“Conan the Liberator”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from book by L. Sprague de Camp & Lin Carter
Artists: John Buscema & Tony Dezuniga
Conan’s army of liberation continues it’s march to Tarantia. Conan’s army has taken a bit of a hit with a mysterious plague and desertions. At the village of Almira he is ambushed and barely escapes with his life. The loyalists have a larger army. Yet there are some positive signs. The king’s own guard the Black Guard has deserted to Conan. They tell how King Numedides has gone completely mad and thinks he is a god. Conan hearing the palace is no longer guarded takes the Black Guard to Tarantia.
In the capital Numedides attempts to rape Alcina but is stopped by Thulandra Thuu. Thuu now openly brags that he is the real ruler of Aquilonia. Soon though Conan arrives. With the help of Dexitheus a Mitra priest who has some knowledge of sorcery in his youth Conan successfully confronts Thuu. The wizard decides that ruling Aquilonia isn’t worth it and takes off. King Numedides at first begs for his life but when Conan turns his back he tries to knife him. Conan chokes him to death and crowns himself king. He banishes Alcina and makes Dexitheus his chancellor. Later a newly crowned Conan finds out he has to deal with the mundane bureaucracy of ruling.
“The Chan Barbarians”
Artist: Ernie Chan
Six portfolios of artwork. They include Conan in some classic scenes from “Tower of the Elephant” and being nailed to a cross. One has the women in Conan’s life and one of Solomon Kane and Kull.
The ending of the story that tells of how Conan becomes king. I found it an enjoyable story. Conan of course will crown himself. The tyrant Numedides proves himself to be a total coward and completely crazy. The evil wizard when confronted goes off in a huff that Aquilonia isn’t worth his time. I wonder if De Camp and Carter ever brought Thulandra Thuu back. He was a good enemy. The traitorous Alcina gets spared since Conan won’t kill a woman. Yet she tries to worm her way back with pleading that she was under the control of Thuu.
Finally the ending was the best. Conan is ready to choose his harem but has to go over the budget for the kingdom. Being king has it’s less than glamourous times. A fun adaptation that gives us how Conan became king with beautiful artwork.
“Savage Doings in Shem!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
Conan, Belit and Zula have made it to the coast and the rendezvous with the Tigress. There is great happiness among the Corsairs that their goddess and Amra have returned. Soon after M’gora comes from the swamp returning from his mission to Asgalun. He is attacked by giant swamp rats but Conan and the Corsairs come to his rescue. From M’gora they learn what is going on in Asgalun. The Stygians have hired Kushite mercenaries to help them keep control of the city. M’gora and the Corsairs with him were drafted by them and were able to enter the city. Nim-Karrak the king who is all but a puppet of the Stygians has hired Hyrkanian mercenaries to guard him. The city is on the verge of a civil war. Belit is determined to go back and have vengeance against her uncle and reclaim the throne.
So Conan, Belit Zula and M’gora are able to infiltrate the city. Thanks to some of the Corsairs who serve with the Kushite mercenaries. They are lead by M’gora to a supposedly easy way to enter the palace. Once in a pleasure garden a trap is sprung by the Stygians. M’gora was under the control of Ptor-Nubis the Stygian advisor to the king. Ptor-Nubis uses his mind control to take over the four and force them to fight each other to the death.
So Conan and Belit are reunited with the Black Corsairs. Nice to have them together after such a long absence. Most of the issue is exposition about Asgalun. This was because Marvel had recently acquired the rights to De Camp’s stories and one of his dealt with Asgalun. So we get a nice detailed backstory that fits in his version with the current storyline. I did find it interesting and Roy like always knows how to integrate such stuff into his official canon. Plus throw in a little giant rat action and you have a fun story. Getting close to the big resolution of Belit’s quest for revenge.
Writer and Artist: Jack Kirby
A hiker has fallen off a cliff and is hanging on to an outcropping. Fortunately Machine Man comes to the rescue. With his arms that stretch out and anti-gravity device he saves the man. We switch to a government research center. A bureaucrat is talking with Dr. Broadhurst about the X-models project. The X-models were advanced robots that had a malfunction. They all went mad and had to be destroyed after killing a bunch of people. There is one left. X-51 was taken by a psychologist named Abel Stack. The robot was given a human looking appearance and raised like his son. He was also given the name Aaron Stack. Aaron has been monitored by Broadhurst but now the government wants to terminate X-51.
