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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #120

“Star of Thamazhu”

Writer: Larry Yakata

Artist: Pablo Marcos

Conan takes work in an iron mine in Koth. While there some of the guys think it is funny to steal a pendant from the hunchback and blame Conan. Ghamu the hunchback attacks Conan but Conan decides to beat up the pranksters. This gets him fired from the mine so he moves on to the city of Kadath. There he wins some money betting on a pit fight but gets attacked in his inn room by a follower of Manu-Kaleem. Oh and old Ghamu was also fired and decided to follow Conan. Conan decides to leave the inn and comes on a blonde woman being pursued by followers of Manu-Kaleem. He rescues her and finds out she is a dancing girl named Sheetaya. Sheetaya hires Conan to go after Manu-Kaleem for making her lover insane. Conan has to find her lover and subdue him. After a romp in the sack as downpayment they depart with Ghamu in tow for the castle.

Conan gets separated and has to fight an ogre creature with powers of creating hallucinations. Conan overcomes this and snaps the creature’s neck. He comes on the throne room where Manu-Kaleem has Sheetaya captive. Manu-Kaleem is a snake-man and we find out in the conversation that this is all about Sheetaya stealing the Star of Thamazhu. It was her that gave the potion to her lover so she could steal it. Manu-Kaleem promises to torture her with unbearable pleasure. Before he can Ghamu comes to the rescue. He is no match and is killed. Yet Conan manages to drive his sword through Manu-Kaleem’s throat. They retrieve the cure and later at night Conan finds out Sheetaya is a princess and her lover the ruler of the city. She promises to get Conan a job as captain of the guard. Later Conan rides off with the Star of Thamazhu that he found on her bound lover.

“Night of the Monkey!”

Writer: Charles Dixon

Artist: Geof Isherwood

It is the festival of the Monkey God in Valusia. Kull doesn’t care for the celebration and with his guards goes for a stroll. They come on a woman being bled to death by hooded figures. They pursue the figures into the sewers and find that he Monkey Cult is bringing to live the Monkey God. Kull kills the giant monkey and cuts it’s head off. At the celebration at the palace he tosses the severed head for the revelers to see.

This was an enjoyable story. Conan wanders about after taking a job which seems like he really must be down on his luck to resort to manual labor. He comes to a city and rescues a beautiful girl who gets him involved with an evil snake-man wizard. The woman isn’t who she claimed to be which is a very Howard type story. Also very Howard like is Conan really knowing what is going on and managing to come out on top. Poor Ghamu. He was a tragic figure. Started out as comic relief but ended up dying bravely. A figure who you have sympathy for being bullied and wanting to be just like his hero Conan. An enjoyable story with plenty of action and the beautiful art of Marcos. He really knows how to draw beautiful women.

As for the backup story I thought it was great. Dixon knows his stuff and gives us a quick but enjoyable story of Monkey cults and gods. A good solid backup for a solid issue.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #119

“Homecoming”

Writer: Don Kraar

Artist: Ernie Chan

Conan has decided to visit his home in northern Cimmeria. He rescues his sister Siobhan from a wild boar. The fight kills his horse and breaks his sword. He soon finds things aren’t good for his family. His father and mother and other siblings are dead. Killed in a blood feud with the Diarmaid clan. Now his clan that are left are nothing but slaves. When the leader Maglocun and his brothers ride out, Conan pretends to be a wanderer. Since the night is the Feast of Crom where it is forbidden to kill another Cimmerian he gets invited. At the feast the Diarmaids recognize that the mysterious stranger who calls himself Amra is actually Conan. They plan to hunt him down on the next morning.

So they give him a decrepit old horse and broken sword. When he gets far enough ahead they release the hounds. Conan manages to kill some with his bare hands and also take out some of his pursuers. He makes his way to his father’s secret forge and meets up with some cousins who brought the plowshare that was his father’s sword. A prophecy tells that only this sword can defeat Maglocun. Conan fires up the forge and remakes his father’s sword.

