CONAN THE BARBARIAN #27

“The Blood of Bel-Hissar!”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on “The Blood of Belshazzar” by Robert E. Howard
Artist: John Buscema

Conan has ridden south of doomed Makkalet. He comes on a huge Khaitain beating on a woman so he intervenes. The man is Turghol a mute. The two start to fight but the arrival of Turanians force the three to flee. They find shelter in a castle that is inhabited by brigands. Their leader is Skol Abdur the Butcher. He is in charge because he holds the Blood of Bel-Hissar. A giant ruby that was found by a pearl diver back in ancient Acheron. The jewel is supposed to be cursed and Skol Abdur plays off the brigands against each other to stay in power. Later at night the girl he rescues drugs his drink and he wakes up on the floor. He goes searching and finds Skol murdered. The brigands think he did it and the arrival of the girl accusing Conan seals their suspicion. So a fight ensues and Conan is rescued by Turghol. They flee the castle and Turghol shows Conan that he has the jewel. The woman he was beating was his wife and she treacherously tried to steal the jewel but Turghol managed to take it. Conan decides the jewel is bad luck and rides off leaving Turghol.

So another story that was a Crusader non-Conan story written by Howard. It fit perfectly in Conan. Once again we see the brilliance of Howard with his unique story of treachery and various hostile factions. The woman was not innocent. Turghol was a character that I believe shows up again in the future. He had potential. A good story to kick off Conan’s return to wandering the world.

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CONAN THE BARBARIAN #26

“The Hour of the Griffin!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: John Buscema

Conan has defeated Karim-Akkad. Now he has other worries for the Turanians have breached the walls. A traitor has told of the secret passage into the city. So a group of Turanians have opened the gates. Conan finds the guard that helped him still alive and binds his wounds. They run into a group of Turanians with the queen their captive. Conan frees the queen and leads the Turanians away from her. He finds the Living Tarim who is in reality a congenital idiot from centuries of inbreeding. The Living Tarim is killed by arrow firing Turanians. Conan has to fight a giant rat in the secret passage. At the end the queen must leave instead of take up Conan’s offer to accompany him since she is pregnant. Yezdigerd has won and props up the dead body of the Living Tarim so nobody knows that he has been killed.

So the end of the Makkalet siege story. And what an ending. Here is a Conan that is a more visceral one. He is a savage one man army who cuts down soldiers by the dozen. Kills a giant rat with his bare hands. Has a good laugh that the Living Tarim that everyone is fighting over is an inbred idiot. He finds out that the queen was not responsible for the past treachery that almost killed him. Roy did a good job of wrapping up this story. So now Conan once again is a wanderer with further adventures in exotic lands.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #25

“The Mirrors of Kharam Akkad”
Writers: Roy Thomas and Barry Smith inspired by “The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune” by Robert E. Howard
Artist: John Buscema

Kharam Akkad is upset. He has the mirrors of Tuzun Thune and one shows a barbarian standing over his dead body. Above are an eagle, snake and lion. He finds out the barbarian is close by and has him arrested. So Conan after a good fight is knocked out and taken to Kharam. There he is put in front of a mirror that shoots out tentacles that try to strangle him. A guard is sympathetic and tries to help but Kharam kills him. The guard’s sword gets within reach of Conan who uses it to free himself. Then he fights Kharam. The wizard puts up a good fight but hesitates when he notices the pommel of Conan’s sword is an eagle. Conan cuts the straps on his shield which he sees are made of snake skin. Then he tries to use his magic mirror but Conan runs him through thus fulfilling the prophecy.

So we find out what happened to the mirrors from one of Kull’s greatest stories. Kharam puts up a good sword fight for a wizard. Usually they aren’t that proficient. So Barry has left the art chores for the series although he does co-plot this issue. The big news is John Buscema coming on as artist. He would stay on for another 100 issues along with Roy. These two are where I started reading Conan so their style set the image of Conan for me. I think the two did some of their finest work with this series and look forward to their stories.

