“Magical but not Magic”

Writer: Jordie Bellaire

Artist: Drew Moss

Sonja is in the Hyborian age with a gang of bandits. They all love Sonja but there is one voice that mocks her. An old woman who was accused of being a witch. Later at night she turns into a fox and manages to run away. Only one of the bandits hits her with an arrow. Sonja tracks her to a mysterious cottage. Inside is all sorts of stuff from the future like signs and appliances. She finds the old woman dying and comforts her. The old woman gives Sonja a magical gem and tells her it will help her in the future.

This issue is an origin of how Sonja was transported to 1969. A much needed entry but unfortunately it was very dull. I mean nothing happened in this story. Sonja’s gang are just a little too obsequious for a bunch of hardened barbarians. Also why is Sonja with this bunch of rejects from Deliverance. She is usually a loner. So anyway all that happens is this old hag gets shot with an arrow. Sonja finds her and apologizes profusely for what happened. Then I guess she gets transported to the future which is something that will help Sonja. Hopefully the story gets better.


“Angry Red Planet Part 1”

Writer: John Layman

Artist: Fran Strukan

During the Hyborian age the Martians had an advanced and peaceful civilization. Only the advisor to the emperor named Xi’Zeer believed only conquest and war would advance their society. So he proposes a peaceful expedition to Earth. The emperor was glad to get rid of his advisor and agrees. Later Red Sonja is riding along when she comes on a group of refugees. They are from the city of Bryssenden and state that ogres with foul magic have conquered it. Sonja finds the remnants of the King’s Guard trying to fix their wagon when it is attacked. A Martian is riding a giant ant. He has a laser crossbow and lightsaber. After the ant tears up Sonja’s horse she gets real mad. Sonja manages to chop off the ant’s head then drive her sword through the Martian’s head. The surviving guard convinces Sonja to help him deliver the last survivor of the royal family a young girl to safety. Xi’Zeer who has now set himself up as ruler of Bryssenden hears of the defeat of his warrior by a single woman and orders her to be hunted down and killed.

It seems that Dynamite nowadays has basically become Red Sonja or Vampirella titles. The titles now revolve around combining one or both with many other series. This one now gets to Mars Attacks. So was it good? Yeah this was an enjoyable issue. Sonja is her usual badass self and the Martians are their evil selves. The writer gives them energy swords and crossbows to give them a more medieval feel but otherwise they have their giant insects and advanced technology. Another goofy crossover between two properties I never would have thought to see.


“Time Out of Mind!”

Writer: Steve Englehart

Artists: Sal Buscema and Mike Esposito

Skull and his group have arrived in the ancient Egypt part of the time tower. They battle robotic Egyptian soldiers and are taken prisoner. They find out that an alien named Slitherogue is the pharaoh of this place. Slitherogue tells the group about the origins of this place. His alien race from the planet Scorpius had perfected robots. Only these robots constantly needed to be occupied or they would deteriorate. So they brought them to Earth in our prehistory. They set up a vortex in the Bermuda Triangle to pull back people so they would know about Earth’s development. The big plan is to build enough robots to take over all of time. To demonstrate his power, Slitherogue shoots a ray from his eyes and disintegrates poor old Jeff.

The surviving three are put to work building a pyramid. Skull notices that the robots don’t move well in sand and makes a break for it with Ann and Corey. Only Ann breaks her leg and Skull leaves her behind. The robot guards kill both Ann and Corey. Skull makes it to a door and gets pulled through. He finds himself prisoner to Merlin and his Black Knight. Skull manages to defeat the Black Knight and makes an alliance with Merlin to defeat Slitherogue. Meanwhile Morgan Le Fay has contacted Slitherogue to enter into an alliance to destroy King Arthur and Merlin.

Wow did a lot happen in this issue. First we find out the origins of this land and the alien race that created it. Then all three of Skull’s companions get killed. That was a bold move. Skull is shown as a very cynical and pragmatic guy because of his life experiences. He meets up with what seems to be Merlin and an alliance is formed.

Now I don’t know if this is really Merlin and Morgan Le Fey or some facsimile. Nor do I know if his companions are really dead. That is what I love about this series. I have no idea where it’s going. It just keeps getting better and better. Steve Englehart would just write this one because of his other duties. I don’t know who the new writer will be but Marv is the editor of the series and probably already has a plot in mind. So I feel that the future of Skull is in good hands whoever is chosen as writer.


