SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #125

“At the Altar of the Goat God”

Writers: Gary Kwapisz & Jim Owsley

Artist: Gary Kwapisz

Conan has been hired my a wealthy merchant in the Zamorian city of Zemizar as a bodyguard. He foils an attack by ninjas from the local cult. Seems that the merchant Slogg has been using goat meat in his slaughterhouses. Goats are sacred to this cult. The merchant and the cult had come to a truce but with tough times Slogg decided to go back to slaughtering goats. His wife is the daughter of the cult priest which was part of the original truce. Conan soon figures out that someone is out to kill him so he quits and goes to an old witch. This witch tells him about the cult’s upcoming sacrifice of 1000 babies and that they fear Conan will interfere with it. He decides to go back and be the guard of Slogg. This is a good thing for his wife has been conspiring to take their infant son to be sacrificed. Conan and Slogg go after them and fight zombies. They come on the ceremony but the wife summons the goat god. He comes as a giant goat-man. Only he decides to eat the wife and Slogg. Conan rescues the infant and finds a good family to raise him.

“Trail of Blades”

Writer: Charles Dixon

Artist: Geof Isherwood

King Kull is with his men hunting for bandits that prey on caravans entering Valusia. He sets up an ambush at a likely spot. Sure enough the bandits attack and Kull’s men destroy them. Kull fights the bandit leader who he knew in the old days when Kull was a bandit. He plans to crucify him until the bandit points out what the caravan was transporting. It had weapons to arm rebels. So the bandit leader is freed while the caravan leader is taken prisoner.

Kwapisz like Buscema before him gets his chance to plot out a story. I found it a very interesting and unique story. Conan is involved with a fight between two factions. The idea of a merchant using goats for his slaughterhouses that are sacred is a unique twist to the idea. Naturally Conan is much more smart then everyone gives him credit for. The disgust he has with the whole crazy civilized people is dead on what Howard would have written. A fun story with many twists, beautiful artwork and plenty of action.

The backup Kull story by Dixon was of course up to the expected standards. A story that starts out as expected but has a twist at the end I didn’t see coming. Dixon was a good choice to write these Kull backups. Also at the end are a series of portfolios by Ernie Chan that are beautiful to look at. A good solid issue.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #158

“Night of the Wolf”

Writer: John Buscema & Michael Fleisher

Artists: John Buscema & Rudy Nebres

Conan is riding in the desert when he comes on two men dragging a women in a box. Conan decides to free her and so kills the two horsemen. Soon after the girl’s father comes looking for her. He is grateful and invites Conan back to his camp. During the night a werewolf attacks Conan but the sheik’s men manage to pull it off Conan and drive it into the desert. The next morning the daughter has once again been kidnapped by a rival sheik. So Conan joins the chase and they come on the daughter tied to a rock. The other sheik threatens to kill her. A big fight ensues between the two groups when the full moon comes out. The daughter turns into a werewolf and starts to kill people. The father is the one that ends her life. We find out that her mother was a demon and her father was keeping the secret. Unfortunately he had to end her. Conan goes riding off for other adventures.

Another Buscema plotted story. This one was a fairly simple one. A girl turns into a werewolf and gets killed by her father. We are at first led to believe the other sheik was kidnapping her to be his wife. We find out that it was for revenge in that she killed his son. Conan in this one was more of a spectator then the main character. For most of the story he just goes along for the ride. As I said a fairly simple story. Nothing special but still mildly entertaining.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #124

“There Will Come a Dark Stranger…”

Writer: Don Kraar

Artist: Gary Kwapisz

Conan arrives in the city-state of Khybal in Afghulistan. He just lost his boot in crossing the river and is looking to get a new one. Unfortunately there is a prophesy that a stranger missing a shoe will help free the Prince Aziz and overthrow the evil Rashad Khan. The khan’s men arrest Conan and toss him into the dungeon for execution. The prophet Ismail helps Conan break out and he frees Aziz. They make it to the hill tribes and Conan has to fight a man on ropes over a pit of cobras. Naturally Conan wins and the hillmen will help overthrow the Khan. Conan has to teach the young pacifist prince how to fight since the prophesy also states he has to kill the Khan. So they go to the city and pretend to be bringing tribute to the new King. The crates of tribute are instead filled with Conan and Aziz. The prince manages to kill Rashid Khan and Conan ends up stealing the diamonds from the crown. Also the prophet Ismail was a spirit that only Conan could see.

