THE GREATEST ADVENTURE #4

“Untitled”
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Cezar Razek

The Venture is attacked by a fighter from The Resolve. The crew try to hit it with their rifles but have no luck. So Julian straps on a Barsoomian equilibrium belt and flies to the fighter and shoots the pilot. The fighter crashes but Julian’s body is not found. So the ship continues on to Pellucidar. They fly around looking for Victoria and Stone who were to arrive via the underground passage from Caspak. Eventually Gridley detects The Resolve leaving. La says that they must have found the Gem and are now heading for Mars. Some of the crew decide to stay and search for their missing comrades as The Venture leaves Pellucidar for Mars. On The Resolve the Black Pirates find Victoria Custer and mutiny against Rokoff.

This issue was a bit of a let down. Not much happens. Besides the first battle with the fighter there is hardly any action. The ship just flies around. Some of the crew stay and its off to Mars. A bit of a disappointment that they didn’t have David Innes, Abner Perry or Dian make an appearance. Nor did they have any real meaningful adventure in Pellucidar. They just got rid of some of the crew. I suppose the realities of such a series with such a large cast and epic scale came against plot and wrapping the series up in a set time. I do admit I am looking forward to adventures on Barsoom.

MACHINE MAN #5

“Non-Hero”
Writer and Artist: Jack Kirby

Machine Man fights Ten-For and holds his own. Only the police show up and Ten-For acts like the victim. The police recognize Machine Man is wanted by the army and try to arrest him. This angers Machine Man and he escapes and goes off to sulk. Dr. Spaulding manages to convince General Kragg to give Machine Man amnesty in exchange for his help against the Autocron invasion. Machine Man while sulking on the roof is noticed by the guests of a costume party. They invite him in and he wows them with his various abilities. A woman befriends him and reveals she recognizes Machine Man. In fact there are regular broadcasts on TV of Dr. Spaulding imploring Machine Man to come and help. The woman also tries to convince him to go and help against the invasion. Yet when Machine Man shows her the true face under his human mask she decides that he is not really human and leaves. Machine Man really gets depressed as the Autocron fleet heads toward Earth.

Well as the cover says Machine Man has decided he had enough of all the crap humans are giving him. So he goes off to sulk and watch as the Earth is invaded. A bit of a surprise to see Ten-For actually act meek. I though he was too egotistical for that. A good issue that explores that Machine Man has feeling and emotions just like anyone else. You really empathize with what he is going through. I have a feeling that Machine Man will come through. Otherwise it would be a boring series if he just gives up.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #55

“Black Lotus and Yellow Death”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “Conan and the Sorcerer” by Andrew J. Offutt

Conan is deposited at an oasis by the Sand-lich. From an old man and his family traveling he learns that Isparana has not come through yet so sets in and waits. He doesn’t have long for her to show up. After she baths in the oasis and falls asleep he sneaks up and substitutes the real Eye of Erlik for a phony one. Then while trying to steal her camels she wakes up and attacks. Conan manages to disarm her. Only later a slavery caravan comes and after a fight takes them prisoner. The Turanian captain that Conan helps arrives and forces the slavers to release Conan and Isparana.

Conan than heads off for Shadizar and the wizard Hissar Zul. There he give him the Eye of Erlik and expects the wizard to give him back his soul. Only the wizard tries to kill Conan by blowing Yellow Lotus dust on him. Conan is quicker and manages to blow the powder through the rolled up parchment back at Hissar Zul. With the wizard dead he takes the mirror with his soul and the Eye of Erlik. Setting fire to the wizards house he heads out to trade the Eye for a person of royal blood to break the mirror and free his soul.

“Havoc in Hyboria A study of Warfare in Conan’s World”
By Jim Neal

An article that tells story of Conan’s life as they relate to the various wars and battles he has fought. An interesting article.

“The New Kids in Town A Portfolio”

A collection of five artists renditions of Conan. The artists are Joe Jusko, Will Meugniot, Peter Ledger, Steve Swenson and Rich Larson.

“Wizard and Warriors”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by Robert E. Howard and Lin Carter
Artist: Alfredo Alcala

Kull and Brule are playing chess with Ronaro looking on. The discussion turns to a time in Brule’s life where he battled a wizard. While fighting the Sungara tribe he manages to defeat their wizard. His feet can’t move because of his spell but the sword he carries turns away the full force of the sorcery. So he cuts the magic staff in two and then stabs the wizard.

