her out of the way at the last minute. Than muscle Archie comes to the rescue. Only Archie is still no match and gets his head chopped off. Betty and Veronica attack the Predator with the Jaguar knife and a mace. Only now the house is about to explode so they drag themselves into the panic room. The wounded Predator drags himself along. Appears he was in love with the girls. At the end the girls are using the medical machine to turn the Predator into a version of Archie. After all he was devoted to them.

“Josie and the Pussycats meet Finder”
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Carla Speed McNeil

The Pussycats are at a station out in the middle of a desert going to a festival. Some hunky guy directs them to some spa. A story that really made no sense to me.

So the end comes. This should have been called Betty & Veronica vs. Predator since they were the main characters. Archie just was a supporting character. This was fine since they were way more interesting than Archie. I mean the guy is so white bread he probably can’t hang around a supermarket for fear someone will mistake him for a loaf of Wonder Bread and buy him. Also this cover was my favorite. These two girls are so hot. Also inside with their dresses torn and them kicking ass which was a real turn on. I can’t understand what these two see in such a doofus as Archie. Anyway this was real a hot issue.

I enjoyed this series. It was just plain goofy which is what you would expect in such a series. The Predator was apparently in love with either Betty, Veronica or both. You almost feel sorry for him. He has such a sad look when the girls are trying to kill him. Plus the whole kooky ending with them turning him into the perfect Archie. That’s just nuts. They decided to do a sequel years later and we look at how that turned out.

ATARI FORCE #17

“If Thine Eye Offend Thee…”
Writer: Mike Barron
Artist: Ed Barreto

The Tazlings have managed to fix Blackjack’s eye. They also pulled out the thing that was keeping Blackjack under the control of the Dark Destroyer. So now he is apparently healed. Dart manages to make contact with Tempest who is a prisoner on New Earth. The Tazlings have managed to fix the ship up but they also eat a lot and soon Scanner One will run out of food. Morphea than starts to psychically scan Kargg. She finds out he is from a primitive world and the Dark Destroyer also left a part of him in his mind. She battles this and frees Kargg of the Dark Destroyer’s influence.

“Rats Like Us!”
Writer: Andy Helfer
Artist: Mike Chen

Pakrat has been captured by his brother Rident. He takes Pakrat to the spaceport to have him brought back to New Earth for trial. At the port Pakrat gets Ferra to plant the stolen necklace on Rident so when he goes through the scanner it is discovered. Rident is arrested as Pakrat and Ferra continue on the New Earth to steal some more stuff.

So this issue was a subdued one. The crew tries to figure out how to get back to New Earth now that they know it wasn’t destroyed. Blackjack and Kargg are both freed from the influence of the Dark Destroyer. Otherwise a very uneventful issue.

The Pakrat backup comes to an end. It was actually the more exciting of the two stories. Pakrat cleverly convinces his girlfriend to help him escape his brother. A humorous story that gives us some history on the character and his brother.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #46

“Moon of Blood”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by L. Sprague De Camp & Lin Carter
Artists: Ernie Colon & Tony Dezuniga

Conan is a frontier scout for Aquilonia against the Picts. After his defeat of Zogar Sag there is another Pict shaman now leading the clans. Sagayetha the nephew of Zogar Sag leads the Picts against Conan and his men. He uses his control of snakes to break the Aquilonians. Conan and a young man named Flavius manage to escape. They hide out next to a rock sacred to the Picts and observe them. They find out an Aquilonian noble Viscount Lucian was responsible for betraying them. He did it to get the gold payroll taken from the fall of Fort Tuscalan.

Conan and Flavius make it back and tell their story. Yet they need proof and manage to capture Lucian’s men with the stolen payroll. Lucian manages to flee arrest. Conan then leads his men against the Picts. Conan sneaks behind the lines and manages to kill Sagayetha. Then with Sagayetha’s severed head he rides against the Picts and this demoralizes them. Conan at the end succumbs to venom from a snake bite. Yet when he wakes he finds he was appointed general for the district and gets an invite to dine with the king in Tarantia.

