CONAN THE BARBARIAN #200

“The Fall of Acheron”

Writers: James C. Owsley and Mark Bright

Artists: Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood

Conan and his friends face a giant Devourer of Souls. He causes a small atomic explosion to destroy them. Only the elder god’s sword shields them. In a fit of rage, the Devourer sends out flaming fireballs. One destroys El Shah Maddoc. The Devourer goes off in a huff. Thulsa Doom makes a deal with Xuthl to find out the location of the Devourer.

Meanwhile Xuthl then goes to the Devourer to collect on a debt. Xuthl wants the Devourer to make the most beautiful, unblemished woman fall in love with him. The Devourer finds her in Poitain. He creates a beautiful mortal body and masquerades as Acheron a noble from Brythunia. He courts the daughter of Count Trocero the beautiful Seraph. Over time he actually falls in love with her. When he does, Xuthl comes and kills her. Conan and friends arrive and battle their way through an army of skeletons to get to the body of the Devourer in the crypt. Conan kills Acheron which brings the soul back into the Devourer’s body. The Devourer is really angry, and an epic battle occurs. Conan wins and it looks as though the Devourer is destroyed. Solaise and Sedrick come back to life. Only at the end Acheron is brought back by Xuthl on a far island.

The big 200th issue. A very rare occurrence and shows that this series was quite popular. This is something that can’t happen nowadays. Series never last that long. This was a decent issue. We get a conclusion to the Devourer of Souls saga. Sets up some new stuff like Thulsa Doom now hanging around. Acheron is still around and probably angry at Conan. El Shah Maddoc is destroyed.

If there was a complaint it was that Conan was more of a guest, then the main star. The story was mostly focused on The Devourer/Acheron. For such a momentous event I would have liked Conan to take center stage. Otherwise, a great conclusion to 200 issues.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN ANNUAL #12

“Legion of the Dead”

Writers: James Owsley and Val Semeiks

Artists: Vince Giarrano and Ernie Chan

The Devourer of Souls now has Solaise and Sedrick. He goes to Arallu to talk to Thulsa Doom about Sedrick. Doom tells that in his time a young shepherd saved a knight of Valusia. For a reward this knight made him his squire. Only the other squires constantly bullied him because of his peasant origins. Sedrick decided to join with Thulsa Doom in a plot to assassinate Kull. He got an audience with Kull and used an enchanted staff to summon beast men. Kull managed to defeat them, and Doom turned Sedrick into an immortal cat. The Elder Gods used Sedrick to hold their power.

The Devourer thanks Doom and frees him from his chains. He then goes to the footslave of the Elder Gods and takes him for a ritual to get the power from Solaise and Sedrick. Conan after defeating some scavengers also goes to look for the footslave and finds the portal to Arallu. There Doom tells Conan of the Devourer’s plan and the two fight their way back to the world. Only he finds that the Devourer has now the power to destroy the world.

The final annual of the Conan series. I loved this quaint little custom of celebrating a series yearly anniversary with a special double size issue. Unfortunately, by the nineties this was phased out. This issue though ushered in the big 200th issue. We get some more background on things like the origin of Sedrick. There was a backstory of Red Sonja losing her fighting ability after being raped and getting it back when a comrade dies protecting her.

Thulsa Doom from Kull is brought into the story. Not necessarily as a good guy but someone who is acting on his self-interest. A fun and enjoyable story that gets us all set up for the big 200th issue.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #199

“Revelation in the Mists”

Writer: James C. Owsley

Artists: Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood

The elder gods awake because of Solaise and Sedrick now being united. Conan and Kaleb continue to fight as the Devourer decides to bring both of them to the river in the Forest of Eternal Verities. He creates a portal and lures Solaise and Sedrick. Conan and Kaleb follow. There the river reveals the truth about Kaleb. How he was so angry at his holy order that he made a deal with the Council of Seven. He would steal the Eye of Namut which allowed them to capture the child of an elder god. Kaleb got a bottomless bag of gold. Yet he was too guilty about what he did and destroyed the eye. For punishment the elder child was imprisoned in the body of Solaise. The girl would never age and Kaleb was granted powers and immortality to watch over her.

The Devourer reveals himself and Kaleb knocks out Conan. The Devourer now has control over both Solaise and Sedrick. He takes away the power from Kaleb who reverts to an old man. The elder gods turn the staff of the elder gods into a sword. The Devourer with Solaise and Sedrick goes off to get power over creation.