Machine Man continues on his way searching for a place to settle down. He helps a man clear a fallen oak tree off the road and is given a ride. The man turns out to be a psychologist and starts analyzing Machine Man. This gets him pissed off so he gets out and with a skateboard out of his feet takes off. Only he later gets attacked by soldiers. General Kargg is out to destroy Machine Man and tracks him with a homing device implanted in his head. Kargg has a personal grudge against the X-models. They killed many of his men and he lost his eye to them. Machine Man manages to evade the soldiers but is seriously damaged. He notices that Central City is close by and the psychologist that gave him a ride lives there. The psychologist offered to help Machine Man and Machine Man needs all the help he can get right now.
The first in the series by the legendary Jack Kirby. The man created so many iconic comic characters. This one was a fascinating character. Created back in the seventies it was ahead of it’s time. The concept of artificial intelligence having a soul. A personality that wants to just find it’s place in the world like all of us are doing. Aaron Stack a.k.a. Machine Man is a likeable character that the reader can sympathize with. He helps out people as we see when he rescues the hiker. Yet he will have to fight off the government that wants him destroyed. An enjoyable series that probably is somewhat obscure but by no means forgotten.
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “Conan the Liberator” by L. Sprague de Camp & Lin Carter
Artists: John Buscema & Tony Dezuniga
Conan and his army of liberation are a big success. He has no problem reaching the Poitainian city of Curalo. There he picks up thousands of new recruits. Thulandra Thuu the wizard behind the throne uses his wizardry to conjure up a storm that stops his advance. Long enough to move an army to the Imirian Escarpment. He also starts to round up satyrs from the nearby forest to sacrifice and power up his magic. Conan manages to rescue one of these satyrs. From him he learns a secret path up the escarpment after Thuu causes a rockslide to block the main passage. He also gets help from the satyrs. They use their pipes to drive the opposing army insane. Now Conan’s way to Tarantia is open.
Another entry in the story of how Conan became king. It has a lot of various intrigue as Thulandra Thuu maneuvers to stop the threat to his plans to become king. The assassination of the popular general without successfully assassinating Conan has seriously deprived him of a competent leader. He turns to magic but Conan finds allies in these mysterious satyrs. I enjoyed the story and finding it well done. Looking forward to the big conclusion next issue.
“The Diadem of the Giant-Kings!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
Conan, Belit and Zula have taken over a trade boat and are heading down the river Styx. They make for a rendezvous with the Black Corsairs. In Luxor King Ctesphon III and Thoth-Amon discuss their next moves to kill Conan and Belit. They know that they are heading to Asgalun so Thoth-Amon uses his sorcery to contact their agent to be ready for them. Conan has the ship stop just before Khemi so they can avoid the city. They are going to hike overland and meet the Corsairs along the coast. They also press into service the ship’s crew.
Along the way they pass through land that the Stygians regard as cursed. An earthquake swallows the man who has the food. So they are forced to climb down. They find a cavern with a giant skeleton. They also find a jeweled diadem in a casket. The Stygians attempt to escape and also steal this diadem. This triggers magic that resurrects the giant. The giant starts to eat the Stygians. Conan waits for dusk when the bats will go out. The huge numbers distract the giant so Conan and Belit can escape. While escaping Conan uses his sword to blind the giant.
Well this issue was a filler along the way for Belit and her final quest for vengeance against her uncle. Already we know that Neftha knows where they are heading. So the Stygians will be ready. Otherwise this was just a little adventure in their travels. A giant resurrected by magic. Nothing Conan hasn’t handled before. The saga of Belit is heading into the homestretch.
“Swords Across the Alimane”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from novel “Conan the Liberator” by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter
Artists: John Buscema and Tony Dezuniga
Conan has to reorganize his shattered army after his battle at the river crossing. While doing this he is poisoned by his mistress Alcina. She reports to Thulandra Thuu that Conan is dead. Thuu decides to have the Aquilonian Border Legion cross the border of Argos and scatter the rebels. Yet Conan is alive. He didn’t drink enough of the poison and his large body is able to make a recovery. What’s more the Argossean king sends a legion to help drive out the invaders. A third army of a rebel baron arrives and forces General Amulius Procas back to Aquilonia.
Thulandra Thuu thinking Conan dead has decided to get rid of the popular Porcas. He has Alcina go and assassinate him. Then send Baron Ascalante to take over the legion. Conan meanwhile uses guerilla tactics to harass the army. Soon a general uprising occurs in Poitain. The Border Legion is destroyed and Ascalante flees. It ends with Conan in a strong position and continuing on to the capital.