“The Ape-Bat of Marmet Tarn”

Writer: Michael Fleisher

Artists: John Buscema and Rudy Nebres

Conan comes to a small village in Corinthia at night. The place is deserted because at night this ape-bat attacks people. It attacks Conan who gets knocked out. In the morning he finds out where this creature is located and decides to take up the offer of a reward for it’s death. Meanwhile Wraal the Devourer of Souls has managed to come back to Earth. He goes to a cave where another gem is located that will bring his people to Earth. Only the moon isn’t aligned right just yet and he can only bring over a handful of his people. So he decides to track down Conan for some revenge.

Conan continues to Marmet Tarn a giant lake and rescues a woman from a giant Mantis. The girl Lia lives in a castle by the lake with her invalid brother-in-law. There Conan finds out that the girl’s husband went looking for this powerful grimoire. As his ship came into the castle it crashed on the rocks and the brother tried to rescue him but was crippled. So Conan helps Lia by diving to the wreckage to see if the grimoire is there. Instead he has to rescue her from a giant octopus. This results in Lia falling in love with Conan.

The next day the ape-bat attacks Lia. Conan rescues her and finds out that the brother-in-law is the ape-bat. He managed to rescue the grimoire from the wreckage and kill his brother. So he turns into the ape-bat but Conan manages to impale him on a spike. Soon after he has other things to worry about. Wraal and his creatures have found him. So Conan battles him and because Lia uses the grimoire she can temporarily remove Conan’s soul so Wraal can’t reduce him to a worm. Then she uses it to resurrect the dead men from the ship who come to rescue Conan from the other demons. Only at the end she reveals she made a deal to return with the dead and Conan gets knocked out as they take her to the bottom of the lake.

“The Gary Kwapisz Portfolio”

A collection of Conan portfolios by the new artist Gary Kwapisz.

Fleisher brings back Wraal which proved to be a very popular opponent for Conan. This character survived past Fleisher’s tenure on the series and was used by many other writers. This story like many other Fleisher ones is filled with many wild twists and turns. It has in addition to Wraal and his minions a number of monsters that Conan has to defeat. Not to mention the evil sorcerer, zombies and a beautiful girl. It ends on a very tragic note with Lia who loves Conan sacrificing herself which isn’t a typical Fleisher ending.

As for the Kwapisz portfolio it was really beautiful. I love his work and he would later take over the art for Savage Sword. After Buscema he is my favorite artist on this series.


“The Ring of Rhax”

Writer: Bruce Jones

Artists: Gil Kane and Ernie Chan

Conan has decided to turn to robbery and stops a rich wine merchant on the road. This merchant is unarmed and has to submit. He also offers his jeweled ring which Conan takes. This ring then slips on his finger and he can’t take it off. The merchant laughs for this ring is cursed and can only be removed by someone unwittingly. As the merchant rides off, Conan curses him as a baboon to be struck dead. A bolt of lightning hits and kills him. The merchant is also turned into a baboon. Conan rides on and later in this wasteland wishes for water. It suddenly appears. While drinking he is ambushed by another bandit and hits his head on a rock in the pool. He wakes up with the oasis gone and his ring along with all his stuff taken by the bandit.

Conan goes after him and finds the bandit killed by Picts. The Picts attack and Conan manages to fight them off. Only his hand touches the ring hand of the dead bandit and the ring goes back on his hand. Conan comes on an old gypsy woman who tells him of the ring. A king Jukas had his wizard Rhax conjure a magical ring to give to his young wife. This ring would conjure a demon to slay any lover she took while he was at war. He comes back and finds the ring worked too well. It killed his wife with the lover. The ring then slips on his hand and the next day he is found dead. The wizard Rhax was forced to flee an angry mob and the ring has been passed from hand to hand since.

Conan continues on to find someone dumb enough to take the ring. With no luck he picks up a girl for the night. When he wakes he finds that she took the ring and put it on her finger to look at. So Conan takes the girl and goes back to the gypsy to force her to tell him a way to break the curse. Seems that at a full moon the demon comes to kill the wearer. The gypsy tells that Rhax still lives and where his castle is. Conan takes the girl there and finds the wizard who made a deal for immortality. He can be killed only by his hand. Conan then has to fight the returning demon as the wizard opens a flaming hole in the ground. The girl manages to knock the wizard into the hole. Conan has the ring transferred to the wizard. He falls in and the demon goes after him.

Bruce Jones takes over the writing starting this issue. He is a good writer and I enjoyed this offbeat tale. Conan gets stuck with a magical ring and has all sorts of goofy adventures. Jones like Fleisher takes the reader for a fun ride where you never know how it will end. Also Ernie Chan did the finishes for Gil Kane. The art looks so different and I love it. He really improves on Kane’s style. Kane is someone I have mixed feeling about but combine him with Chan and it looks awesome.


