VAMPIRELLA RED SONJA #2

“Crude Weapons”

Writer: Jordie Bellaire

Artist: Drew Moss

Vampirella finds Red Sonja in a cave. She is feral and living off animals she catches so Vampirella uses her hypnotic powers to knock her out. She takes her to an occultist named Charlie. Charlie manages to bring her back to her senses but Sonja breaks loose from her bonds. Some magic is used to suspend her from the ceiling. A gem falls from Sonja and it is discovered to be a Generation Stone. This gem curses the bearer to wander through the dimensions forever. Charlie gives Vampirella a potion so she can understand what Sonja is saying and vise versa.

Vampirella takes Sonja back to her hotel where Sonja eats a lot of cheeseburgers while watching cartoons on the TV. They talk about how Sonja got here which she doesn’t remember. They also talk on what Sonja knows about the Generation Stone and if she knows the origin of mysterious lights. Sonja does and takes Vampirella to a military compound in the mountains. Sonja decides to break in and Vampirella follows. Once inside she senses something that leads her to the space agency spokesman with a captive Draculon.

So the second issue focuses on Vampirella and Sonja getting to know each other. Sonja is very combative and doesn’t like Vampirella. Vampirella just wants to help Sonja fit into this world and knows how it feels to be new to Earth 1969. I found it a little unrealistic that Sonja got all those cheeseburgers in 1969 Russia. I mean they didn’t have a MacDonalds until 1990 and food wasn’t very plentiful. I also wonder how Vampirella got Sonja back to her hotel. I mean once again 1969 Soviet Union they watched very carefully every foreign visitor. You would think the KGB would be suspicious of a sword welding woman in furs. Obviously the writer isn’t too familiar with the times. Otherwise a good start to the story. It sets up this mysterious compound that has a prisoner from Vampirella’s own people. Also gives some insight into how Sonja is in 1969. Good mystery to build on.

XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS #5

“Untitled”
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Vasco Georgiev

Xena, Gabrielle and Discord are in a village in the Carpathian mountains. They have agreed to help against the Blood King in exchange for maps home. Discord is left behind as the two go off. Several days later Discord starts to wonder if the two aren’t coming back. News of a foreign warrior killed motivates her to check out the castle. She is given some important vampire tools by the innkeeper. So she gets in the forest and has to fight off a pack of large wolves. At the castle she finds Xena and Gabrielle who are very happy to see her. Only being a god Discord can sense they are under the blood curse. The Blood King offers Discord the opportunity to join him which she refuses. She manages to shoot a wooden crossbow bolt into his heart and he turns into a skeleton. Xena and Gabrielle are back to normal and they go to free the captive villagers. At the end the Blood King skeleton puts out the bolt and comes back to life.

Well this issue wasn’t that bad. It was really a Discord story with Xena as a guest star in her own mag. Yet the story moved along and was understandable. I liked how Discord was portrayed as this petulant and entitled woman. This actually is how I would have envisioned the character from the TV series. Still the ending was too easy. She just shoots the vampire and everyone is back to normal. Then the hackneyed ending of the vampire coming to life laughing just didn’t really fit. I mean are they just leaving the castle with all the captives and the vampire continues to prey on them. So almost at the end.

SKULL THE SLAYER #2

“Gods and Super-Gods”
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Steve Gan

Skull has been captured by some cavemen. They take him back and he finds himself prisoner with the other three survivors of the plane crash. We get a brief introduction to the three. There is Dr. Corey the angry black man who hates Skull. There is Ann Farrow who has some anger issues because of sexism denying her a job. Then there is Jeff a young teen who was trying to escape his domineering senator father. Skull starts a fight with the caveman but before anything can come of it, a stampede of Styracosaurus comes through. Skull has to jump on the leader to steer him away from crushing Ann. This impresses the cavemen and they lead the group to a cave. In it is a skeleton of an alien surrounded by a force field. Skull wants the alien’s belt and manages to get it. This causes the skeleton to crumble to dust. It also pisses off the cavemen who now lost their god. The group manages to escape to a river. Only a Brontosaurus attacks. Skull kills it with his bare hands. The alien belt has given Skull super-strength.