The next day his clan revolt and Conan faces Maglocun and his brothers with his new sword. Siobhan his sister gets stabbed by the witch Morag but she manages to drown her in a cesspool. Conan kills all the brothers and the cowardly Maglocun begs for a swift death which Conan obliges by cutting him in two with one stroke of the sword. His sister dies but not before washing her hands in the blood of her enemies as Conan vowed she would do.

“From Beyond the Grave!”

Writer: Charles Dixon

Artist: Geof Isherwood

It is after a battle on the Commorian border between Commoria and Valusia that a mysterious figure resurrects one of the dead. This revived zombie then goes to attack the camp where King Kull is at. The zombie kills his guards and is about to strike at Kull when Kull uses the mirrored shield to show the zombie his reflection. This terrifies the zombie and Kull is able to chop off it’s head.

“Portfolio”

Artists: Vincent Waller & Rey Garcia

Two full page portfolios of Conan in action.

This was an excellent story. The author has a great feel for Conan and what I would think his homeland would look like. It actually feels like something Roy Thomas would have written. This savage tale of revenge as Conan finds his clan enslaved to another is a pure joy to read. The other clan is portrayed as these ugly types through and through. Conan is his savage self as he chokes dogs, chops up people and swears to Crom for vengeance. Plus Ernie Chan’s artwork is beautiful. He is known for inking Buscema’s works but is indeed an artist in his own right. Probably one of the finest stories that I read in a long time.

As for the backup it is OK. A good solid story if a bit short. Yet Dixon is always up for a good story and this is competent if a bit brief.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #118

“The Valley of Howling Shadows!”

Writer: Larry Yakata

Artist: Gary Kwapisz

Conan has stolen a golden chalice from the Saahkiar horde. He manages to escape them after causing an avalanche. Arriving at a small village he sells the chalice and hooks up with Shameel. The next morning the horde arrives and Conan and Shameel are forced to escape. While fighting the horde an earthquake destroys most of the horde. It also leaves only the Valley of Howling Shadows open to continue on. This valley is supposed to have unlimited treasure but nobody ever returns. The surviving horde become complete wimps and beg Conan to take them along. They have further adventures with a strange monster that when killed reveals to have gems in it’s guts. They continue to travel through a surreal landscape of walking skeletons, people hanging from wheels and various skulls mounted on polls. Not to mention a flying griffin that gives them a cryptic warning. They arrive at a village that seems normal but Conan has to fight some kook. When he cuts the guy’s head off he just picks it up and continues on. They finally arrive at a crypt and Conan has to kill the survivors after they go nuts trying to loot the crypt. Shameel finds her lost love who disappeared and decides to stay. Conan has enough of this weird place and leaves to find his fortune in more normal places.

“Alchemy”

Writer: Don Kraar

Artist: Tony Salmons

An alchemist is awaiting the return of his son with a crucial ingredient to his formula to make gold. Only instead Conan comes. Seems his son was supposed to kill him after he retrieved the ingredient. Conan fed the son to the dogs. He then decides to feed the alchemist to the dogs. The alchemist screams that he has discovered the secret and as Conan leaves we see that gold is formed.

So this issue was a very weird one. Yakata gave us a very surreal story of Conan traveling through this mystical landscape. There was a mysterious figure of a hooded skeleton that was in the background. Also strange was the complete collapse of the hordesmen after the earthquake. There was also plenty of drinking this hallucinogenic drink called Juk that was native to the region. A very strange story indeed. Yet I enjoyed it. The story was interesting and also the art of Kwapisz is always something to admire. His women are some of the most beautiful and Shameel was no exception.

