GROO FRIENDS AND FOES #11

“The Minstrel”
Writer: Mark Evanier
Artist: Sergio Aragones

The Minstrel is singing as he usually does when he is arrested by the king’s men. In this kingdom it is a crime to sing or play music. The Minstrel gets off with a warning and wanders depressed that he can no longer sing. He makes his way just outside the kingdom and finds fellow musicians. They are depressed they can no longer play in their own land. The Minstrel has a plan when he hears Groo is in the kingdom. They get him and teach him to play the drums. So Groo goes around and bangs on the drum which brings the king’s soldiers who get immediately wiped out in a fray.

The king struggles to find a way to save face and his prime minister suggests that he take his army on a crusade. Thus when he leaves with his army the people can once again play music and have a great celebration. The king hears about this but can’t do anything while Groo is around. His prime minister takes care of it by inviting Groo and Rufferto to a sumptuous feast. Then the king arrives and arrests the musicians and the Minstrel is scheduled to be executed. This is sad since Kayli has finally found her father and it is the Minstrel. Now she needs Groo but finds that Groo has just died.

Oh no Groo is dead. Now how will Kayli rescue her father. Well this was a great cliffhanger ending. You don’t get those too often in Groo. So the Minstrel is Kayli’s father. The Minstrel is a guy who goes around and sings in rhyme all the time. He usually sings about the misadventures of Groo to crowds. He has been introducing the stories in this series. An enjoyable character. Now it has not put me in too much suspense that Groo will survive. He has another series after Friends and Foes so I am confident he will live. What is a mystery is how he survives and how will Kayli reunite with her father. The big conclusion next issue.

KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #17

“Tag You’re It!”
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Ron Frenz

Ka-zar and Shanna are back home in the Savage Land. The first thing they decide to do is catch up on reading the mail that is dropped to them once a month. Shanna reads the National Geographic and is captivated by the pictures of Africa. Ka-zar gets into his detective magazine and the story of Scott Brannigan and His Detective Dog Rex. They then have a dinner of rabbit stew and mushrooms. After the meal a plane crashes and the pilot is dead. Ka-zar finds a pistol on the pilot and decides to keep it.

So later both Ka-zar and Shanna start to hallucinate. Shanna thinks she is an antelope and Ka-zar is Steve Brannigan and Zabu is his dog Rex. Shanna as an antelope eats a root which counteracts the mushrooms they had in the stew. Now she has to avoid Ka-zar who thinks she is a femme fatale that he is after. Luckily when Shanna is cornered Zabu stops Ka-zar and Shanna is able to force the root into his mouth and bring him back to the real world.

“Of Kith and Kin”
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Val Mayerik

Zabu is crossing the river and fights a crocodile that tries to make him a meal. He goes to the cave and finds that young Ka-zar has wandered off. He gets worried and searches for him. He finds him burying his father and saves him in the nick of time from a pterodactyl.

This is a real offbeat story. Ka-zar hallucinating that he is a noir detective. Thus he chases Shanna all over the place and tries to shoot her. Bruce Jones seems to be good at doing these offbeat stories. The last one was also pretty weird. A very creative story. Ka-zar and Shanna seem to be settling in and apparently they get monthly mail service in the Savage Land. I guess the post office will deliver anywhere.

The Tales of Zabu was another find story. It explores Zabu and his reasons for rescuing Ka-zar. He at one time debates the wisdom of saving the young lad since he is so similar to the hated Man-Apes. Luckily he sees that Ka-zar is different and so the beginning of a beautiful relationship is born.

JOHN CARTER THE END #4

“The Old Man On The Ocean Floor”
Writers: Brian Wood and Alex Cox
Artist: Hayden Sherman

John Carter is surprised as he is approached by Den Thokar. The real Den Thorkar. Rav Thavas has had him cloned and keeps plopping out a clone when he needs it. Den is actually a decent guy who regrets his actions and wants to atone. Tars Tharkas then has John Carter visit the old man. When he arrives he finds out it is Ulysses Paxton. Talking with him gives John renewed purpose. He then passes out and wakes up. Paxton is a skeleton and has been long dead so he either had some mystical hallucination or a supernatural communion. Either way Carter is ready to fight the final battle. At the end black men come from the ground and silently kneel. Carter joins them.