Well the cover promised cavemen, dinosaurs, lost lands, aliens and action! It delivers and more. So the group we have is a contentious one. Corey and Skull hate each other while Jeff seems to be the diplomat of the group. Wolfman was ahead of his time with his little woke sexist speech. Writers nowadays could learn a lot in that you need a good story between these type of speeches. Skull is someone who is portrayed not that bright and has a lot of anger issues. Yet he is definitely a fighter and someone the survivors need. I love this series and look forward to more.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #94

“Death Dwarves of Stygia”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: Val Mayerik and Vince Colletta

Conan survives being thrown overboard from his ship by a mutinous crew. They didn’t like the idea of returning a noblewoman they captured back without a ransom. Just because her husband was a friend of Conan. Conan makes it to the island and makes short work of the crew while they are sitting around the fire. Then he takes a boat and with the woman sets out for the mainland. Only a typhoon comes up then a kraken force them into the water. They wash up on the shore of an island. An island inhabited by a beautiful sorceress named Kiriandra the Enchantress. First she conjures two hellhounds to kill Conan. When Conan defeats them she decides that he may help her with her revenge. So she knocks the two out with Lotus powder.

Conan wakes and finds himself prisoner. Kiriandra tells how she was an apprentice and mistress to the Stygian sorcerer Parmek Da’an. She rebelled and was exiled to this island. She wants Conan to kill him. As incentive she transfers the spirit of the noblewoman into a giant slug. So Conan sets out to Luxor the capital of Stygia. There the king Mehtvezem has an obsession with dwarf fighting. He is losing vast amounts of the treasury which is causing a rebellion among the priests. This and he is diminishing their power. So next morning they attempt to assassinate him. Only Conan rescues him and gets a job in the palace guard. This is what he wanted because Parmek has ingratiated himself with the king. He has three new dwarf fighters. Parmek has plans of taking over because his spirit can leave his body and take over another. He gets rid of Conan by taking over the king’s wife and sending her to Conan’s room. This angers the king who has Conan tossed into the dungeon. Then he reveals his plan and the three dwarfs can combine into one huge warrior. This warrior kills all the guards and Parmek takes over the king.

The king’s wife frees Conan from his dungeon. He goes and confronts Parmek and defeats his three super dwarf jinns. Parmek can’t take over Conan because of an amulet Kiriandra gave him and goes back to his own body. Only he finds that it was knifed and he fades to nothing. Conan goes back to the island and is attacked by ghouls. He defeats them and finds he noblewoman locked in a room. After Conan killed Parmek his creation Kiriandra reverted to a giant slug. Conan and the noblewoman head back to civilization.

“Bonus Pinups!”
Artist: Ernie Chan

Four full page pinups of Conan.

This was a wild story. Conan rescues this girl and gets marooned on an island. A beautiful sorceress uses him to get her revenge. It goes to a king obsessed with dwarf fighting which is a really weird idea. Yet Conan succeeds and rescues the dumb king while killing the evil sorcerer. The three dwarfs that can transform into a giant was actually a real cool idea. Plus you throw in plenty of beautiful women, a giant kraken, ghouls, assassins and a giant slug. Mayerick and Colletta work well together. The women were beautiful and a nice change of pace with artists.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #130

“The Quest Ends!”
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Gil Kane

Conan, Noyo and her son are trapped in a burning mosque after stealing the Crown of Wisdom. Luckily Noyo still has her magic and teleports them out. They find themselves in Khitai where the final two Cornerstones of Creation are located. In a small city state they are confronted by a ninja. Conan starts to fight the ninja who is revealed to be a beautiful woman. Conan’s sword turns into a staff with a mind of it’s own. He manages to defeat the ninja who was the guardian of the Mirror of Beauty. Noyo managed to take over the magic sword and Conan to achieve this. Then they go through the mirror to the place where the Rose of Peace is located. Only one of pure heart can take it. Noyo proves unworthy but her son isn’t.

So with all the Cornerstones they go to the evil wizard Pau-Styss. There they confront him in his castle in the sky. Conan loses the fight and the evil wizard gains all the objects. Only he proves unworthy and is turned to dust by them. We find out that Conan’s childhood friend Laynnen was created by the gods to be a protector of the objects. Conan walks away in disgust because his friend is some kind of god and goes to continue pursuing a life of honest wenching, drinking and thievery.