So we get the end of another adaptation. This was an interesting story and sees Conan defeat the evil sorcerer. Isparana was a fascinating character and would appear in many later stories. This was the first of a trilogy so it ends somewhat unfinished with Conan still having his soul trapped in a mirror. Which the next issue will continue.

As for the other stuff. The article was well written and gives the reader a brief but concise history of Conan’s life as a warrior. The portfolio had some beautiful art. The Brule story was also enjoyable and gives us a chance to let the Pict that was Kull’s loyal friend have his moment in the sun. A good solid issue although the cover has nothing to do with the story inside.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #93

“Of Rage and Revenge!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Ptor-Nubis the Stygian sorcery has hypnotized Conan and company. Now they are ordered to fight each other to the death. Only Zula who has knowledge of hypnotism is not effected. He manages to maneuver to Ptor-Nubis and strike him down. With the spell broken Conan and friends make short work of the Stygian guards. So they plan to overthrow Nik-Karrak and place Belit on the throne of Asgalun. They spread the word among the population of Belit’s return.

The Stygians have other plans and overthrow Nim-Karrak and annex the province. Nim-Karrak manages to escape but Uriaz the other royal is arrested and sentenced to be publicly executed. At the execution the executioner instead kills the Stygian leader. He turns out to be Conan who then exhorts the crowd to support Belit. Zula and the black corsairs start a fight disguised as the Kushite mercenaries against the Hyrkanian mercenaries. Soon a battle ensues that sees the Stygians defeated. Nim-Karrak tries to knife Belit in the back but Zula uses his hypnotism to conjure an illusion. This illusion makes him stumble and fall to his death.

Now Belit can be crowned but when she hears that it would be for live she decides to forgo the crown and give it to the weak Uriaz. She and Conan with their corsairs sneak out of the city as it descends into fighting and the mad king Akhirom comes riding up to take the crown.

The end of Belit’s quest for vengeance was a very satisfying conclusion. A story filled with many different components that all fit into place at the end. Belit gets her revenge in a way by seeing her uncle dead. The Stygians are kicked out. I loved the ending where seeing how fickle the crowd was she wisely decided that being a queen was not what it was cracked up to be.

So we are heading into the home stretch of the Belit era. The next issues will give us some good old fashioned pirate adventures to end it. A fitting end to what I think is the best of the Marvel Conan.

KAMANDI CHALLENGE #1

“The Rules”
Writer: Dan DiDio
Artists: Keith Giggne and Scott Koblish

A young boy gets up late for school and runs out trying to catch the bus. Suddenly the sky reveals itself to be a dome with a phony sky. The people of the city are robots who try to fight off the rat-men that are attacking. The boy runs to his grandmother who puts him in a chamber to escape. She says that he has to find his parents and remember Command D. The boy wakes up and finds himself a prisoner to tiger-men. Because he was mumbling about Command D they name him Kamandi. He gets thrown into a gladiator arena to face a giant ape named Tiny.

“K…is for “Kill”!”
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Dale Eaglesham

Kamandi fights the giant ape Tiny by first gouging out his eye. Then he lures the ape to the electrified wall and wins. Prince Tuftan thinks this human has great potential to be a gladiator so takes him to Dr. Canus to train. Canus is surprised that Kamandi can speak and reason. He takes him to the parade and explains the Tiger empire and how it’s empire Caesar is waging a war of conquest. He witnesses a triumphal parade with captive leopard-men. He escapes to the museum of war and fights it’s guards who are flying jackdaws. Canus rescues him and takes him back to the parade. Caesar has a nuclear missile who he thinks is a god and makes his scientists make it speak. A countdown sequence starts.

So for the hundredth birthday of Jack Kirby they decided to revive one of his greatest creations. I loved the old Kamandi book from the seventies. A series inspired by Planet of the Apes and about a talking human trapped in a world of anthropomorphic animals. So the premise for this series is each issue a new writer and artist will pick up where the last team left off. The issue is to end in a cliffhanger naturally. Also the letter page has the last writer give his version to resolve the cliffhanger. So the writer in the introduction tells how Kamandi is thrown into the stands by Tiny and makes friends with Tuftan.