This issue gives us a big reveal in that Den Thorkar is a clone created by Rav Thavas. The real Den is ready to join Carter. Dejah also learns the truth and does not like it at all. A sort of subdued issue with the mystical meeting with Paxton. The ending with the black men coming out of the ground also had a surreal feel to it but was visually stunning. Very interested to see how this concludes.

THE WARLORD #60

“Death Duel!”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Jan Duursema

The assassins have arrived at the dungeon but find that Morgan is now free. Morgan uses the spikes on his helmet to plunge right into the big assassin. While this is going on Darvin sees Tinder and chases after him. Tinder escapes but not before he loses his watch armband. Morgan then even though weak manages to take out the other assassin with just a knife. Meanwhile at the palace Tara is growing more angry with phony Morgan’s attempts to make her just a figurehead. She plans to divorce him and Graemore confesses his love for her. A love she seems to welcome.

So the real Morgan comes to the palace and confronts the phony Morgan. The two duel and because of his prolonged captivity is on the verge of losing when Tara shows up. She points Morgan’s pistol but can’t tell the real Morgan. So she asks the question who is the King of Swing. The answer Benny Goodman almost gets the real Morgan shot. Then he thinks hard and remembers that the answer she is seeking is Babe Ruth. Tara shoots the impostor and Preador ends up in the dungeon in an iron mask.

“Star Rise”
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Artist: Jan Duursema

Arion is battling Garn Daanuth. The magic threatens to cause serious damage to the Earth so Arion also projects his spirit from his physical body. He then leads Garn away from Earth to continue their battle. Chian and Wyynde are left to fight the awakened hordes of sub-men. Choloh the old master of Arion wants to help but is stopped by Tynan the balance because this battle must play out. The two combatants end up on a small red moon. Their fighting is stopped by a globe of light bursting from the surface.

So the conspiracy comes to a conclusion and it is exciting. Morgan manages to get free and even weak is still a fighter to be reckoned with. Tinder loses his armband that proves his heritage to the scheming Darvin. Tara is starting to fall in love with Graemore and now with the real Morgan back things will get complicated. So the conspiracy is exposed but there are still some unresolved issues that will be explored in the next issue.

The Arion backup was also a real action packed story. Arion is fighting the evil Garn Daanuth as disembodied astral projections. His friends are in battles all their own. We learn thousands of years ago that the Earth had a second moon. Ends with a cliffhanger of some mysterious globe appearing. A great issue overall.

SAVAGE TALES #6 KA-ZAR

“The Damnation Plague”
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artists: John Buscema and Tony deZuniga

A plague is infecting the people of the Savage land. It turns them into homicidal maniacs. The plague was brought by those from our world who for centuries have been immune. The natives of the Savage Land have no such immunity. A rumor that there is a cure in the Mountains of Darkness of an ancient race that discovered it leads Ka-zar, Zabu and a young woman named Rhyla take off. They come upon a Tyrannosaurus Rex that Zabu attacks and now endangers them all. Meanwhile Ka-zar’s cousin has come to the Savage Land to seek out Ka-zar.

“Walk The Savage Land”
By Roy Thomas

An editorial on Ka-zar and his history. He started out in the thirties first in pulp stories then in the comics in 1939. Interesting to find out that Ka-zar has been around for so long.

“The Sword and The Road: The Saga of Brak the Barbarian”
By Fred Brosser

A chronological history of the John Jakes character Brak the Barbarian. He starts out being banished from his northern tribe for mocking their gods. He is traveling to the southern kingdom of Khurdistan and along the way battles various demons, sorcerers and men. Next issue has the first story and it sounds like an intriguing character.

