CONAN THE BARBARIAN #88

“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 BARBARIAN #87

“Demons at the Summit!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story by Bjorn Nyberg
Artist: Tony Dezuniga

A reprint from Savage Sword of Conan #3.

“The Hyborian Age”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from essay by Robert E. Howard
Artist: Ernie Chan

A brief history of the Hyborian age. How the various tribes after the great cataclysm formed into the nations that existed during Conan’s time.

So another issue with a reprint from Savage Sword. Once again a good story and this time the coloring wasn’t too bad. Yet I prefer original stories and the original appearances. The Hyborian age was an abridged retelling of Howard’s essay done by Walt Simonson in the Savage Sword series. This was good for a filler but the series in Savage Sword was better.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN ANNUAL #3

“At the Mountain of the Moon-God”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Pablo Marcos

Reprint for Savage Sword of Conan #3.

“Beast from the Abyss”
Writer: Steve Englehart adapted from story “Black Abyss” by Robert E. Howard & Lin Carter
Artists: Howard Chaykin & The Crusty Bunkers

Reprint for Savage Sword of Conan #2.

So the third annual was filled with reprints from the early Savage Swords. The stories were excellent but sadly in this format they left much to be desired. The coloring was not the best. Also being shrunk down to fit also degraded the artwork. Thankfully this was the last time they used reprints for an annual. After this the annuals were original works and excellent.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #86

“The Devourer of the Dead!”
Writer: Roy Thomas and Ed Summer
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan and Zula have arrived at Luxor the capital of Stygia. First Conan manages to climb the wall and help Zula over after taking out a guard. Than disguised as a Stygian and his slave Conan goes to the local tavern to get some intel. A funeral of an important Stygian presents an opportunity to get into the palace. So Zula takes out some obnoxious Set acolytes and appropriate their robes. Joining the procession they go to a half finished pyramid where the body along with the slaves are sent to the Devourer. One of the priests notices that Zula is a black and not Stygian so Conan and Zula fight their way out. They escape by jumping into a pool. Coming out farther along the river under the pyramid they catch a ride on the funeral barge with the coffin and recently slain slaves. They come to a huge chamber and find the Devourer which is a giant blob like creature with several mouths. They set fire to the barge and escape on the coffin. The fire causes the Devourer to flail around and cave in the chamber. Then it is discovered someone is still alive in the coffin. They find Belit there. She says she was put in by King Ctesphon II. Also that Neftha the slave girl is actually the king’s sister.

So Conan finally reaches Luxor. This was an enjoyable story. Luxor was portrayed in a two page spread and looks like a cool city. I love the humor with the Set acolytes who were making fun of Zula as a dumb barbarian and he answers them intelligently in their own language. He also gets the satisfaction of taking them out. The big ending has them take out a monster and surprising find Belit in the coffin. Another big surprise is finding Neftha wasn’t a common slave girl but Stygian royalty. Sets up anticipation for the next issue. Also nice to finally get toward the resolution of Conan and Belit’s quest.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #85

“Of Swordsmen and Sorcerers!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: John Buscema & Ernie Chan

Conan and Zula are heading toward Kheshatta on stolen giant hawks. They land to take a break and tell each others stories. Conan tells how he met Belit and why they are in Stygia. Zula tells how as a young boy his tribe the Zamballahs were attacked by Kushites on a slave raid. Zula is the prince of the tribe and the last surviving male. He was eventually sold to a Stygian sorcerer named Shu-Onoru. While his slave he taught himself to read the magical texts and watched his master while playing dumb. Shu-Onoru had too much contempt for blacks to think his slave could learn anything. Yet Zula when he reached manhood decided to try and summon a demon to free himself. It didn’t work and his master sold him to a slaver. That is how he ended up in Harakht. Now he wants to go back for revenge. Conan decides that his vow to Belit is more important and will leave for Luxor. The two fight but Conan manages to convince Zula to help him on his quest for Belit in exchange he will than go to Kheshatta and help Zula. The giant hawks die in the night and they must continue on foot. In Luxor Belit and Neftha turn back to humans and are under the palace in Luxor.

Roy decided to use this issue to give us two things. First was a recap of Conan and how he came to be with Belit. Not a bad idea since the story was sidetracked for several issues and helps to refresh established readers and those that just jumped on board. The second was to give us a backstory for Zula. It was an interesting story for an interesting character. Roy also wisely decided to forgo another side trip and instead get on with the main story. So we are off to Luxor and hopefully reunite Conan and Belit. Then the big final confrontation with King Ctesphon.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #84

“Two Against the Hawk-City!”
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artists: Ernie Chan and John Buscema

Conan has come back to Harakht after completing his mission and finds his mate Belit missing. He goes to the temple and confronts the king Mer-ath. Mer-ath tells him that while Conan was gone he had a dream. A dream of Harakht being destroyed because of the actions of Belit. So he tried to have her arrested but Belit managed to grab Mer-ath and threaten his life to gain her freedom. She also took Neftha along as a shield since Mer-ath was her lover. So now Mer-ath plans to use Conan as a hostage until Neftha is returned to him.

Conan tries to fight his way out and a net brings him down. A black slave than knocks him out. Conan is taken to a dungeon and chained to the wall. His only companion is the slave who brained him. The slave named Zula has a proposition. If he frees Conan than Conan will accompany him to Kheshatta so he can take care of unfinished business. Conan agrees and Zula produces a vial of acid that dissolves their chains. Then they fake a fight so the guards come. They ambush the guards and fight their way to the giant hawks. Zula knows how to control them so the two escape Harakht.

Meanwhile Belit and Neftha reach Luxor. Neftha knows a way in and takes them to a small temple of Set. Neftha chants a spell which turns the two women into snakes so they can slither into the palace.