“The Savage Swordbooks of Conan”
By Fred Blosser

A review of two books “The Howard Collection” and “Blades of Conan”. Both are a collection of articles and short stores from Howard fanzines.

“This Sword For Hire”
Writer: Don Glut
Artist: Hal Santiago

In Numalia a dancing girl named Kamala has become very popular with the men. One night a wizard kidnaps her. The men decide to hire an Aesgaardian mercenary named Atola to rescue her. He does manage to fight a dragon and win her back. Yet as the men watch this they find that their purses were stolen. At the end Atola was in league with the wizard and Kamala to fleece the men from their gold.

So this was a De Camp/Carter sequel to the Howard story “Wolves Beyond the Border”. I really enjoyed that story and this was a very satisfying sequel. I loved the frontier type story of Conan battling the savage Picts and their sorcery. He also has to fight off the corruption of civilization. A very Howard type story. This is the start of a multi-story run for the magazine. It links three stories by De Camp and Carter on how Conan became king of Aquilonia.

The article was good. The books sound like they have interesting info on Howard.

Finally the backup story was an enjoyable read. A non-Conan story set in the Hyborian age. A fun story with beautiful art. Another enjoyable issue.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #86

“The Devourer of the Dead!”
Writer: Roy Thomas and Ed Summer
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan and Zula have arrived at Luxor the capital of Stygia. First Conan manages to climb the wall and help Zula over after taking out a guard. Than disguised as a Stygian and his slave Conan goes to the local tavern to get some intel. A funeral of an important Stygian presents an opportunity to get into the palace. So Zula takes out some obnoxious Set acolytes and appropriate their robes. Joining the procession they go to a half finished pyramid where the body along with the slaves are sent to the Devourer. One of the priests notices that Zula is a black and not Stygian so Conan and Zula fight their way out. They escape by jumping into a pool. Coming out farther along the river under the pyramid they catch a ride on the funeral barge with the coffin and recently slain slaves. They come to a huge chamber and find the Devourer which is a giant blob like creature with several mouths. They set fire to the barge and escape on the coffin. The fire causes the Devourer to flail around and cave in the chamber. Then it is discovered someone is still alive in the coffin. They find Belit there. She says she was put in by King Ctesphon II. Also that Neftha the slave girl is actually the king’s sister.

So Conan finally reaches Luxor. This was an enjoyable story. Luxor was portrayed in a two page spread and looks like a cool city. I love the humor with the Set acolytes who were making fun of Zula as a dumb barbarian and he answers them intelligently in their own language. He also gets the satisfaction of taking them out. The big ending has them take out a monster and surprising find Belit in the coffin. Another big surprise is finding Neftha wasn’t a common slave girl but Stygian royalty. Sets up anticipation for the next issue. Also nice to finally get toward the resolution of Conan and Belit’s quest.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #9

“Conan the Gambler Part III Luck is a Lady”
Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Patch Zircher

Conan is now is the debtor’s lounge at the Demon’s Den. He faces a giant bear man creature. Yet Conan is not one to just give up. Indeed he actually manages to kill the creature. Than the emerald the den has on display glows very bright and knocks out all the lights. Conan takes advantage of this to escape the lounge and find the man who was responsible for putting him there. He guts him with his sword. Than the beautiful woman who first greeted Conan when he arrived is revealed to be behind what happened. In fact she was behind the assassination attempt that got Conan involved with the story. She has manipulated Conan so she could reclaim the emerald. It is revealed that she is Kyala Goddess of Luck and Destiny. She awes Conan before disappearing, leaving Conan to move on.

“The Shadow of Vengeance Part IX”
By Scott Oden

Some members of the Red Brotherhood are unhappy with Dragutin and his planned keelhauling of Conan. They decide to gather and put a stop to it. Meanwhile Conan is a prisoner below deck as Karash Khan is about to execute Dragutin who was transformed to look like Conan. Conan manages to break his chains and kill the guard watching him. As the rebel Brotherhood come on the scene they are greeted by Conan coming up from below deck.