The backup was not real great. A poorly done story backed up with horrible artwork. It’s only redeeming feature was that it was very short.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #117

“The Winds of Aka-Gaar”

Writer: Larry Yakata

Artist: Gary Kwapisz

Conan has been hired by the queen of Khemdi to lead an expedition to the oasis of Aka-Gaar. He recruits some condemned criminals to accompany him. The queen has been convinced by a prophet that the oasis holds waters that can restore youth. On the trip they come to an oasis and are confronted by a two-headed gorrilla. Conan chops it’s heads and arms off and finds that it is a guy in a suit. A cripple that was trying to extort money for use of the oasis. He accompanies Conan on his quest. They are attacked by serpents in a dead forest and when Conan slices one open he is blinded by the venom. The criminals abandon him and only the cripple helps.

The criminals go back to Khemdi and tell the city’s warlord about Conan. He goes to the Brotherhood of the Falcon with this news. They agree to help him and set off after Conan with 100 men. Conan meanwhile has to use his senses to survive. He battles a giant scorpion and manages to drive the scorpion’s tail into itself and kills it. Later with the cripple’s help they construct traps that kill most of the Falcon Brotherhood. The survivors race ahead to the oasis and drink from it. Only the water makes them blind and thus makes the fight with Conan equal.

“The Opponents”

Writer: Don Kraar

Artists: Rod Whigham & Roy Richardson.

In a tavern in Khemi Conan is in an arm wrestling match with a Kushite. Next to each others arms are poisonous vipers that will kill the loser. At this time a naval press gang comes to the tavern to draft men for the navy. A fight ensues with the men in the tavern. Conan and the Kushite continue their contest while using their free hands to defeat the press gang.

This was an interesting issue. I love these long quest type stories. Granted it was a bit over the top with Conan being blind but defeating all these opponents. Kwaspisz’s art looked beautiful and the story moved along at a quick pace. The backup story was also good. I loved how Conan and his opponent just ignore the fighting going on around them. His opponent also looked like a badass and would have made a worthy companion. We have to assume Conan won the match as he went on to be king in his old age.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #116

“Lords of the Falcon”

Writer: Larry Yakata

Artist: Ernie Chan

In the province of Tranicos the baron Gwal is very old and senile. The Brotherhood of the Falcon has heard that he has hired Conan to help him run the province. They come up with a plan to get revenge. First they start a campaign of terror by killing peasants and burning farms. While Conan goes to investigate the three leaders visit Gwal as three kings from their own kingdoms. They tell how Conan did all these horrible things to their kingdoms. They each tell the Gwal something about their personal fears to gain his trust. The old man believes them and agrees to help. So when Conan comes back he is lured to an old tomb in the countryside. There he is locked in to starve to death. Yet Conan manages to dig himself out. He confronts the Gwal and learns of the Falconhood’s plan. Before the Gwal dies of old age he tells of these guys fears. So Conan tracks them down and gives them a taste of their fears. One is tied to a rock to drown when the tide comes in because he is afraid of drowning. The other is locked in the tomb because he fears enclosed spaces. The final guy is hung from a cliff because he fears height.

“The Boon”

Writer: Don Kraar

Artists: Sal Buscema and Roy Richardson

Conan is serving the king of Argos and they have just put down a rebellion. Now the captured rebels are being beheaded. Conan comes and finds his old friend to be executed soon. So he goes to the king to ask a favor. The king won’t spare him but does give his friend a last wish. That wish is for Conan to be his executioner.

This issue sees Yakata bringing back the old Fleisher villains of the Brotherhood of the Falcon. That super secret assassin organization that for some reason is made fools of by Conan. This story is no exception. A strange one with this old senile baron who is on death’s door hiring Conan to help him out. There is some weird stuff like the whole thing with the guys fears and Conan digging like a mole through the ground. Still it was an interesting story and Ernie Chan’s art was just beautiful. That alone was worth the read.

For the backup that was a short but very grim story. Has this executioner who is so tired he starts to mess up the ax swings. So I guess that Conan’s friend would rather have his execution done right. Which Conan does.

So on the whole a strange issue story wise but interesting none the less.