“Conan at Fifty A Retrospective Look by a Nameless Editor”
By Roy Thomas
An article by Thomas reflecting on the history of the series. How it got its start in Savage Tales and thanks to Stan Lee was given a chance in spite of the bean counters wanting to shut it down. He than goes over the highlights of the past issues and what his plans for the future. There were only ten issues that Roy would do before leaving Marvel. So some were done but others never came about.
The big fifty. This was the only black and white Marvel magazine to make it to that number. Which shows how good it is to survive when all the others in this format didn’t last to see the mid-eighties. He truly did create one of the finest magazine comic series ever created. This issue like all the others is just a fun enjoyable read. The story of Conan’s rise to kingship is filled with plenty of double dealings. Assassinations and attempts with a mad king and scheming wizard on one side. Throw in a beautiful women who is an expert assassin. You have an enjoyable story. Looking forward to the next fifty.
“The Sword and the Serpent!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
Conan, Belit and Zula are escaping the palace in Luxor. They slaughter some guards and get to the secret underground passage. Only more guards are waiting since Neftha now King Ctesphon III knows of this passage. So Conan and company go down a passage that the guards are forbidden to enter. Thoth-Amon stopped the guards because he wants his minions to get Conan. Soon after Neftha assumed the throne he visits her and gets her support to make him her advisor. She will also cast down all the other wizards to make him supreme in Stygia. But first he has to kill Conan and his friends.
Conan and the group stop for a nap. During this time a giant snake with a medusa head uses hypnosis to lure Belit to it. Zula who has some wizard training is immune to the creature’s hypnosis. Zula kills it. Later a rockslide separates Conan. Belit and Zula come to rescue him but these are not his friends. They are serpent-men who can shape shift. Luckily Conan discovers this in time and kills them. When his real friends show up he has them say the magic words ‘Ka Nama Kaa Lajeramma!” Words from the time of Kull that no serpent-man can handle. Right after that they meet M’gora and the Corsairs. Only Conan knows they are fake and uses the words to drive them off. The three reach the surface next to the river Styx. A trade boat is nearby and hopefully the three can find passage to the sea.
Conan and company now have to escape from Luxor. Their first part of the journey is through the underground catacombs. Here they fight the various snake creatures of Thoth-Amon. Thoth-Amon has taken advantage of the new regime change to consolidate his own power. Also Zula finds out that the guy that sold him into slavery is in Shem with Belit’s uncle. So a convenient way to get out of the promise to go to Kheshatta. Roy has decided to get to the main quest for Belit’s vengeance and not bog down into another side trip in Stygia. An enjoyable story filled with excitement and intrigue in the Stygian court.
“When Madness Wears the Crown”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from book “Conan The Liberator” by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter
Artists: John Buscema & Tony Dezuniga
King Numedides of Aquilonia is truly mad. He spends his nights bathing in the blood of young women to give him immortality. Otherwise he stays in his garden with his gold and jeweled statues of himself talking to the plants. He has left the running of government to a sorcerer named Thulandra Thuu. Thuu has his own agenda which entails him eventually becoming king and ruling the whole world. Meanwhile in Argos Conan with his conspirators arrive in the capital Messantia to fence the jewels from the Treasure of Tranicos. Soon they have recruited an army to go up against King Numedides.
Yet Thulandra Thuu has spies in Conan’s army. He also has managed to have his agent Alcina a beautiful dancing girl become Conan’s mistress. She manages to pass on Conan’s plan. So when Conan’s army tries to cross the Alimane river it is ambushed. Conan manages to pull his shattered army back to regroup. Never realizing that his mistress is the one spying on him.
“Chanins and Fetters A Study of Slavery in the Hyborian Age Part II”
By Jim Neal
A second part of a feature on slavery in Conan’s time. This time Jim explores slavery in the civilized western nations. The enslavement of supernatural creatures. Slave revolts of the time and slaves that were in positions of power.
“The Woman from Khitai”
Writer: Don Glut
Artists: Gary Brodsky & Tony Dezuniga
King Raka is the ruler of a small city-state. He has a harem of beautiful women. He looks forward to the new girl arriving from Khitai. His wives love him but they fear his personal bodyguard Shorg. Shorg likes to take advantage of the women after the king goes to his quarters. Seems the king is afraid of his bodyguard. So the girl from Khitai named Soosha arrives. Later at night in the harem Shorg comes to check out the new arrival. Only Soosha uses her magic to imprison Shorg in the giant diamond that is a gift to her new husband.