I enjoyed the side trip that Conan took. We got some great reimaging of Howard stories but it is nice to get back to the main plot. We find out what has happened to Belit and Neftha. The slave girl they rescued is proving to be genuine in knowing stuff to help Belit gain entry to the palace in Luxor. Another big thing is the introduction of a new character to the Conan universe. Zula a black slave who is a warrior and aspires to be a wizard is a favorite of mine. A mysterious and powerful companion that will show up throughout the Marvel Conan. This was a really great story filled with action, suspense and the return of the great John Buscema.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #83

“The Dance of the Skull!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story “Black Canaan” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: Howard Chaykin & Ernie Chan

Conan meets up with Neth-at who was searching for Conan. He tells how the captive they had heard drums and knocked out his guard and escaped. Conan is also under the spell of the drums and continues toward them. Neth-at follows him. They see a figure go into the river. Then Neth-at sees Sabia and fires an arrow at her. The thing in the river than grabs him and drags him under to his death.

Conan comes to the source of the drums and Toroa is there performing a juju ceremony. The captive black is being transformed. Sabia comes and dances but dies from the arrow that Neth-at fired at her. This causes the blacks to panic and run away leaving Toroa alone. This also breaks the spell that was on Conan. He confronts Toroa and kills him. His creatures which are half man half crocodile attack and drag Conan into the river. He manages to decapitate one and escape. Then finding the captive slowly turning into a man-crocodile he sets the hut on fire and continues on to the hawk city of Harakht.

I enjoyed this Howard story. It was a very creepy one filled with a mysterious atmosphere. Conan was under some spell and struggle as he could was powerless to resist. Thankfully Neth-at managed to free him before dying. I also enjoyed the artwork of Chaykin and Chan. These two worked well together. These two Howard stories adapted to Conan were a good idea to fill in the time before Buscema could come back and continue the main quest.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #82

“The Sorceress of the Swamp!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story “Black Canaan” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: Howard Chaykin & Ernie Chan

Conan is riding from his adventure in Attalus back to the hawk city of Harakht. He rides through a swamp called Viper’s head and meets a brown skinned woman. She seems to have some bewitching spell on Conan as he follows her into the swamp to meet her brother. Conan manages to break the spell and fight three men that the women set on him. Conan kills two and the third runs away. So does the woman.

Later Conan meets up with a party lead by a Stygian. The leader Neth-at tells Conan about the current situation. A juju man name Toroa has come from Khesatta and stirred up the blacks against the Stygian colony. At the Stygian’s village one of Toroa’s followers has been captured. Conan manages to scare information out of the man using the fact that he is Amra. They find out Toroa is planning to destroy the Stygian colony and make himself king of the region. Some drums sound and Conan goes off to check it out. He visits the village and finds it deserted. He also senses the magical safeguards in place and leaves. He than runs into the woman who is named Sabia. She demonstrates that she now has control over Conan by using some of his spilled blood in the last ambush. She tells him that soon she will call him to the dance of Dhamballah. Conan vows never to be under her control again.

So another non-Conan Howard story is adapted by the team of Chaykin and Chan. I have to say that these two work well together. Also I love the story. I believe it was a story set in Louisiana what with the voodoo element. Thomas manages to weave this tale flawlessly into Conan’s world and we get once again another brilliant Howard story.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #81

“The Eye of the Serpent”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from story “The Lost Valley of Iskander” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: Howard Chaykin & Ernie Chan

Conan has just defeated Ptolemy and is now the lost city of Attalan’s king. It is greeted with news that Hun-ya-di ,the renegade priest from Harakht, has gathered the hillsmen to attack the city. So Conan goes with the army and meets Hun-ya-di in battle. A great battle ensues with Conan personally killing Hun-ya-di. He saves the city and decides to abdicate the throne and give it back to Ptolemy who is much more humble than before.

So ends the final entry in this adaptation of a Howard story. This was a good story and a nice bit of filler while waiting for Buscema to return and get back to the main quest. The big epic battle with Hun-ya-di was well done and gave the impression that Conan had to earn his victory. Ptolemy was a gracious man who was humbled and will probably be a better king for the experience. Conan gives the Eye of Set and will go on his way but not before having a little tumble with the beautiful blonde Bardylis. Conan may love his Belit but he is still Conan. I would like someday to read the original Howard story.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #80

“Trial By Combat!”
Writer: Roy Thomas adapted from “The Valley of Iskander” by Robert E. Howard
Artists: Howard Chaykin & Ernie Chan

Conan is in Attalus to deliver the Eye of Set to it’s king Ptolemy. First Conan takes up the offer of an evening dinner and rest at Bardylis’s fathers house. He hides the gem before going to sleep. This proves to be a good idea for a Stygian merchant hired some thugs and kidnapped Conan while he slept. The merchant Ablah is hired by Hun-ya-di to steal the Eye of Set. Conan manages to break free of his bonds and kill the thugs but Ablah escapes. Later Conan goes back to Bardylis and finds that they were drugged by wine from Ablah. Just then soldiers for the king command Conan to appear before Ptolemy. When he arrives he finds that Ablah has told lies that Conan tried to murder him. In the accusations Conan manages to insult Ptolemy who gets angry and attacks Conan. Conan manages to give him a good beating. A soldier than arrives with news that Stygians are attacking the valley. Since Conan defeated Ptolemy that makes him the king.

I am enjoying this Howard story of a lost valley of misplaced Greeks from Alexander the Great’s army. Roy manages to adapt it quite well into a Conan story. A cast of colorful characters and plenty of action. Conan manages to beat up a whole bunch of people including the arrogant king. Now Conan is the reluctant ruler of this city under attack. Looks like an exciting conclusion to this adaptation next issue.