“The Jeweled Bird!”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: John Buscema, Bob Camp, Dave Simons & Armando Gil
Conan is in the Zingaran port town of Karnemet when some escaping thieves run into him. The thieves unwisely decide to pull their swords on Conan. One gets his hand chopped off and another loses his life. The old merchant is grateful for Conan rescuing what the thieves were stealing which is a gem statue of a bird. The merchant Garbetto takes him back to this place and offers Conan a drink. There he tells how a man who found it managed to make it to his store before dying of wounds inflicted by the thieves. He believes that he knows where the guy found the statue and wants to hire Conan to escort them. Conan knows of the haunted forest and wants nothing to do with it until he sees Garbetto’s beautiful daughter Jessica will be coming along.
Meanwhile Captain Bor’aqh Sharaq survived his time in the demon dimension he fell into back some issue ago. He now serves the demon waiting for a chance to escape. It comes when he manages to steal a wand the demon made to open a portal between the dimensions. He gets back and first thing he does is attacks a castle. He kills the guards and helps himself to food, a horse and the owners wife and daughter.
Conan and company enter the forest and first thing they have to do is fight off a giant moth. Then they are attacked by local Burundi hillmen who ride on giant osprey. They take the osprey and find the ruins of a city. It turns out to be a house of legendary giants that were from the stars. Soon Conan is attacked by Bor’aqh who kills Garbetto. Bor’aqh is attacked by a giant living gem cat before he can destroy Conan with his magic wand. The wand is useless against the cat who has the power to shoot beams out of it’s eyes to turn things into gem. Bor’aqh gets turned to gem and then the cat goes after Conan. Conan finds himself in a child’s room and converts the bed into a giant tuning fork to shatter the gem cat.
“Ernie Chan Strikes Again”
Five full page portfolios by Chan of Conan.
This issue once again sees the return of archvillain Bor’aqh Sharaqh who has a psychopathic obsession with killing Conan. I though he was done for when he was tossed into another dimension. Fleisher found a way to bring him back. I loved this character who was a very formidable and dangerous opponent for Conan. Once again we think he is dead but as Conan says at the end there is some doubt. Now I can’t remember if he makes another return but I suppose he could with some creative writing.
Otherwise the story has your typical Fleisher kooky type quest. It starts out in a town with a mysterious gem bird and ends up with us fighting giant moths, cannibals riding on giant osprey and a giant cat that shoots beams from it’s eyes. A fun and enjoyable story filled with unique twists and turns.
“And Life Sprang Forth From These”
Writer: J.M. DeMatties
Artist: Gil Kane
Conan is wandering the hills of Cimmeria in a blizzard. He comes on a lone cabin and breaks in the door before passing out. He wakes and finds that he is in the home of his childhood friend Laynnen. The two have a happy reunion and later over dinner Conan hears about his friend. Laynnen was always a sensitive boy who played the lyre and such which always earned the scorn of the warrior Cimmerians. Conan would always defend him. When he grew up he was chased from the village and while wandering met his future wife. Noyo is a Khitain princess who appeared from the wind. She was fleeing an evil sorcerer. The two fell in love and had a son.
Their meal is interrupted by the appearance of flying bird-men. They take Laynnen and the image of the wizard Pau-Styss appears. He demands that Noyo get him four objects that were created by the primal gods. These are the Sword of Strength, Mirror of Beauty, Crown of Wisdom and the Rose of Peace. Noyo has no choice so with Conan and her son begin the quest. She transports them to the jungles of the Black Kingdoms. There amid dinosaurs they find the Sword of Strength. A huge sword surrounded by tombstones. Before they can approach these green men come busting up from the ground. The Warriors of Eternity.
This is a really good start to an quest epic. Conan meets his old friend in the wilds of Cimmeria. His friend gets captured by an evil wizard with delusions of godhood. It is a simple tried and true quest to get various objects of power. Yet it is done well with the promise of visiting several dangerous and exotic places until the grand finale.