“Furious & Magical”

Writer: Jordie Bellaire

Artist: Drew Moss

Vampirella discovers that Soviets are conducting experiments on her people from Drakulon. This really gets her pissed and with Sonja the two attack the security guards. Vampirella finds out that the Soviets some years ago on a mission to Mars met with some explorers from Drakulon. They discovered that the Drakulon’s blood could enhance humans so they captured them to transfuse their blood into humans. Only the humans went nuts and this is the origin of the disappearances of hikers in the mountains. Sonja uses the Generation Stone to set the place on fire. It’s magical properties starts a very powerful fire that quickly spreads.

So the Soviets had people on Mars back in the mid-sixties. Well I suppose that the first Vampirella comic had astronauts from Earth in 1969 visited Drakulon. I guess in the alternate reality of Vampirellaland both the U.S. and Soviets had a more advanced secret space program. This was an enjoyable issue. Sonja gets to have fun causing destruction. Vampirella gets to lose her temper and tear up some people and cause a little destruction. Both characters seem to be bonding and I am curious were the story is going. Plus I enjoy the art. The two women look beautiful.



Writer: Vita Ayala

Artists: Olympia Freeman & Vasco Georgiev

Xena, Gabrielle and Discord have finally made it back to Greece. So they go to Mt. Olympus to convince Zeus to take Discord back. They have to go through a labyrinth when they enter the mountain. While there they get attacked by a bunch of harpies. Luckily a minotaur comes and rescues them. This minotaur named Eris is a childhood friend of Discord. So they make it to meet Ares and Aphrodite. Discord gets them to call a meeting with Zeus. This meeting results in him finding out that it was Strife who was behind the scheme with the villagers. Strife gets sent into exile in the Americas. Discord transports Xena and Gabrielle back to her horse. The two go riding off into the sunset kissing.

So ends the world tour. It ends as it begun which is very inane and banal. This whole series was at best mediocre and at worse totally incomprehensible. I liked the idea of this traveling around the world but the implementation of the idea leaves something to be desired. The only real positive I can think of is this has reawakened my desire to watch the old Xena TV series. That was a great show and it has been a long time since I watched it. So I guess Vita has moved on to destroy bigger and better series and I will continue on to something hopefully more enjoyable.


“Tumult in the Tower of Time!”

Writer: Marv Wolfman

Artist: Steve Gan

Skull is trying to break a dinosaur that he can ride around. He has no luck and decides to abandon the endeavor. Soon after a dinosaur stampede nearly crushes the group. Skull decides to check out what caused the stampede and the group finds something strange. Skeletons have been staked out on an open plain. They have clothing from various time periods and it is speculated they are those that disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle. Ann helps herself to a sexy new dress. The group then find a strange silver tower. A ramp leads up to the top. At the top they find a door which leads inside. There they find that the tower has many levels around an open center. Each level is a different time period with the top as prehistoric. A T-Rex attacks and Skull manages to tear it apart. It was a robot and a scream from Corey brings the group to another door. This one leads to ancient Egypt.

This is the final issue with Wolfman and Gan. Wolfman got promoted to editor so a new team will take over. I have to say that this series just keeps getting better and better. Each one reveals some new and mysterious element. Also the characters develop with their own unique personalities. There is real conflict among them especially Corey and Skull. Corey is always bitching and getting on Skull’s nerves. Really good stuff. So I think Wolfman continues to edit this and hopefully the replacement team will keep up the excellent level of quality established.


“Night of the Rat!”

Writer: Michael Fleisher

Artists: John Buscema and Ernie Chan

In the Khitain city-state of Kathai the emperor is always given two choices in everything. Two cups to drink out of, two plates of food, two doors to use. Only one choice is good and the other will kill him. It is believed that the ruling monarch can only rule effectively if he retains his instinct to choose correctly. Well this guy eventually chooses the wrong snuff box and gets bitten by a deadly viper. Meanwhile Conan is leading a band of bandits raiding caravans. Only it isn’t good picking. A rival female bandit called the Snow Raven has been beating him to robbing them. So they go to the city to have a good drink. While there Conan is lead out by a woman and attacked. Conan naturally defeats them and finds out that the Snow Raven was behind the attack. She wants Conan to help her steal a gem. Conan agrees and the two successfully steal it. Only later the Snow Raven betrays Conan and her men knock him out. Conan is thrown into an old well in an abandoned city. He manages to escape and head back to Kathai.