So far a great start. There were many old characters from the original series. I am looking forward to see what new lands and adventures that Kamandi will have.

THE GREATEST ADVENTURE #3

“Untitled”
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Cezar Razek

Tarzan and the crew of the Venture have met Bowen Tyler and the survivors of the U-33. At Fort Dinosaur they learn something about the land of Caspak. The winged men that attacked them are located on an island in the inland sea. Promising to come back and rescue Tyler they continue on their quest. After exploring some of the islands they find the one that the Resolve was looking for. Most of the natives were slaughtered. A survivor tells how the ship came.

The crew explore and find a temple. Inside is La of Opar tied to a stake. La was kidnapped because the Eye of Judgement was originally an Atlantean gem. A rebel and his followers left Opar and settled in Caspak. Rostov who commands the Resolve kidnapped La to help with the natives. They found out that someone from Pellucidar tunneled up and stole the gem. So now they have to go to Pellucidar. Gridley has the idea of sending a team through the tunnel and using his Gridley wave to broadcast the location. In Antarctica a fighter from the Resolve comes in the destroy the Venture.

So we get Tyler Bowen and Fort Dinosaur making a brief appearance. There is a bit of a time discrepancy since this seems to be in the thirties but Tyler and crew were rescued way before than. We also get La of Opar introduced to the crew in a fascinating sub-plot. We also finally find out that Nicolas Roskoff’s son is the captain of the Resolve. Although some wizened old man hooked up to a machine is the real one in charge. Ends with another cliffhanger. A real fun story so far.

MACHINE MAN #4

“Battle on a very Busy Street”
Writer and Artist: Jack Kirby

Dr. Spaulding with instruction from Machine Man manages to remove the cylinder that Ten-For placed on his head. Machine Man than goes after Ten-For. He first finds that the army have been pretty beaten up. Using his new dimensional powers he transports himself to Central City. There he finds Ten-For tearing up a furniture store. They have a battle and Machine Man using his flame thrower drives Ten-For off. He resolves to use the dimensional powers to transport Ten-For off this world. Only Ten-For has taken hostages and also transmitted Earth’s location so the Autocron fleet can come.

In this issue Kirby does a very good job of exploring the psyche of Machine Man. There is a scene where he has a conversation with his father. Machine Man has the ability to manifest his creators in his own mind. He also wonders why he helps the human race when they are clearly out to destroy him. Yet he continues to do the right thing. Machine Man has some impressive powers and even manages to defeat Ten-For. An enjoyable comic series that thoughtfully explores what it means to be human.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #54

“The Stalker Amid the Sands”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “Conan and the Sorcerer” by Andrew J. Offutt
Artists: John Buscema & Ricardo Villamonte

Conan is on the trail of Isparana who stole the Eye of Erlik. He needs to retrieve the eye to get back his soul from Hissar Zul. At an oasis he is ambushed by two nomads who he has to kill. Later he comes on a Turanian patrol that was after them. From the patrol he finds a short cut he can take but is warned of a Sand lich that ambushes men. Conan decides to ignore that advice and take the short cut. He finds out there is a Sand lich, a creature made of sand. It starts to suffocate Conan but stops when it finds out that he has no soul.

The Sand lich finds out the soul was stolen by Hissar Zul. The Sand lich was once Tosya Zul the brother of Hissar. Back in their youth they tried to overthrow the Khan of Zamboula and had to flee when it was found out. Along the way Tosya finds out that Hissar actually hates him and uses magic to kill Tosya. Only Tosya survived and turned into a Sand lich. He kills everyone who comes to him because he hopes one is his brother. He agrees to help Conan if he kills his brother. So he uses his magic to transport him to an oasis.

“Satan’s Swordbearers”
By Fred Blosser

An article on the mercenaries of Conan’s time. Also has comparisons with history in the Middle Ages to explain the origin and tactics of these bands. An interesting article.

“The Chan Barbarians”

A two page spread by Ernie Chan of Conan battling Thoth-Amon.