“Jan—With One—N A Review of Otis Adelbert Kline’s Jungle Hero.”
By Fred Blosser

An article on the 1930’s character Jan of the Jungle. Jan was reared by wild animals in the jungles of South America. His second book takes him to India and the wild adventures he has. Another old character that sounds interesting.

“Fangs of the Black Orchid!”
Writer: Unknown
Artists: Al Williamson and Ralph Mayo

Jann of the Jungle has to rescue her boyfriend Pat Mahoney from the Black Orchid. He has heard about it and wants a picture of it. Some unscrupulous white men overhear and think they could get rich by possessing the orchid. So they follow and one gets a poison thorn shot at him and almost dies. The other almost gets eaten by a carnivorous plant and luckily Jann and Pat save him in time. Nice of them to save such scallywags.

“Dragonseed”
Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Steve Gan

Marlok the Merciless is in a foul mood. His entire army was slaughtered and now poor old Marlok can’t conquer. So he goes to a wizard for help. The wizard has dragon teeth that when planted will sprout warriors that will follow Marlok. The wizard doesn’t want to give it but before he can tell the reason Marlok just takes the dragon’s teeth. He grows his warriors and they follow him to the first village. Only they then decide to kill Marlok instead. Marlok manages to cause an avalanche and destroy his new army. He goes to the wizard for revenge but the wizard does point out that Marlok wouldn’t listen to him. Also the owner of the teeth has come back a real large dragon.

“The Night of the Looter!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Buscema

A reprint of Astonishing Tales #14

So the first issue with Ka-zar in the lead. Sadly it didn’t turn out as planned. The Damnation Plague was a full length story but the artist got a kidney infection so the full story was never submitted in time. So we just get a partial story and some reprints. Now the partial story was excellent and shows that Ka-zar translates well into this new format. I expectantly look forward to the conclusion. Its an interesting story with beautiful artwork so it is worth the wait.

The articles were also interesting on old pulp characters. Quite informative and I am interested in checking out some of John Jakes Brak books.

Dragonseed was a solid story. A kooky barbarian who gets his comeuppance.

Otherwise it was reprints. The Jann story was kind of hokey and very similar to past Jann stories that were reprinted. Whoever wrote her stories had a thing for orchids.

The Night of the Looter is a great story but has been reprinted twice so nothing new. Still there is great potential in the series with the conclusion to the Damnation Plague and a new Brak adaptation in the future.

KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #16

“It Creeps!”
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Ron Frenz

Ka-zar and Shanna decide to go back to the Savage Land. So after working their way through the thorn forest and climbing the cliff they are home. They see a meteor land and go in that direction. They come upon the Awawilius a race of pygmies about to sacrifice a lemur. Just then the branch Shanna is on breaks and she falls right next to the alter and gets her ass stuck in a bowl. Well Ka-zar after getting his laughter under control rescues her and they also rescue the lemur. They set the lemurs broken leg and have to continue fighting off the witch doctor who wants his sacrificial knife back.

The witch doctor dies in a noose trap and they think that’s the end of their troubles. But at night Zabu dies and Ka-zar almost gets killed by falling into a punji pit. Shanna is strangled by a tentacled blob who is all teeth and tentacles. Ka-zar goes insane with grief and kills the blob. It is found out that the lemur is an alien being who arrived to play a game. The game is one alien turns into a creature native to the planet and the other keeps their natural form and tries to kill the one that is masquerading. So now that the game is over the beings turn back time to before they arrived so that everyone is still alive. They grant Ka-zar his memories of what has happened. So he greets Shanna with a newfound happiness.

“Of Kith and Kin”
Writer: Bruce Jones
Artist: Val Mayerik

Zabu leaves young Ka-zar sleeping in a cave as he goes in search of Kulu berries. They have healing powers and heal Zabu in no time. Now he just has to fight the crocodile that attacked him.