“Heart of Wrath Part 2”
Writer: Mike Wolfer
Artist: Roy Allen Martinez
The British soldiers from the other compound come to check out the Maxon compound. One of them is killed and taken away by Number 13. The other soldiers find Sing Lee and think he is a pirate. They blame him for the disappearance of their comrade. Townsend and his Lascars get in a firefight with the soldiers and drive them off. After the battle they notice that Virginia is missing and it looks like she was taken by Number 13 through an underground tunnel. Meanwhile back at the other compound we learn that Dr. Vogel is in the employ of Lt. Arkwright and are continuing Maxon’s experiments. They managed to buy the formula from an old colleague of his. Arkwright wants the subjects to be limited mentally so they don’t get to powerful. Arkwright also believes they are almost to the point of perfecting the method to create men for his purposes. At the end we find out Virginia went willingly with Number 13.
This issue gives us some answers about the other compound. It also gives us more questions on what their end motives are and who is really behind the experiments. Number 13 has managed to get Virginia to come with him as Townsend gets in a fight with the British soldiers of Arkwright. A well done story with a mystery in the jungle and some action. The author left much to be resolved in the conclusion but I feel that he is up to the task.
“Chapter II: The Golden Army”
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artists: Olympia Sweetman & Vasil Georgiev
Xena has made a deal with Discord to save the children of the village. Her mission is to stop a Roman Legion that is destroying Discord’s temples. The only condition is she has to take the elders of the village with her. So they scout out the legion and find that they are destroying Discord’s temples on the orders of their god Deimos. Xena’s army trap the legion in a narrow pass. Then they trigger an avalanche which traps the legion in some tunnels that they recently dug. The Greek militia comes to the rescue and the defeated Romans are forced to go home. The village children are saved but Discord is angry. Zeus appears with Ares and Aphrodite because Discord did something. As punishment she is stripped of her godhood and banished to a far away land. Apparently Xena and Gabrielle are also caught in his lightning bolt and disappear.
Well the second issue has some OK stuff going on. Xena defeats the Romans and saves the children. There is some stuff not really clear. Like how did the Romans get trapped in tunnels? What the hell did Discord do to piss off Zeus? I suppose that could be answered next issue. Plus we have the various talking about feelings going on. Then there is the cutie lesbian thing going on between Xena and Gabrielle which just isn’t the characters established in the series.
Writer: Joe Gill
Artist: Montes Blanche
Dr. Hubert Nijus is a world renowned scientist who has developed a pill that can enable people to live underwater. He recruits his students and builds an underwater city. A government agent comes to him because the families of his students are concerned about their disappearance. This agent discovers what Nijus is doing and is kidnapped. So the Fightin’ 5 are called in. Their leader is aware of what’s going on and is already training with scuba gear to fight sharks. They track one of Nijus’s students to the city. They fight off sharks set on them by wounding some so they fight among themselves. Yet they are still captured by Nijus’s finmen. Nijus plans to turn the 5 into his finmen. Already he has kidnapped a Soviet sub crew and plans to kidnap more submarine crews. He has built a sub of his own and plans to nuke the major ports as part of his plan for world conquest. It all backfires because the 5 already have a cure for the finman serum. They give it to his men who free themselves. Only Nijus refuses to be captured and blows himself up.
“The Treasure Pirates”
Writer & Artist: Unknown
Some treasure hunters are driven off their find by pirates. Only the legitimate hunters later get the drop on the pirates and they are arrested. The hunters get their find but have to give a portion to the government in taxes. Always pay your taxes kids.
A prose story about some O.S.S. agents in Italy during WWII. They are rescuing a scientist and his daughter from the Nazis. Only the Nazis have them trapped in a farmhouse with a tank. The scientist insists that the agents pay the owner $10,000 for the farm which they do. Apparently they carry around a lot of money. Then the scientist invites the Nazis officer in under a flag of truce. He shows how in the wine cellar he has rigged it to blow and this would collapse the tank into the cellar. Then he would set the wine on fire. So the Nazis surrenders and they get away.
This has definitely got to be the goofiest of the series so far. A crazy scientist who creates finmen with shark fins that grow out of the top of their heads. He builds a city underwater and mines uranium for bombs. Yet the macho Fightin’5 have no trouble getting into their scuba gear and fighting hordes of sharks. They also somehow have an antidote to the finman pills. Not really explained but you just have to go with stuff in series like this.
As for the backups. Well one has an underwater theme. Have to put in for the kids the joys of paying your taxes. While the prose story during WWII is just plain nuts. That has to be some strong wine to be highly flammable. Oh and they just carry around $10,000. As I said this was one goofy issue.