“Song of the Dead”

Writer: Chuck Dixon

Artists: Geof Isherwood and Art Nichols

A spirit plays a tune on his flute that lures Kull’s consort Laria from their bed. Kull follows and she leads them to an underground chamber with a body on an alter. Laria cuts her hand under a spell that drips her blood on the body. It comes alive and tries to choke Kull. Fortunately Brule comes in time and his spear ends the evil wizard’s life.

This was an enjoyable story. Conan gets caught up in the politics of a small kingdom. He just wants to move on but ends up helping this foppish prince become a man. An interesting story point in having the prophet be a spirit that only Conan can see. Of course Conan only wants money and manages to take some at the end. The Kull backup was an enjoyable read. A good solid story. The only real flaw was the main character Kull didn’t defeat the evil wizard. This was left to Brule and I think the main character should be the one to defeat the main villain. Otherwise a solid issue.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #157

“The Wizard”

Writers: John Buscema & Michael Fleisher

Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan arrives in the Brythunian city-state of Berthalia. He finds that the queen has been kidnapped by a wizard and taken to the top of a mountain. There is a big reward so Conan decides to get it. He easily beats the braggard that was trying to get permission from the king and heads out. He decides to climb the mountain instead of using the path. Still he has to deal with avalanches, flaming cauldrons and hot oil dumped at him. He makes it to the top and finds that there is on wizard. Instead the young childhood lover of the queen is behind the charade of the evil wizard. Conan decides we will forgo the reward to help the two young lovers. So he goes back with a story that he was spared to give a message to the king. That if he continues to send men than a great curse will befall him. The cowardly king decides to get another queen and gives Conan a small reward for his troubles.

Another Buscema plotted story. This one was a fun story. We have some fun times of Conan showing how badass he is. He climbs the mountain as any Cimmerian would. Avoids the obstacles thrown at him. Finds out there is no wizard just two young lovers. Conan being a good sport helps them instead of getting a big reward. The foppish king is such a coward he gets scarred of air molecules. A light hearted story with a happy ending. A nice break from the more serious ones.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #123

“Secret of the Great Stone”

Writer: Larry Yakata

Artist: Ernie Chan

Conan is fighting a group of mercenaries in the Kezankian mountains. He gets forced off a cliff and slides down the snow covered hill. Only he suddenly finds himself in a cave. Two old witches have transported him. They have this bet that he can be corrupted and turned from his destiny. So Conan after fighting a snow worm exits to a desert village with a monolith. He has to fight snakes and some bandits. A local girl lures him to the monolith where a giant bat creature emerges. Conan manages to kill it and the locals make him king. The witches then reveal themselves and tell him of their bet. The one witch has such confidence that Conan will choose his power over helping a child.

Conan decides to rescue the child of the king by going into the doorway of the monolith. It transports him to another world with dinosaurs. He rescues a young girl from a giant ogre. Arriving back he gets ambushed by the bounty hunters from the beginning. Conan of course easily defeats them. He takes the rightful heir to the village. Only the young girl then turns into a huge monster and destroys the village. She was put their by her father because she was evil. She spares Conan and his woman and takes off. The witch who bet against Conan comes at him angry but he manages to cut her head off. Then with his woman heads off for new adventures.

“The Debt of the Warrior”

Writer: Larry Yakata

Artists: Michael Docherty and James Baldwin

Conan rescues a blind woman and her two children from a group of bandits. The woman is there to get a new husband and has the treasure for a dowry. We find out that her husband was killed by Conan and Conan vowed to the defeated warrior to watch over his family. Conan manages to take some of the treasure to buy a cure for the woman. The woman gets her sight back and sees that her benefactor is Conan. She still hates him and her son vows to kill him when he grows up.

This was a very weird issue. The main story has Conan being the pawn of two old hags bet. He travels to different locations and fight various monsters and men. The story was a bit confusing in I didn’t really understand the bet these two witches made. Yet it had some beautiful full page artwork with weird monsters and equally fierce men.

The backup was an interesting story even if the artwork was not up to par. Conan helps a blind widow who thinks Conan is very nice and even tries to hire him to kill Conan. Conan helps her but she finds out he killed her husband. Like I said this was a weird issue but not an uninteresting one.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #156

“The Curse!”

Writers: John Buscema & Michael Fleisher

Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan is caught in a thunderstorm in the Border Kingdom. He stops at a castle seeking shelter. At first it looks like the inhabitants are unfriendly. A dagger is thrown with a note saying ‘Leave’. Yet the lord does answer the door and is very friendly. He introduces Conan to his wife and gives Conan a meal. The wife is the one that threw the dagger but we don’t get why since she is too intimidated by her husband. During the night the bed Conan is sleeping in opens to a trap door. Conan finds himself in the catacombs. There is some creature and he arms himself with a stalactite. He comes on a hideous creature and a fight ensues. This creature is strong and almost kills Conan. Yet he gets the upper hand and strangles it with it’s own chain.