The final issue before the big 200th does a great job of setting up the final big confrontation. We finally get why Solaise has these powers. Conan is mostly a spectator in this issue. I’m sure that will change. They also will continue in the annual before the 200th issue. So, we are getting two big double size issue in a row.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #198

“The River”

Writer: James C. Owsley

Artists: Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood

Conan and his friends find the unconscious Red Sonja. She was raped and left for dead by Bahkt. Naturally this pisses Conan off and he goes alone to seek his revenge. After Conan leave, General Freja decides now is the time to arrest his friends. He does this by kidnapping Solaise and threatening her life. Conan tracks Bahkt and cuts off his hand in a fight. Bahkt runs off and Conan talks to a magical river. It reveals that the Devourer of Souls is behind his problems and also shows that Solaise is in his arms. Bahkt attacks and Conan gets his revenge.

Meanwhile at his camp General Freja decides to have Solaise’s cat Sedrick put to death. This unleashes the power of Solaise and a blinding white light kills General Freja and all his men. Conan arrives and first visits Red Sonja. He shows her the severed head of Bahkt which does make Sonja happy. Then he goes to confront Solaise but this awakens her father Kaleb the Destroyer who threatens Conan if he continues to bother Solaise.

We are getting to the big 100th and it is setting us up for a big showdown. A showdown with the Devourer and apparently one with the mysterious Solaise and her father. There was a very touching moment when Conan visits Sonja. He clearly has feelings of friendship for her. A strange story with its talking river. Conan’s battle with Bahkt was fairly quick and decisive. Have one more filler issue until we get to the big final.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #197

“Stand”

Writer: James C. Owsley

Artists: Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood

Conan has to stop an enraged dinosaur that was provoked by General Freja. Conan manages to lead the dinosaur out of the village and into an old cave where it can die. Meanwhile at his camp, Bahkt has come looking for Conan. He is now changed into a demon by the Devourer of Souls. He kills the soldiers and then has to fight Kaleb, Kobe and Anneka. Anneka uses the Staff of the Elder Gods to drive off Bahkt. They then link up with Red Sonja and go to Conan. Bahkt manages to capture Red Sonja unnoticed as they ride.

At the cave Conan guards the old dinosaur to make sure nobody bothers it. General Freja comes with a mob to kill the dinosaur and threatens Conan. His friends stand with him and Freja backs down. Solaise was put in a tree by her father to be safe. She lost Sedrick her cat and sees him. When she goes to him, she meets the Devourer of Souls. He bows to her and calls her master.

Lot of stuff is happening as we come to the 200th issue. Bahkt is some superpowered demon and still after Conan. He managed to kidnap Red Sonja to get at Conan. Conan has to put a general in his place. I love how this badass handful of men and woman manage to face down a whole angry mob. The big surprise is the Devourer of Souls bowing to young Solaise. We already know Solaise has some special powers but now the Devourer is pledging his loyalty to her. Sets up some interesting stuff to be resolved.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #196

“The Beast”

Writer: James C. Owsley

Artists: Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood

An old dinosaur is half blind and about to die. It sees the village in the distance and decides to visit. At a checkpoint Kiev is arguing with an old crone who doesn’t speak any known language. Simeon comes and talks to her. A group of Hyrkanians then charge past. In the village, Conan has to put an arrogant general in his place. The old dinosaur comes into the village and Conan knocks it out. He orders that it be left alone. Later he meets up with Red Sonja. She tries to convince Conan to leave this mad endeavor and come with her. The Devourer of Souls visits Bahkt who is still angry at Conan. The Devourer has taken all of Bahkt’s men’s souls. He feeds one of the souls to Bahkt to transform him. The arrogant general decides to have his archers fire on the sleeping dinosaur. This pisses it off and it goes on a rampage.

Well, this is an issue filled with story. There are little vignettes that jump all over the place. Conan has to deal with an arrogant general. The Devourer has recruited Bahkt by transforming him into some as yet unknown creature. Red Sonja joins the story. That is something I look forward to. She is my favorite character from the REH stories, and this is already giving the plot a bit of punch. Ends with an old dinosaur causing trouble. Lots of stuff going on for the next issue to resolve.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #195

“Blood of Ages”

Writer: James C. Owsley

Artists: Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood

In the temple of Mitra where Kaleb killed the Devourer of Souls, the villagers are looting it. One gets greedy and grabs the Devourer’s sword. A bolt of lightning kills the guy and resurrects the Devourer. Meanwhile the rebel army Conan commands has its own issues. Kobe has to go and round up horses and gets ambushed and captured by bandits. The bandits are led by Bahkt who has a grudge against Conan. He hopes that Kobe will be bait. At the court of the emperor of Koth, the emperor hires Red Sonja to convince Conan to abandon this revolt or kill him. Solaise plays with the cat Sedrick and causes several flashes of light. One blinds Conan long enough for Bahkt to escape his battle.