So comes an end to the quest. This was DeMatteis last issue so I think it got wrapped up a bit early. Still it was probably a good thing for the quest didn’t drag on. I enjoyed this story yet it did have a hackneyed ending of the evil guy being done in by the objects he was seeking. So Bruce Jones will be taking over and I loved his work in Savage Sword.

VAMPIRELLA RED SONJA #1

“These Dark Synchronicities”
Writer: Jordie Bellaire
Artist: Drew Moss

1969 and Vampirella is visiting the Soviet Union impersonating a journalist. Her real mission is to find out what happened to a group of hikers that disappeared. Everyone thinks they are dead and the theories range from a serial killer to a Yeti. Also the Soviet space program seems to be somehow a suspect in this. Vampirella first tries to get answers at an official press conference but the official gives away nothing. Then she heads to a local bar to interview an old man who might know something. The old man cryptically hints that they were killed by the government. Another man comes and tells of his belief that it was a Yeti. For proof he produces a huge tooth. So Vampirella goes to the site herself and finds a woman in furs. She follows her to a cave and we find out the woman is Red Sonja.

Two of Dynamite’s most popular characters get their own team-up. They set it in 1969 in honor of Vampirella’s fiftieth anniversary. Vampirella is as old as me. She definitely aged better. So far the series has potential. We get this set up of a tragedy that occurred. The Soviet government naturally would cover up any type of negative incidents that occur in the worker’s paradise. So far we don’t know why this interests Vampirella. We are also introduced at the end to Red Sonja who also now is hanging out in the mountains of Russia in 1969. A lot of interesting stuff that piques the reader’s interest.

XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS #4

“Untitled”
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Erica D’Urso

Xena, Gabrielle and Discord are in the Russian Taiga walking home. They also brought along some kind of mammal creature from Central America. They come on a weird looking house inhabited by a little old woman. She takes them in and feeds them stew. She tells that she is a god and with her sisters helped out the local population. One day their sister fell in love with a mortal. This mortal got angry when she wouldn’t make him immortal. But he learned some other secrets that destroyed this sisterhood. The mortal also spread untruths and now everyone thinks the last surviving sister is a monster.

Well this is terrible because mortal believe effects the gods and she will become a monster. The house is attacked by some angry peasants which Xena and friends have no trouble fighting off. They decide to help the old woman and Gabrielle uses her storytelling ways to spread the story of Baba Yaga. A house that walks and I guess this is good for some reason. Xena also gets the son of the mortal to confirm this and I guess the old hag will go on being something better. For a reward she uses her powers to transport Xena and company closer home. They end up in front of a castle at night.

This issue was a bit more coherent than the last. Which isn’t saying much. Vita tried to somehow get the Russian myth of their boogeyman (remember John Wick?) as something positive which I don’t really get what’s going on. Hmm. Maybe this isn’t that coherent. Anyway the story continues on to what looks like Dracula’s castle. Also this issue had a new artist. There is a musical chair artist for this run so far. I really didn’t like the style. Everyone looked like little kids. Creepy little kids that were sad and had big eyes. At least the story moves fairly quick.

SKULL THE SLAYER #1

“The Coming of Skull the Slayer!”
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Steve Gan

Jim Scully is a pilot who is shot down in Vietnam. He spends five years being tortured as a P.O.W. Once free he returns home to find his wife divorced him and is now with another man. His parents are dead and his brother is a junkie. The brother blames Scully for their deaths and in his drugged state tries to knife him. Only he accidentally gets stabbed and Scully goes on the run. They finally catch him in Bermuda and put him on an government transport back to Miami.

This is the Bermuda Triangle though and the plane goes through some sort of time warp. It ends up in a land filled with dinosaurs. The plane breaks in two and the front end with Scully crashes with him the only survivor. In the rear end three survive, a black physicist, a young guy and some hot blonde chick. Scully seems to adapt well to the environment and makes himself a spear and hunts game. Only while doing this he is attacked by a T-Rex. Scully manages to lure it over a cliff where it falls to it’s death. Scully thinks he is safe but is knocked out by a thrown rock. Some primitive cavemen take him back to their camp for dinner.

“Old Funny Animals”
By Marv Wolfman

An article on how this series came about. Marv had the idea four years ago at while working at another company. It involved a whole office building getting transported back in time. Years later he mentioned the idea to Roy Thomas who loved it and cutting it down to four manageable characters and a cool name it makes it’s debut.