“Forest of Fiends!”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: John Buscema & Pablo Marcos
There is a war between the city-states of Lapis L’Harr and Rozalan B’quen. King Ronzal is angry that his queen ran away with his daughter to the neighboring king. The offending king was killed in battle but now the Queen is in charge and continuing the war. Conan has signed on to lead the armies of King Ronzalah. He wins many victories including taking a fort by going through a haunted forest to attack from the rear. Only a cabal of rich nobles do not want the war to end. They have made a fortune is selling grain on the black market. So they have one of their agents try to assassinate Conan. Conan easily defeats this assassin but before he dies he implicates the king as behind the plot. So Conan goes over to the other side and wins for Queen Rhalina. Eventually a truce is called and the queen and king reconcile. They decide to get rid of Conan and bribe his second in command. The king then goes to his masseuse who is in love with him and when she hears that the king is getting back with the queen she kills him. The queen tells her spoiled daughter that Conan is going to be assassinate. The daughter loves Conan and stabs the queen in anger. Meanwhile at the end the second in command and Conan ride off with the king’s gold.
Writer: Jim Owsley
Artist: Gary Kwapisz
In a small Ophir village, a werewolve is terrorizing them and kidnapping their young women. Conan and his young companion come in claiming they are hunting this creature. That they have a magical dagger that can kill it. They manage to get the village to pay them a bag of gems. Later the two meet their third companion who is dressed in a wolf suit. They ride away to continue this scam on another village.
Writer: Jim Owsley
Artist: Val Mayerik
Conan is locked in a dungeon in Turan chained to the floor. A jailor comes to heap abuse on him. Conan patiently works on his chain while his companion continues to apologize for getting him arrested. The companion was a rebel that hired Conan to lead his army against King Yildiz. Only they were betrayed. Conan manages to break his chain and strangle the guard. At the end he comes to the banquet hall and saves the king from his advisor who was about to poison him. Seems he heard that from his companion who was in the employ of the advisor and told the jailor at night about it. As a reward Conan gets to eat a feast.
This was a really fun issue. The main story was a good solid Fleisher story. One with warring kingdoms and plenty of intrigue. You had a demon thrown in while they were going through the haunted forest. It was kind of like a soap opera with all these people sleeping with one another and plotting their revenge. At the end Conan and his friend ride off to leave as the monarchs get killed by young jealous unstable girls.
The Jim Owsley stories were a mixed bag. I like that we got two extra stories in this issue. The first was a standard little con using a guy in a werewolf suit to con local yokels. The second story had a lot of potential. A gritty Conan who ate rats raw and took abuse while patiently pulling on his chain. A Cimmerian will live free and Conan had a determination. Only the story fell apart at the end with this improbably incomprehensible plot against King Yildiz. A king that had dealings with Conan before and would want him killed. I still don’t fully understand what was going on. So a good issue with a solid main story and two mediocre backups.
“The Snow Haired Woman of the Wastes”
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Gil Kane
Conan has returned home to Cimmeria and is wandering the frozen wastes when he comes on a woman being attacked by a snow bear. Conan defeats the bear and is wounded. The woman takes him to a cave and nurses his wounds. When Conan wakes up the woman is gone so he continues on. He comes to a village where Vanir are slaughtering the villagers. Conan attacks but is captured and tied to the ground. The leader Grendel wants to torture Conan but is urged by their shaman to continue their quest. So they leave Conan who manages to break his bonds. The woman he saved finds him and the two continue on. They get to know each other and they fall in love. The woman named Xean tells of her life. She remembers always being chained inside a temple of the Vanir. One day she lured a guard to her so she could steal the keys to her chains.
The Vanir under Grendel find them. Conan fights the Vanir and in this fight inadvertently hits the chains on Xean’s wrist. Conan kills all the Vanir and Grendel. Yet Xean starts to melt. The shaman tells how he created her from snow to bring prosperity to their people. When Conan broke her chains this broke the magic that was keeping her in her human form. Conan leaves and continues on while trying to forget his loss.
So Gil Kane looks like he is taking over the art for this series. His art for Conan is OK but not my favorite. The story reminds me of The Frost Giant’s Daughter. A beautiful woman that is mostly naked who has no trouble wandering in the snow. She has a mystical background. Only here is a tragedy for she is destined to die. An interesting story that gives us a change of pace from past stories.
