“Death on the Black Coast!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “Queen of the Black Coast” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
The Tigress has arrived at the mouth of the Zarkheba river. A poisonous river with a sinister jungle. Belit believes a rich city lies further inland. She tells how once they were chasing a Stygian galley that went up the river. A few days later it floated back with the crew gone except one that was stark raving mad. N’yaga thinks this is a bad idea but Belit is obsessed with exploring the river.
While at night Belit has a conversation with Conan about life, the gods and the afterlife. She says that her love would draw her back from the abyss if Conan’s life was ever in danger. A giant snake attacks and kills the watch before Conan kills it. The next morning they come on the ruins of a city. In the distance they see a winged ape fly off. At the temple they find a fortune in gems under the alter. Only the winged ape goes to their ship and destroys the casks of fresh water. Conan leads a party to find some fresh water as Belit has the treasure loaded on the ship.
Conan and his party have little luck in finding fresh water. Conan thinks that something is following so sends M’gora and his men forward while he waits behind. Only Conan stands near Black Lotus blossoms that knock him out. He dreams of a winged race of men with their magnificent city before humans existed. One day a great disaster destroyed their city and poisoned the river. The poisoned river transformed them to hideous winged apes. Throughout the years the sole survivor has turned hapless explorers into hyenas. The final image Conan sees is his arrival and his men being chased by the winged ape.
He comes to and finds that his men were killed. M’gora is still alive but completely insane. Conan is forced to kill his comrade. He runs to the Tigress and finds Belit hanging from the mast with the necklace she found in the city. So Conan wraps her in a red cloak amid the treasure she found. Then he waits at the pyramid. The hyenas attack first and Conan kills them. A tower is collapsed by him and pins him to the ground. The winged ape lands but is confronted by Belit who stabs at him. She disappears but gives Conan enough time to free himself and attack. He kills the winged ape and next morning takes the Tigress to the sea. There he sets it on fire and watches as it disappears over the horizon.
It is a rare occasion for a series to reach 100. Especially nowadays as they just have limited run series. Obviously Conan was a big hit and we get the final payoff of the first 99. It was a very sad story to see Belit die. I was very shocked as a kid that they would actually get rid of her. Those days I never read the letter page or Howard’s original writing to know what was coming. This was a beautiful love story that Howard wrote. The part of Belit coming back was used by Milius in his movie. I know that it was getting a bit old having Conan in a pirate and jungle environment. Still this was a big milestone in Conan’s life to lose his first love. So now Roy would concentrate on getting Conan back to the Hyborean lands but would do it in an exciting fashion. This was a perfect issue.