I finally got around to reading this. I thought a cool story of some characters being trapped in a weird island in the Bermuda Triangle filled with dinosaurs and aliens sounded real cool. I was right and I loved this first issue. It reminds me of the TV series Fantastic Journey which came out a little later. This is very seventies type story since all the crypto-science type stuff like time warps in the Bermuda Triangle was very popular. What surprised me was the adult nature of the story. A guy who was a P.O.W. of the Vietnamese and was tortured returns home. His wife left him and his parents dead. Not to mention his brother is a junkie and gets accidentally killed by him. A very dark subject matter for a kids comic series of the seventies. Marv Wolfman is one of the old time great writers. He really delivers a powerful story. They sadly don’t make writers like this anymore. I am looking forward to reading this series.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #93

“The World…Beyond the Mists!”
Writer: Michael Fleisher
Artists: John Buscema, Rudy Nebres and Ernie Chan

In Shadizar at the temple of the Brotherhood of the Falcon they are having a funeral for three of their fallen comrades. They were all killed by Conan and the group vows revenge. While this is going on the object of their hatred has snuck in to steal the gem eyes from the giant falcon statue. Conan is discovered and manages to escape. While riding away from the city a lunar eclipse occurs and opens a portal to another world. This world has three suns. Conan hears the screams of a woman and rescues her from a group of ghouls. The woman mistakes him for a king and takes him back to a palace. There he is greeted by queen Zenoria who thinks he is the missing King Konar. Conan decides to play along since being king has its perks.

Only the real King Konar was sealed in a cave to die by a plotting nobleman. This noble has men go to check and see if Konar is still in the cave. He also challenges Conan as being a phony. Conan has to battle this huge giant. Conan manages to break his neck and win the challenge. Later Zenoria admits she knows Conan isn’t Konar for Konar is a very cruel man. Yet she knows that she would have to pick a new husband from the nobles and is content with Conan. Later Conan has to lead the army against an invading army of ghouls. While the real Konar managed to escape the cave and comes back. He takes back his crown and has Conan arrested. Zenoria manages to free Conan but Konar had followed his wife and a big fight ensues. Both are equal and Conan manages to get a horse and ride away. Konar follows with his army but is attacked by the Brotherhood of the Falcon who followed Conan through the portal. Conan manages to make it back to his world while Konar has to fight the Brotherhood who think that he is Conan.

“Challenge”
Poem by Jim Neal
Artist: Pablo Marcos

A poem of Conan’s battles with Thoth-Amon throughout his life. Full page illustrations by Marcos.

So this story had the tried and true plot of going to a parallel world. Conan finds out his counterpart is king there but is a much crueler man. Someone who beats his wife and likes to torture people. Yet they are the same when it comes to their fighting skills. Fleisher also brings back the assassin guild he introduced some issues back. The Brotherhood of the Falcon would appear throughout Fleisher’s time with Conan and I always enjoyed them. For that matter Conan would have another story with Konar in the future.

The backup was another of these series of full page illustrations accompanied by a poetic story. I am always up for a series of full page illustrations by a talented artist.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #129

“The Creation Quest!”
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Gil Kane

Conan, Noyo and her son have found the Sword of Strength. Only it is guarded by green giants that come from the ground. Conan has to get to the sword. He does and pulls it from it’s scabbard. He has passed the test of strength. The sword shrikes to normal size and Conan is filled with power enough to defeat the giants. Noyo then transports them to Ashan the capital of Iranistan. In a mosque is a wise man called Zoroazzator. To get the Crown of Wisdom Noyo must beat him in a game of chess. Noyo fails and Conan decides to take matters into his own hands. He sets fire to Zoroazzator’s books. While he is distracted Conan grabs the crown and they take off. Only Zoroazzator uses his magic to make the door disappear. Then he transports himself out and the three are trapped in a burning building.

So the quest continues with Conan obviously passing the test of strength. Then off to Iranistan for a test of wisdom. Noyo is not up to it and Conan has to take charge. This is why I think DeMatteis is a good choice to write Conan. Howard the creator made Conan a man of direct action and this is a very Conan type action that he takes. Plus we get a little look at the evil wizard and the captive Laynnen. To show how evil the wizard is he turns poor Laynnen’s body into a bird just for the fun of it. This is an exciting quest so far and looks like it comes to an end next issue so it isn’t dragging out endlessly. A fun and enjoyable issue.