So starts the adaptation of the novel that tells the story of how Conan became king. So far I am enjoying it. We have the cruel and insane king. The evil wizard that is the true power behind the throne. Conan now has some focus in his life. For the first time he is at an age where he wants to settle down and not go around adventuring. An interesting look at Conan.
The article was an informative and interesting read. The backup story was also very well done. This foppish king who lets his bodyguard molest his wives. The women were beautiful in this story and I loved the just deserts that were meted out to Shorg. Another excellent issue in this series.
“The Queen and the Corsairs!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
Conan and Zula are reunited with Belit after saving her from the Devourer of the Dead. Belit tells the story of how she was captured while guiding them through a secret passage to the palace. How after being turned to snakes they were inside the palace. Neftha guides Belit to the chambers of the Stygian king Ctesphon II. Only they find out its a trap. The king with his wizard advisor Hath-Horeb are waiting with guards. We find out that Neftha is the sister of the king and the true heir. Belit tries to fight her way out and takes the king as hostage. Only the king is revealed to be Hath-Horeb using his sorcery to impersonate the king. He knocks Belit out and that is how she wound up floating in a sarcophagus.
So they reach the palace and Belit finds her old clothes and sword. They come on the main chamber and Neftha is about to be executed. The three attack and Belit corners the king on a balcony. She finds out from him that he killed her father so she kicks him off the balcony to his death. Now Neftha with the help of Hath-Horeb is made the new king. Her first order is to command that Conan and Zula be imprisoned while Belit is killed. Belit manages to kill Hath-Horeb and thanks to Zula’s wizard skills are able to escape.
Well finally the conclusion to the Stygian quest. It took a lot of twists and turns along the way. Now the stories told were excellent but finally good to reach a conclusion. What a conclusion. Belit finds out her father’s fate. The weak and cowardly Ctesphon II is killed while begging for his life. Neftha the mysterious slave girl how is king. Apparently the Stygians were ahead of their time. Only men can be kings and a woman can become a man by just saying so. There was always something about Neftha and Roy didn’t let us down. Zula is shown to have some skills as a wizard from his days as a slave to one. A really exciting issue that I enjoyed greatly. Now they have to escape Stygia.
“Conan the Searcher”
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Andrea Di Vito
Conan is riding in the Kothian hills after some quarry. He speculates on who they are and the wrath he plans to bring on them. The story shifts to Argos some days before. Conan has just finished wrecking a bar in a fight and decides to buy a leg of some meat. A little girl begs for food and Conan shares his meal. He finds out the little girl named Tama has a collar around her neck and is running from her family that put it on. Conan goes to look for tools to remove the collar and red robed figures kidnap Tama. So Conan has now tracked them to an active volcano.
He finds the group with Tama and attacks. He manages to kill all but one of the group. The last a woman named Saleria pauses his sword. Just then Tama reveals herself to be a demon and runs off. Saleria tells that her sect was trying to throw the demon in the volcano until some dumb oaf of a barbarian stopped them. So Conan helps her to get the collar back on the demon. After a fight Conan succeeds and the demon turns back into a little girl. He than throws her in the volcano. Later back at Argos Conan tells the vendor that he was right to try and shoo the little girl away.
“The Shadow of Vengeance Part XII”
By Scott Oden
Ghaznavi the regent of Khawarizm gets a message that he thinks is from the Sicari. He hurries to the meeting place to find out if they were successful in killing Conan. He finds Octavia with a box. Opening it he finds the head of the leader of the Sicari. Conan then reveals himself to be alive. What’s more is his forces are capturing the city. Khawarizm tries to knife Conan but gets thrown off the tower to his death.
The final issue in Marvel’s revived Savage Sword ends with a good solid story. We get to see a more soft side to Conan as he helps this little girl. Of course the little girl is a nasty demon that was using him. By Crom no good deed goes unpunished. Also the prose story ties up nicely. Conan gets his revenge and it is a satisfying ending to this saga.
I have the say that Marvel did a good job with this series. Marvel has steadily devolved into a dumpster fire of woke shit so its good that they didn’t mess with Conan. The stories were OK with the first one. They definitely improved with the subsequent writers. Of course bringing back Roy Thomas was a stroke of genius. A nice tip of the hat to us nostalgic for the good old days. His story was a joy to read. Overall I am satisfied with the revived series. I would have liked a magazine format in black and white but otherwise no complaints.