So Ka-zar and company head back to the Savage Land. I have to say this was a really good story. I was wondering how they would handle the deaths of these beloved major characters. It was a surprise twist to have the lemur an alien and just playing a game. There was plenty of humor in this as well as drama. Ka-zar also realizes that he loves Shanna. Which is good since you wonder with their constant arguing if they will ever get together. It was a good idea to have them return home.

The Tales of Zabu was only three pages so there wasn’t much room to really develop any story. Just a cliffhanger ending with the crocodile dragging Zabu under. Of course we know he’ll win this fight.

JOHN CARTER THE END #3

“I’m Of Your Blood, Yours and the Warlords…”
Writers: Brian Wood & Alex Cox
Artist: Hayden Sherman

John Carter is with the resistance outside Helium. He gets mercilessly teased by his old friend Tars Tarkas for being so out of practice with a sword. The resistance then attacks a flying train. They manage to capture it and all the toxic darts that it was carrying. It was also carrying political prisoners. At this time Dejah Thoris is very worried in the direction her son has taken Helium. She goes to explore on her own and doesn’t like what she finds. At the end Ras Thavas is revealed to be the man pulling all the strings.

It was nice to see that John Carter isn’t so perfect as he was in the books. It adds a bit of realism to the triumph when he does show he still has it. So now we are getting a clearer picture of the new regime. Men are sentenced to hard labor for such crimes as not bowing to the Jeddak’s picture or overheard criticizing the government. There are insurrections all over and the Jeddak surrounds himself with sycophants. At the end we find out Ras Thavas the Mastermind of Mars is somehow behind this. That was a good choice since he was always somewhat amoral but brilliant. Another great issue.

THE WARLORD #59

“Tinderbox”
Writer & Artist: Mike Grell

Tinder and his friends have snuck into the dungeon as most young boys will do. They have been told a monster is there and the large shadow cast on the wall of Morgan in chains and an iron mask panic the boys. In the panic Tinder is knocked off the stairs and to the floor. There he confronts Morgan. Morgan starved for companionship reaches out to the boy. He starts telling him stories of the surface world.

Meanwhile the conspiracy has decided to cut its losses. Praedor fearful that Darvin knows too much has hired two assassins to take care of both Darvin and Morgan. Tinder overhears Darvin say that his new friend may be killed so he manages to swipe the keys. Darvin is later confronted by the assassins and forced to go back to the dungeon. Tinder frees Morgan who while being helped up feels the watch on Tinder’s arm. He starts to ask about it when the sound of footsteps are heard.

“Of Lovers and Demons and Sorcerous Things”
Writer: Paul Kupperberg
Artist: Jan Dursema

Arion and his companions Lady Chian and Wyndde are transported back to their flying sled. Arion has a lot to think about after learning he was born from the cosmos. At the same time in the abandoned city of Mu an albino sorcerer Garn Danuuth is plotting to kill Arion. He projects himself as a disembodied spirit and goes after Arion. Arion prepares to defend himself.

Well the big news is Mike Grell has returned as the artist as well as writer for this series. I was getting used to Texiera but still did miss Iron Mike’s work. So Morgan meets Tinder and both are unaware of their relationship. Although Morgan starts to suspect when he feels the watch. Yet events are going to conspire from them having a happy reunion. The conspiracy is coming to an end and it looks like Morgan will finally start being the main character in his own series. It is good to finally get back to some serious action.

The Arion story has introduced a mysterious new villain for Arion. Indeed he will be the major foil for Arion in this series. Also the romance between Arion and Lady Chian starts to heat up. Thankfully this series action is starting to also heat up. The next issue promises to be exciting for both stories.

SAVAGE TALES #5 CONAN THE BARBARIAN

“The Secret of Skull River!”
Writers: Roy Thomas & John Jakes
Artists: Jim Starlin & Al Milgrom

Conan is traveling Zamora and looking for water. A blind man directs him ahead to a valley with a river but warns him that the water is unsafe. Later Conan is attacked by a giant named Hanuman who Conan manages to kill. He gets to the river and starts to drink when he notices that it looks wrong. He passes out and wakes up in a village. A beautiful woman named Naia has been looking after him. Her father the mayor comes and has a job for Conan. The village has been in a sorry state since the local warlord Sophos hired a wizard named Anaximander. The wizards experiments have been dumping waste into the river their only source of water. The waste has been turning the people to disfigured horrors that shun the light.