The final entry in Conan the Gambler was a satisfying ending. Conan kills the creature and gets to show off his badass barbarian rage. He takes revenge on the head of the Demon’s Den. A little bit preachy but otherwise a cool scene. Then the big reveal that it was a goddess who was behind all that happened. This was very Howardish and I enjoyed this unique story. Conan got to show his brains as well as his brawn. A well done story.

The prose backup is getting to a big confrontation. This entry gives us why Conan is such a badass as he escapes his captivity. It ends with him appearing just as his supporters come to rescue him. Definitely looking forward to the next installment. This has so far been a very enjoyable story.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #3

“Full Metal Varsity Jacket”
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Fernando Ruiz

Jughead comes back the sole survivor of the attempted ambush of the Predator. He finds the gang hiding out in Riverdale High. Some of the other girls decide to run away since the Predator is after Veronica. Dilton the geeky kid says he has the answer in the A.V. room. So they go there but Jughead stops at the candy vending machine. He uses the Jaguar knife which attracts the Predator who than kills him. Archie goes looking for his friend and trip on Jughead’s intestines on the floor. The Predator has mounted Jughead’s head in the candy machine. This pisses off Archie who vows to kill it.

Anyway after some humorous comments about Jughead they reach the A.V. room. Dilton has been upset he can’t get any girls so build a giant Archie robot. Only the robot goes on the fritz and starts attacking everyone. The Predator shows up and wounds Archie. Dilton in the robot manages to pin the Predator with a net. With encouragement from Betty he brings the robot under control. Yet after opening his helmet another Predator comes and tears off his head. Now Betty, Veronica and a wounded Archie are at the mercy of a Predator.

“Jughead Meets Mind MGMT “S” is for Sleeper”
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: Matt Kindt

Uncle Henry takes Jughead to the top of a cliff. He than pushes him off. Jughead survives and finds out his uncle is part of clandestine group that uses mind-powered agents to manipulate world events for the common good. Jughead is the last, hungriest immortal. He will be a perfect sleeper agent.

Well this is getting very weird. The gang find some nerdy geek has built a killer robot of Archie. It seems to defeat the Predator but not good enough. Poor Jughead and his hunger get the better of him. In spite of being terrified they can still crack some jokes at Jughead’s situation. A crazy story that has the Archie gang and their clean wholesome comic confront buckets of gore and violence. I love it.

ATARI FORCE #16

“Tazlings”
Writer: Mike Baron
Artist: Ed Hannigan

Scanner One is under attack by giant ants. Babe who’s physiology is toxic to the ants is send out to clear the gunk off the intake vents. He manages to drive off the ants and unblock the vents. So the ship takes off. Only some of the warrior ants have managed to sneak aboard. Dart decides to check up on Blackjack and she still has feeling for her former lover. As she leaves she makes telepathic contact with Tempest. He claims to still be prisoner at Atari so New Earth must have survived the anti-matter bomb. Taz at this time gives birth to a whole bunch of Tazlings. They are born with an instinct to create technical gadgets. This comes in handy has they build weapons that defeat the giant ant warriors. Then they go to Blackjack and put him under. They start to work on his artificial eye.

“Rat Trap!”
Writer: Andy Helfer
Artist: Mike Chen

Pakrat is trapped by the guard in the tower. He goes nuts but the guard knocks him out the window. Fortunately Ferra is flying by in her car for him to fall into. She takes Pakrat to her father’s secret place. Pakrat thinks he is safe but finds out that his brother Rident is waiting for him.

OK so the crew manage to escape the world of giant ants. The big surprise is Taz giving birth to a whole horde of little Tazlings. Now I do find the whole instinctive ability to build technical gadgets at birth a little too implausible. Still an enjoyable story. Another big reveal is that Tempest is still alive and by extension New Earth so the crew has a home to go to.

The backup story was an entertaining one. Pakrat is an interesting character and his adventure so far has my interest.

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.