There a princess arrives to marry the new emperor. Conan notices the jeweled crown she has and decides to steal it. So later in the palace he finds the Snow Raven there already. She uses her bolos to trip up Conan to escape. The guards find Conan and after a chase capture him. While this is going on, some members of the Rat cult manage to kidnap the princess because the guards are distracted. This cult needs a princess to sacrifice every fifty years to their Rat god.

Conan has been sentenced to death by elephant. An elephant will crush him while he is chained to the ground. Yet Conan manages to break his chains and escape. He comes to the new emperor and makes a deal to get the princess back for a bag of gems. This concerns some conspirators who want the marriage to fail so they can seize the throne. Conan tracks the cult to the ruins of a city and is ambushed and knocked out. He wakes in the rat temple tied up being eaten by rats. The princess is with him also being attacked by rats. The rats chew his bonds off so he can escape. He grabs the princess and with his sword they didn’t bother to take from him he escapes.

Later he is attacked by the conspirators but the arrival of the Snow Raven helps Conan defeat the group. The Snow Raven gives Conan drugged wine and takes the princess for the reward. Conan follows and confronts her getting the gems from the emperor. The emperor decides to leave as arguing upsets him. (What a snowflake.) He chooses the wrong door and gets the one with a giant blob creature that kills him. Conan manages to kill it. With the Snow Raven they ride out and go their separate ways. Only at the end the Snow Raven finds that Conan substituted her bag with rocks. Conan gets the last laugh.

“The Hill of Horror”

Writer: Alan Zelenetz

Artists: Ron Wilson and Dave Simmons

A series of full page drawing with a poetic story about Conan rescuing a girl from giant ape-beasts.

This story was a wild one. It went all over the place and generally I found it amusing. One thing you can count on with Fleisher is that the story never takes any breaks. It goes from one situation to the next at breakneck speed. I loved the setting of Khitai and this Rat Cult. I also thought the character of the Snow Raven had a lot of potential. It seemed that she was meant to be brought back as a future recurring character. Can’t remember it they did but I will find out.

Now some of the more improbable stuff is the setup with the emperor. I mean you have to quickly go through a lot of emperors because the odds are not with you in surviving a day much less years. You just have to run out of emperors real quick. I don’t even understand why these conspirators want the job. Otherwise this was a fun story filled with weird cults and monsters and beautiful women.

The backup story well the art was beautiful. Zelenetz is a good writer but a horrible poet. The poetry was just awkward and didn’t flow naturally at all.


“King of the Forgotten People”

Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by Robert E. Howard

Artist: Gil Kane

Conan is in the deserts of Hyrkania. He is the sole survivor of an expedition that was attacked by bandits. These bandits still pursue him. He has to fight his way through them and manages to have to jump into a river with his horse. The rivers washes them back and the bandits continue their pursuit. Only a giant spider attacks one of the bandits and the others flee. Conan kills this spider with some well placed arrows but has to flee when others approach. He comes on a giant chain and in the distance is a white citadel. A man surprises him and Conan is knocked out.

He wakes to find himself prisoner of Barlonius a Nemedian nobleman. Conan was sent by his wife to find him. Barlonius shows Conan a temple with a giant statue of the conqueror Khengor. Barlonius thinks that he is the inheritor of Khengor’s legacy and thinks of himself as a future conqueror. He wants Conan to bring his wife to him. This angers his concubine Lala and Barlonius slaps her. Conan is angered by this but is once again knocked out by Barlonius and his powers.

Conan is revived by Lala who will free him if he agrees to never bring back Barlonius’s wife. Conan agrees and they make their way out. Only they are confronted by a monster. Conan soon figures out that it is an illusion. He then has to overcome several illusions of rocks and floods caused by Barlonius. Conan manages to defeat his minions and the two get into a swordfight. Lala uses this distraction to steal a giant pearl in the statue. This causes the knife arm on the statue to fall and impale Barlonius. Conan takes Lala with him and escapes the citadel before it collapses.

Another Roy Thomas story they dug up after all this time since he left. That man is a very prolific writer. This one was I believe another non-Conan Howard story converted to a Conan one. It starts out real interesting with Conan’s pursuit by the bandits. He seems to almost escape but finds is way blocked many times. Then it sort of goes into a standard crazy guy with delusions of grandeur that has to be put in his place. This was a good story that kept my interest. Yet it wasn’t the best of Thoma’s or Howard’s work. Gil Kane artwork also just didn’t really work with this story. So for this annual it gets a C grade.