This is a fairly meandering story. It sets up a new opponent for Conan in the crazy Bahkt. We see that Kobe is an arrogant ass that needs to get rescued by Shapur. Solaise has serious power with her newfound cat and the Devourer is still alive and wants that power. Oh, and Red Sonja is entering the story. Not a bad move as I believe her series was cancelled at this time, but she is still a very popular character. Another strange story but one that does keep the reader’s interest.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #194

“Victory”

Writer: James C. Owsley

Artists: Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood

Conan battles the Shedu which has taken the form of a living pile of dirt and vegetation. It jumps in the river and forces Conan to seek shelter in an underground cave. This cave has an old man that is thin as a stick. He claims to be the foot slave of the elder gods. He is looking for his cat which has the power of life and death over all creation. Conan has no time for this old coot and takes his staff. Then climbs up to meet the Shedu which is waiting for him.

Meanwhile Kaleb the Destroyer battles the Devourer of Souls in the temple of Mitra. The Devourer shows Kaleb his past in a mirror. We find out that as a young priest he violated his vows and slept with a beautiful woman. She died in childbirth and Kaleb was expelled with his newborn daughter. That was over a century ago, so they are very old. His daughter Solaise finds a cat in the basement encased in a crystal. She frees it and this causes a blinding flash of light. The Shedu disappears and Anneke is returned to Conan. The flash distracts the Devourer enough for Kaleb to impale him on a statue of Mitra.

This story is really getting weird. Conan battling a moving mound of dirt. A talking cat with the power over creation. Some of this is just getting a bit silly. We do find some more tidbits about Kaleb’s past. Still there are many more questions to be answered. Why is Kaleb and his daughter so old? What power does Solaise have? Some interesting questions I would like to have answered. I think the next issue should get a little bit more down to Earth.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #193

“Shedu”

Writer: James C. Owsley

Artists: Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood

Conan and Anneke are having a brief moment of happiness as they frolic in a pond. Yet they have to go check on their outposts. Meanwhile the prince they work for is conspiring with the Devourer of Souls. He summons a demon named Shedu. In the village of Bhoraji Kabel comes with his daughter to get the local garrison ready for Conan. After beating them into submission he sees the Devourer of Souls. The Devourer releases Shedu who goes and possesses some old farmer. The possessed farmer then possesses Conan’s soldiers. They drive their horses over a cliff. Then they possess Anneke. She runs away and Conan then faces possessed boars. He kills them and Shedu goes into a hill. Kaleb barracades himself with his daughter in a Temple of Mitra. Only the Devourer gets in and Kaleb gets ready to fight. Conan at the end faces Shedu who now has animated the hill into a hill monster.

This was a fascinating story. We have a brief moment between Conan and Anneke. She wants Conan to say he loves her, but he expertly avoids that. We find out later that Conan has a fear that every woman who ever falls in love with him ends up dead. There is clearly a bond forming between them. Another reveal is that Kaleb is not quite human. Along with his daughter who we already found out has special powers. The next issue should give us a lot of answers.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #192

“Keeper”

Writer: James C. Owsley

Artists: Val Semeiks and Geof Isherwood

Conan comes to a northern outpost to see how it’s doing. He finds that Simeon who he sent to prepare the way has been locked in the stockade. Apparently, he is acting nuts which gets Conan angry. He takes Simeon with him to inspect the other outposts. Simeon suggests going through the forest even though there are reports of savage Kushites in the area. They are ambushed by these Kushites and ride out. The Kushites don’t follow them because of the clearing. Tentacles come out of the ground and drag the two into some creature. Conan has to fight a creature called the Keeper. The Keeper tries to bring out the negative stuff like, greed and envy from Conan. Only Conan has none of these emotions and Conan forces the Keeper to release him and Simeon.

This has to be the weirdest Conan that I ever read. He gets caught in some strange creature in the ground. There are strange little green men that try to help him. A stranger creature that takes the form of others Conan knew in life. Grabs onto some flying slabs that race around in this creature and drags the Keeper into some energy barrier. This was a very weird one but not necessarily an uninteresting one. Still I hope the story continues to a less weird one.