Later the lord of the castle comes to the catacombs and finds the creature dead. He tries to kill Conan but gets his own knife plunged into his chest. The wife then tells the story to Conan. That her husband and his brother went adventuring to a jungle and prospected for gems. The brother got sick and while under a fever kills the daughter of a shaman. This shaman puts a curse on the brother that turns him into a cannibalistic creature. The husband would feed unwary travelers to his brother.

Buscema once again plots out the story and shows he has some good ideas. I like this story. It had a creepy vibe with a stormy castle at night. Kind of a Scooby Doo vibe only with a real monster. The fight with the monster was one that Conan didn’t easily defeat. He stabbed it with a stalactite, then beat him over the head with a rock. This didn’t stop him and he was almost defeated. Yet he wins and puts an end to the brother’s feeding innocent to his monster sibling. A fun and enjoyable story.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #122

“The Blossoms of the Black Lotus”

Writer: Don Kraar

Artist: Ernie Chan

Conan is a pirate with the Crimson Brotherhood and is shipwrecked in Stygia with five of his crew. They are captured by the priest of Set. Conan is forced to help the priesthood in getting rid of two factions that are in control of the Lotus drug trade. Otherwise his men will be fed to a dragon. Conan agrees and starts out by killing one of the leaders to the Shemite faction. He takes the head to Malas who is headquartered in a tower. Conan gets fifty pieces of gold for the head. He promises to get the rest of the gang. Malas has plans to kill Conan after he succeeds and has three men follow.

Naturally Conan kill these three then uses their heads to gain access to the Shemite gang. He comes up with a plan to let them into the tower so they can kill Malas and take over the drug trade. Then Conan goes to the priesthood with the plan so they can kill off whoever survives and take over the drug trade. Conan doesn’t know that the priests have already fed his men to the dragon and that they are serpent-men. They plan to also kill Conan after this.

Conan manages to open the tower door and let in the Shemite gang. The two fight and both leaders get thrown into the pool of sharks. The priesthood comes and reveals themselves as serpent-men. Conan starts a fire with the Black Lotus which is highly flammable. The serpent-men are burned alive and the tower of drugs burns down. Conan manages to swim through shark infested waters to the ship he hired to get him out of Stygia.

“One Against All”

Writer: Charles Dixon

Artist: Valdis Semeiks

Kull is on a ship with diplomats and is bored out of his skull. He tells his friend Brule that he would rather be a gladiator then this boredom. He then tells his story of a time during his gladiator days. That he gambled with a governor and beat him. So the governor was determined that Kull die in the arena. All the gladiators were paid to kill Kull. Kull manages to kill all the gladiators and the giant bear that was sent into the arena. As the governor decides to kill Kull with arrows the king intervenes. He was there incognito and recognizes a great fighter. He makes Kull commander of his Black Legion. From there Kull eventually became king. At the end we find out this governor is now a galley slave.

This was an enjoyable issue. We have Conan having to play off three different factions in the Black Lotus drug trade. Everyone in the factions has plans to use Conan then kill him but he skillfully manipulates them all. The various factions are in the loathsome drug trade and devoid of any positive attributes. Indeed all his opponents are give as ugly looks as possible to reinforce there evil. Conan is portrayed as this savage opponent that just plows through everything like a tank. Just as Howard envisioned the character. Definitely an enjoyable story.

The Kull backup was also very exceptional in this issue. Dixon is really getting the hang of the character. We get a very interesting origin of how Kull went from gladiator to commander of the elite Black Legion. Kull is also a very savage opponent that plows his way through his opponents. Ends with a humorous look at what happened to the asshat governor. This was all around a satisfying read.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN ANNUAL #8

“Dark Night of the White Queen”

Writer: Jim Owsley

Artist: Val Mayerik

King Kull leads his Red Slayers to an isolated farmer’s hut. He is searching for an evil cult that has sacrificed five women. The sixth has been impregnated by a demon to give birth to a wizard that will rule the world. Kull finds this cult in a cave under the hut. The woman has just given birth to twins, a daughter and son. This angers the cult for only a son should have been born. Kull can’t save her but gets vengeance. He then has his councilor Tu go to drown the babies in the river. Only Tu can’t and instead gives them to a farmer who recently lost his son.

We then jump to the Hyborian age and and city of Tarsus in the Border Kingdom. The queen Castrica is about to be crowned but upset that Narcia is more loved. Known as the White Queen she helps the people with her white magic. She has a brother named Alexus who is Castrica’s lover. Conan is also there and hired to lead the cities army. One day Alexus finally masters his sorcery and with Castrica flees to a castle in the country.