So the story was a fun one. It used an event from Kull’s time to good effect. With Buscema drawing this just feels like the Conan I remember from my youth. So Makkalet is on the verge of doom. Yezdigerd has decided to mount a final assault now that Pah-Dishah has deserted their allies. So next issue will be the ending of the siege of Makkalet story.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #24

“The Song of Red Sonja”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Barry Smith

Red Sonja is dancing at a tavern with Conan when a fight breaks out. The two decide to get out before the guard comes. Sonja convinces Conan to help her break into a tower on the palace grounds. Conan uses his climbing skills to break in. There Sonja takes a golden serpent tiara. For her real mission to Makkalet is to recover this gift that the king of Pah-Dishah regrets giving as a wedding present. Only Sonja forgets to utter the magic words that prevent it from turning into a huge golden serpent. Conan manages to kill it and it turns back into a tiara. Sonja then takes off and leaves Conan.

So this is the very first full story that featured Red Sonja. So here she wears a more conservative and practical chain-mail blouse instead of the iconic bikini. It was very obvious that the character would become quite popular and get her own series not to mention numerous guest appearances in Conan. She easily manipulates Conan to help her which won’t be the last time. This was a favorite of Roy in his collaboration with Barry. It also was the last issue Barry Smith would draw. A great milestone in the series and very enjoyable issue.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #23

“The Shadow of the Vulture!”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on story by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan makes it to Pah-Dishan to deliver the message from Makkalet requesting help. After getting his gold Conan decides he has had enough of this land and it’s holy wars. So he gets a horse and heads south. Only Yezdigerd has sent Mikhal Oglu known as the Vulture. The Vulture is the best swordsman in Turan and is tasked with hunting down Conan to avenge the scar he gave Yezdigerd. So at a small village Conan is awakened to find the Vulture and his men searching for him. They chase him all the way back to Makkalet. At the gates a red-haired warrior woman named Red Sonja saves him.

So back in Makkalet Conan is later kidnapped by agents of Turan. They bring him to an abandoned guard tower but Sonja comes to the rescue. They then wait for the arrival of the Vulture. Conan ends up sending the Vulture’s severed head back to Yezdigerd.

So another Howard adaptation and it is a good one. The Vulture is a good villain but seems to not live up to his reputation. In fact Conan has no problem beating him. The big draw in this issue is that it is the very first appearance of Red Sonja. Based very loosely on a character created by Howard from one of his historical stories. She obviously stole the issue and as everyone knows went on to success in her own right. Interesting way that Conan was drawn back to Makkalet. So now he has to deal with the intrigue of the scheming queen and wizard and king of the city. Not to mention the vendetta of Prince Yezdigerd.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #22

“The Coming of Conan!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Barry Smith

A reprint of Conan #1.

So no “Shadow of the Vulture.” Instead a reprint of the first issue. The letters page explains that the artwork was lost in the mail and they had to print something. Such a disappointment as I was looking forward to the Vulture story. I forgot about this bait and switch. A good story the first issue but I already read it not too long ago. Oh well at least it had a beautiful cover and one page inside of a portfolio by Barry.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #21

“The Monster of the Monoliths!”
Writer: Roy Thomas inspired by “The Black Stone” by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan has escaped from the Turanians with an arrow in his back. He crawls up the stairs at the dock of Makkalet and does not get a welcome from the locals. Luckily the king’s guard commander rescues Conan. After his wounds heal he is taken to the king and his entourage. There they agree to hire him and Conan is assigned a mission. With three others he is to sneak out of the besieged city and reach Khurustan. The city is obligated by royal marriage to come to Makkalet’s aid.

So they manage to sneak out but first they must stop at The Black Monoliths of Xuthlan. To perform an ancient ceremony to ancient gods. The monoliths are cared for by an old hermit and his young female companion. The captain kills the hermit and knocks Conan unconscious. He wakes to find himself tied to an alter with the woman. The captain kills his companions then sacrifices the woman. This brings a hideous toad creature from the monolith. Conan manages to free himself but the creature continues to stalk him. Conan figures that the armlet the queen gave him is attracting the creature so he tosses it to the captain who is eaten by the toad. The toad goes back into the monolith and Conan rides off to delivery the request for aid.