“Wings in the Night Part Two”
Writer: Don Glut adapted from story by Robert E. Howard
Artist: David Wenzel

After his battle with two bat-creatures Solomon Kane gets knocked out. He wakes in a hut. The Bogonda tribe is nursing him back to health. From them he finds out the history of their tribe and the creatures they call the Akaana. The tribe was driven out of their homeland and after fighting through the local cannibal tribe came to this land. Only they found out it was inhabited by the Akaana. Now trapped by the cannibal tribe they are forced to make their home in this land. The tribe started leaving sacrifices but the lower Bogonda rebelled and were slaughtered. Now the upper Bogonda have not been bothered by the Akaana since Kane killed two of them. They think that the Akaana are scared of Kane and will not bother them as long as Kane stays with them. Kane agrees to stay to protect them.

Only a few days later the Akaana attack and slaughter the people. Kane tries with fails to protect them. So he sets a trap by fortifying a hut. Then leaves a cow carcass inside to lure the Akaana in. When they enter he locks the door and sets fire to the hut. Thus getting revenge for the Bogonda tribe.

So apparently Ernie Chan couldn’t do his inking for this story and Villamonte filled in. They could only do half the story instead of finishing it. Which is why it seems so short for the main Conan story. It was a good story filled with an interesting premise. The Sand lich was a new monster for Conan that had some originality.

Because of the abbreviated Conan story we get the Solomon Kane story in two parts instead of three. This was one of Howard’s best Kane story. A fascinating backstory of the tribe and their tormenters the Akaana. A race of bat creatures that Kane feels were the Harpies of old mythology. A well done adaptation.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN ANNUAL #4

“The Return of the Conqueror!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan has regained his throne after the conspiracy of Xaltotun. Now he rides with the captive Nemedian king to his capital Belverus to claim the girl Zenobia. Zenobia helped Conan escape the dungeon and on a whim has vowed to make her his queen. King Tarascus convinces Conan to not bring in his army for fear that would trigger an uprising. So Conan goes with Phaidon the son of his trusted general and two other men. In the palace he finds Zenobia but the treacherous Tarascus ambushes him. Later Conan is set in a maze with a mirror on the ceiling. Zenobia is ties to a stake in the middle. Also the Manotar half man, half bull is also released in the maze. The torch is doused so he can’t see in the mirror and goes to rescue Zenobia.

Conan arrives just in time to fight the Manotar. He kills it with his bare hands. Later it is revealed to be Phaidon who was turned into a Manotar by magic. This drives Conan mad and carrying Zenobia he fights through the guards and kills the king’s commander. Zenobia uses a crossbow to shoot Tarascus in the back as he goes to knife Conan while he is recovering from the fight. The two manage to escape the city and Zenobia learns that she is to be the Queen of Aquilonia. Conan proposes and she accepts.

So at the end of “Conan the Conqueror” Howard ended with Conan promising to retrieve Zenobia and make her his queen. Roy has given us a fine sequel to Howard’s only novel. I love the Manotaur which was the opposite of a Minotaur. This Manotar had the torso of a man and body of a bull. Of course we find out Tarascus used magic on a friend. This would start the trend of making annuals have original stories instead of reprints which two of the last three were. I enjoyed the extra length annuals from the old days. A great little bonus to celebrate a series anniversary. This was a classic and enjoyable story that Roy gave us.

WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS #5

“The Future of Worlds”
Writer: Jeff Parker
Artist: Dean Kotz

Edgar Norman is killed by a Moonhead assassin. Tars Tarkas drives his swords into the assassin but it is too late for Edgar. So he is given a Barsoomian funeral which means he is thrown to a giant creature called Grazhoula. We later find out the Grazhoula lays energy eggs which power Helium. The Moonheads find out that all their people and base are now gone. So the leader decides they must kill John Carter if they hope to succeed. Carter and friends come up with a plan. They lure all the Moonheads into a cavern and use the Mars rover to generate an EMP blast. This knocks out all their weapons and the Moonheads surrender. So the Moonheads are rehabilitated by the Tharks to live on the surface in peace. John Carter and friends also find peace and live happily ever after.

Well the final issue sees Carter and friends successfully defeat the Moonheads. For some reason I found the ending unsatisfactory. It was just too easy. I think writers are getting lazy these days. They just sort of end everything in an easy way which isn’t very exciting. This was a great idea and I enjoyed how it went. Just could have used a better ending. Have some more conflict. More drama. Oh well, on to the next series.