Conan decides to help and when he sneaks into the castle is captured. Another giant Grandall tries to kill him. Conan defeats him and finds out that the giant and his brother were turned this way by the wizard. He agrees to help and leads Conan to their lab. There the wizard has succeeded in finding a formula for turning iron into gold. The giant overhears the wizard say he has no plans for turning him back to normal. Thus the two come in and slay the warlord and wizard. The giant dies and Conan gets a new horse out of the deal to continue on his way.

“Savage Tales is Dead! Long Live Savage Tales”
By Roy Thomas
Art by Roy Krenkel

An editorial on the state of Savage Tales. Conan is so successful that it it getting its own title “The Savage Sword of Conan.” Ka-zar will be the new main feature.

“The Legacy of Greenberg”
By Roy Thomas
Art by Tony DeZuniga & Roy Krenkel

The second part of the Gnome press article from last issue. It tells of the success and failures in reprinting the Conan stories. It then tells how L. Sprague deCamp was hired to rewrite non-Conan Howard stories into Conan. Later a Scandinavian named Bjorn Nyberg submits some stories. An interesting article.

“Spell of the Dragon!”
Writer: John Jakes
Artists: Val Mayerik & Joe Sinott

Brak the Barbarian has been hired by a village to slay a dragon. He goes to a witch for magic. She agrees but there is a catch. He must kill the dragon at the sun’s zenith and can not look at anyone for an hour or he will kill that person. Brak then kills the dragon and the beautiful daughter of the village headman comes. Luckily Brak is blinded by the sun and manages to grab a sash to tie around his eyes. The old witch sent the girl out there saying Brak was injured and needed help. She hates the beautiful woman and wanted her dead. Brak instead kills the old hag.

“The Legend of the Lizard Men!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Buscema

A reprint from Astonishing Tales #9.

So the big news is that Conan is moving on to his own magazine and Ka-zar will be taking over. This is a transition issue. Now its interesting that two of the stories were by John Jakes a writer known more for his epic historical novels that were turned into mini-series back in the ’70s & ’80s. Apparently he also created his own barbarian hero in Brak. Brak is going to be a fixture of this new Savage Tales. Ka-zar was a good choice. The story in this was a reprint. Apparently it was written for the second issue but found its way into Astonishing Tales after the series first cancellation. A good story and actually looks better in the larger black and white format.

So Ka-zar and Brak are two welcome additions to this series.

GROO FRIENDS AND FOES #10

“Taranto”
Writer: Mark Evanier
Artist: Sergio Aragones

A horde of villagers are fleeing. First one way than the other. They are fleeing their village which is being looted by Taranto and his horde. Then they come upon Groo and flee from him. One enterprising villager comes up with a plan to use Groo to drive Taranto from their village. The villagers act friendly and after much cajoling convince Groo to attack Taranto.

So Groo charges into the village and Taranto puts on his phony friend act and gets Groo a feast. Groo is about to ask for wine but Taranto thinks that Groo has figured out his scheme and flees with his horde. So Taranto is planning his next move when they come upon Kayli. Now Taranto has heard the story she is supposed to be rich and looking for her father. He tries to impersonate her father but Kayli is too smart. Kayli eventually gets rescued by the parents of her little dragon friend. Groo eventually wakes up from his nap and thinks that he defeated Taranto. Kayli thanks Groo and continues on her way.

Taranto is a general of a brigand horde. He is always pretending to be Groo’s friend then trying to kill him. Of course his dealings with Groo always end in disaster and this meeting was no different. Kayli is a pretty good judge of character and very smart. I am looking forward to meeting her father.