This was another loose adaptation of a Howard story and so of course is excellent. Thomas knew how to write Conan and it shows. So we get a fun story with betrayal, royal intrigue, mysterious pagan rites and supernatural monsters. Conan manages to overcome everything and takes all the threats head on. Just like Howard portrayed him. Not really sure why he feels obligated to continue on with the message since he was clearly set up. Still Conan does have his unshakable barbarian code of honor. And the siege of Makkalet is still not over and has plenty of potential.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #20

“The Black Hound of Vengeance!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan is assigned to Balthaz for a raid into Makkalet. The goal is to kidnap back the living incarnation of the Tarim. So at first it goes well. They are confronted by a small guard that is quickly eliminated. It is when Conan and some of the others get in the temple that the trouble starts. He meets a girl who is the queen but pretends to be a common temple priestess so as not be killed. Then Conan confronts the evil priest who conjures up a living skeleton. Finally as Conan reaches the chamber of the Tarim he falls through a trap door and has to fight the Black Hound of Vengeance. A big black dog that he eventually defeats by choking it with a chain then stabbing it. He makes it back to his ship and finds out Balthaz ordered Fafnir who lost an arm to be thrown overboard because it wasn’t worth wasting food on a cripple. This really angers Conan who stabs Balthaz with his own silver dagger. Prince Yezdigerd orders Conan killed but Conan slashes his way to Yezdigerd and gives him a scar on his cheek before jumping overboard.

Another enjoyable action filled story by Thomas and Smith. The big event in this issue is Conan giving Prince Yezdigerd a permanent scar. This is the start of an animosity with the prince and later emperor of Turan that follows Conan throughout most of his life. Interesting to see how Conan developed such a strong friendship with Fafnir who he was so intent on killing when he first met. A great story that showcases Conan’s loyalty to his friends and contempt for civilization’s religions as he states that he didn’t think highly of weak gods who would let themselves be kidnapped.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #19

“Hawks from the Sea!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artist: Barry Smith

Conan and Fafnir are on the Turanian ship headed to war with the city state of Makkalet. They bring up the image of their god Tarim and Conan is not impressed. This angers an officer named Balthaz who tries to stab Conan with a spear. Not a good idea as Conan kicks his butt and throws him overboard to the sharks. Prince Yezdigerd saves Balthaz in time and tells the story about why they are going to war. Tarim was the Lemurian who lead his people in the times of the cataclysm to become the Hyrkanian people. Turan had the descendant who is the living incarnation of the Tarim. Makkalet stole him and now the Turanian’s are going to get him back and raze the upstart city.

So they get to Makkalet and launch the attack. Makkalet’s wizard Kharam-Akkad uses his magic to create nine men that are invincible. They beat back the invasion. Conan goes to help his friend Fafnir who was felled by an arrow and notices something. Conan goes and kills the man in the middle and the others disappear. The Turanians settle in for a long siege.

So this issues is the start of a long epic story that involves the clash between these two feuding states. A religious war with plenty of action and sorcery. This is where Conan starts to learn the way of civilized warfare. Also Barry Smith decided not the quit this series and his excellent artwork will be with us for awhile. So far a good start with Conan already earning the enmity of an officer.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #18

“The Thing in the Temple!”
Writer: Roy Thomas based on “The Gods of Bal-Sagoth” by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Gil Kane

Aala is now queen of Bal-Sagoth thanks to Conan and Fafnir. So she retires to her chambers in the temple with Conan and Fafnir standing guard. During the night Conan is attacked by a demon sent by the deposed high priest Gothan. Conan kills it and then they find another rat-man attacking Aala. Fafnir chases it off while Aala insists that Conan stay with her. Conan refuses and throws her on her bed and chases after Fafnir. This enrages Aala who summons the guard to kill Conan and Fafnir.

Conan comes to the temple and finds Fafnir battling the rat-man. Gothan has been killed by the creature and now is killed itself by Fafnir. Aala comes with her guards and order them to kill the two but their is a great earthquake. A statue topples on Aala and crushes her. Then Ska the puppet king comes but is killed also. Then Conan and Fafnir must fight their way out of the dying city with the mob after them. The city is destroyed by a volcano as the two make it to a raft. Later they are picked up by a Turanian galley with prince Yezdigerd. He is going to wage holy war on a city-state and makes an offer to the two. Either join or continue to swim with the fishes. Naturally the two take up the prince’s generous offer.

The conclusion to the REH story that Thomas adapted. It is an enjoyable story filled with monsters and treacherous double dealing women and priests and puppet kings. Naturally the prophecy is fulfilled and the island is destroyed. This is also the first introduction to Yezdigerd who later becomes emperor of Turan and a major foe of Conan. Gil Kane shows himself to be a good replacement to Barry Smith but we will not need one as Barry decides to come back to the series next issue. Also the beginning of Conan’s mercenary days.