Narcia has Conan lead the army to this castle. There they fight bat-men which Narcia uses her powers to destroy. The army refuses to go on and Conan and Narcia must enter the castle alone. Conan has to fight Alexus who has turned into a wolf-man. Conan can’t kill him and Alexus wants Narcia to kill him. Because Conan is in danger she does. This is what Alexus wanted for it has made him extremely powerful. Narcia has Conan kill her so she can battle Alexus on his own plane. Conan reluctantly does this and the spirit of Narcia battles her evil brother. Conan decides to gather up the remnants of the mercenary army and loot the city of Tarsus.

Time for another annual, that cool tradition of old where each year a series would publish a double-size issue to commemorate another successful year. This was a really good issue. It starts out with Kull and introduces the origin of the twins. We never get a story of how they ended up ten thousand years in the future but it is obvious that they are the twins. A sad one for Conan and Narcia loved each other yet Conan had to sacrifice her. I do love the ending where Conan does what any mercenary in his position would do. An enjoyable tribute to another successful year.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #121

“The Fountain of Umir”

Writer: Larry Yakata

Artist: Rudy Nebres

Conan comes to the coastal province of Libnum in Shem. There is a war being fought with King Aragu on one side and the rebel Dachivu the other. Dachivu has formed a cult promising salvation but he secretly ships off his followers to be sold at the slave markets. Both sides want Conan to fight for him and make generous offers. Conan though has heard of the Fountain of Umir which ones a year spews forth liquid gold. So he takes an offer from the king to kill a rebel leader at the monastery but actually uses the excuse to steal the gold. As he rides away he is caught between the final battle between King Aragu and Dachivu. Conan has to fight a powerful nomad who wants to kill him for the challenge. At the end Dachivu is defeated and captured. He begs a departing Conan to save him as the vengeful soldiers torture him to death.

“Pieces of Horror”

Writer: Charles Dixon

Artist: Geof Isherwood

The evil wizard Ohris Dehjhal is executed by the order of King Kull in Valusia. The wizard vows to come back so his body is cut into pieces and sent all over the kingdom under guard. The followers of Dehjhal manage to liberate all the parts and start a ceremony to bring the evil wizard back. Kull and his forces manage to stop this in time. The severed head is put in a box and thrown into the deepest part of the ocean.

This was an interesting story. It had a Yojimbo type vibe to it. Conan as the lone mercenary comes riding in and is courted by both sides. He just plays it cool and doesn’t commit. Both sides are evil and selling their own people into slavery. Conan’s main interest is stealing gold from some temple where once a year they get liquid gold for some reason. A bit weird in the ending has this unknown guy fight Conan. Never really introduced in the story or why it was so important for him to defeat Conan. Still a fun story.

Kull by Dixon and Isherwood seems to be a permanent backup feature to this title and a very welcome one. Dixon is an excellent writer and doesn’t fail to delivery an enjoyable story. Here we get this wizard that can’t be killed. Don’t know why they just didn’t cremate him. A fun and enjoyable story.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #155

“The Anger of Conan”

Writers: John Buscema & Michael Fleisher

Artists: John Buscema & Steve Leialoha

Conan is in the trading town of Ramuda in the Border Kingdom. While trying to pick up some harlots a man runs into him. This man named Yadlo tried to cheat Baron Vjervak with phony jewelry. The baron is going to cut him to pieces and starts with the nose. Conan intervenes and beats up the thugs and the baron. Naturally the Baron wants revenge.

So Conan takes Yadlo to the tavern and finds out his story. That the Baron rules this town and extorts the merchants. He also kidnaps the beautiful woman for his depraved pleasure. The Baron is also a novice sorcerer as we see him summon a demon to kill his thugs that failed him. He sends other thugs to bring back Conan. They track him to the tavern and kill Yadlo. Conan gets real angry and kills them then goes off to see the Baron. The whole town hears of this and follows. At the Baron’s castle Conan confronts the demon and kills it quite easily. Then the cowardly Baron flees through the window and has to face the wrath of the townsfolk he has terrorized.

After the kooky floating cities and bird/bat-men this story was more down to Earth. Plotted by Buscema it tells a straight forward story. Conan shows he has a sense of justice in saving Yadlo. Yadlo tried to be his friend and died guarding him. If there is a complaint it is that Conan just had it way too easy. Everyone he fought including a demon got cut up just like that. Still it was an entertaining story with beautiful art and a fitting ending for the loathsome Baron.