“Heart of Wrath Part 1”
Writer: Mike Wolfer
Artist: Roy Allen Martinez
Townsend Harper, Virginia Maxon and Sing have come back to the island where Dr. Maxon conducted his experiments in creating life. They wanted to find out if Number 13 was still alive. They have found out and 13 tried to kidnap Virginia. Now they debate their next moves. Should they leave or stay. If stay should they try to help 13 or is he too far gone and should be killed. A storm is coming so they barricade themselves in the old compound to ride it out. Meanwhile on the other side of the island there is another compound. One with soldiers to guard it and run by a German scientist. It also has monsters kept in the cellar cages. Number 13 comes in at night to feed them but the creatures are loyal to a Lt. Arkwright and threaten to tell of him.
The first in a new series from one of Burrough’s lesser known works. A sort of Island of Dr. Moreau. It starts off introducing the reader to the protagonists and their motives and past history. It introduces Number 13 who eats human body parts and speaks German. It also introduces us to this mysterious compound with a German scientist and English lieutenant. This compound also has hideous creatures and is up to experiments that Dr. Maxon did. Wolfer once again gives us a continuation of a Burrough’s story that feels like he would have written it. The characters are interesting and the setting gives the reader a sense of mystery. Another entry in the Burrough’s universe that I eagerly await more of.
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Olympia Sweetman
Xena and Gabrielle are rescuing travelers from bandits. After this they are approached by a man that needs help. The goddess Discord is going to take the children of his village. When they arrive they find that the children of the village are uncommonly strong. It is later revealed that years ago the village was going through a plague. They made a deal with Discord to save them but the grandchildren would be forfeit. So Discord comes for the children and she offers the villagers a new deal. Kill Xena for the lives of their children. Some try and fail. Xena offers a deal to Discord. She can have her if she spares the children.
So this is my first experience with Vita Ayala. She supposedly has more work to do these days because she checks so many diversity boxes and more important works dirt cheap. Well I didn’t really find her writing very boldly progressive or really inspiring. She does have Xena and Gabrielle in an open lesbian relationship which the TV series did imply. I thought it was just a little too cutsie. She never really captured the characters that were established in the TV series. Also the dialogue was a bit wooden and hokey.
Still it had some interesting ideas. It was competently written if not very inspiring. It ends with the reader wanting to find out what comes after Xena offers herself so we will see what the next issue brings.
“Green Death in Vietnam”
Writer: Joe Gill
Artist: Montes Bache
The Fightin’ 5 get there next assignment while waiting around their HQ. Chu a Chinese specialist from Peking is in Vietnam with 2,000 of his men. He has a reputation of being invincible and has the peasants terrified. So the 5 go to Nam’ and immediately get a lift to the interior by helicopter. As they land they make short work of the VC ambush. The survivor goes to Chu who is furious that the Americans have defeated some of his men. So he goes to a nearby village and using reeds to breath underwater, his men ambush the militia and the Special Forces advisor. He takes the young men as recruits and heads back to his base.
The 5 follow with Hennessey using his jetpack to ambush Chu as the others catch up from behind. Hennessey confronts Chu who in terror flees. They free the captives and tell them to spread the word on Chu’s cowardice. They then come on his base which he is using to train and arm recruits. Hennessey distracts Chu as the others plant explosives and destroy his weapons. At the end Hennessey give Chu a serious ass kicking and exposes him for the coward he really is. Chu is paraded around to show the whole country what a loser he really is.
“The Green Badge of Courage”
Writer & Artist: Unknown
A story that tells how great the Special Forces are. They not only have trained in every fighting skill and can operate in any climate. They have language skills and can teach how to farm and prepare defenses. This seems to be another Special Forces recruitment ad.
By Juan Fernandez
A prose article by a South American journalist covering the war in Vietnam. He tells how American forces are experts in improvisation. That spikes planed by the Cong were causing casualties so the Americans made metal soles for their boots. They also armed themselves with hatchets for the close quarter fighting.
So this was their all Vietnam war issue. I find it interesting because this was written back in 1965 or 66 when the war was in it’s early phase. When advisors were actually small groups of Green Berets and not whole divisions. I find it so optimistic about the war. Just reading it I wonder how we ever lost. I mean the enemy were cowardly agents from China. Here you have these guys in bright blue uniforms with bright red berets being able to melt into the jungle unseen by the VC. Plus they had jet packs to fly around with. I think veterans would get a good laugh out of this. Ah such an innocent time back then.