SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
In the aftermath of the battle last issue, King Conan takes time to heal his wounds. The court wizard, Alcimedes, tells the sorrowful tale of the first King of Aquilonia, Andromedus, and how he disappeared without a trace into the Southern Mountains while on a quest to destroy a devilish creature called Xondor Kan.
Alcimedes tells King Conan about his own strange experience in those very Southern Mountains, when he encountered a strange magical force. Queen Zenobia declares that THEY should be the ones to discover the final fate of Andromedus, and that the strange force must be connected.
Conan agrees that he should be the one to bring glory by discovering the fate of Andromedus, but doesn't agree with Zenobia coming along on the quest. She proves her worth by holding her own against Conan in a staff fight. And so, the next day Conan, Zenobia, Alcimedes, and a few soldiers set forth to the south!
Days later, as King Conan and company camp in the sight of an oddly-shaped mountain Alcimedes declares is the source of the strange magical energy, they are attacked in the night by ghostly beings! After Conan fights them off, they are immediately attacked again by a gigantic lizard-beast!
As the soldiers are slaughtered by the creature, Conan, Zenobia, and Alcimedes flee for their lives and become trapped in a crevice at the base of the mountain, with the only way to escape the raging beast being to follow the crevice into the mountain itself!
After working their way deep into the mountain, the tunnel opens into a vast cave. The mountain is hollow! A spiral path leads to the top to the mountain, lined with enclosures holding pale human-like creatures. As Conan and company take in the strange sight, they are surrounded by the pale creatures.
A demonic beast appears and speaks! It proclaims that it is Xandor Kan, and that they are his prisoners. Conan disagrees and prepares to fight, but Xandor Kan gloats that his minions will surely kill Zenobia and Alcimedes no matter HOW hard Conan fights. Conan reluctantly surrenders.
As the prisoners are led to a cell near the top of the cavern, they witness three of the pale denizens being sacrificed to a disgusting, bloated creature that Xandor Kan calls "The Undead One". He gleefully informs them that this will be THEIR fate soon, and that Conan will be the last King of Aqulonia. . .his sacrifice will strengthen Xandor Kan enough for him to finally conquer the world of man!
As Xando Kan prepares the sacrifice ritual, Conan manages to escape. He is shocked to discover that "The Undead One" is actually what is left of ancient King Andromedus! Andromedus begs Conan to destroy him by hurling him from the ledge into the bottom of the pit below.
Conan heeds the ancient King's wishes and throws him down to his death. By doing so, a chain of magical events is set into motion and the hollow mountain begins to fill with lava. . .it's a volcano and it's getting ready to erupt!
Conan quickly frees Zenobia and Alcimedes. The three of them flee through the chaos of the erupting volcano and manage to make it outside, but Xandor Kan attacks in a rage, furious at Conan for thwarting his plans of conquest by destroying Andromedus!
A battle ensues amidst streams of flowing lava! Conan finally manages to destroy Xandor Kan by using the silver battle axe of Andromedus. In the end, the three manage to escape the lava flows and begin their return to the capital city. . .the final fate of Andromedus now known and a demonic threat destroyed.
Not bad! For the sake of length, the sketch of the story above doesn't really reflect the pretty large amount of character building Moench does in this issue with Queen Zenobia. I like that he's trying to make her into an actual supporting character with a personality of her own instead of just being window dressing. Alcimedes also gets a good dose of characterization in this one as well.
It looks like Doug Moench is trying to expand King Conan's supporting cast a bit more here, and I like it! There being a regular supporting cast at all is part of what sets King Conan stories apart from Conan the Barbarian stories in the first place. I like that Moench is starting to lean a little harder into that aspect.
On the art side, Marc Silvestri's pencils are even better in this issue than in his King Conan debut last issue! There are some really great art moments to be found throughout the story. Like I said before, it's not the Silvestri style I knew from his Image days, but this early style is certainly impressive, bringing life and motion to the story in a big way!
So far, I'm REALLY liking the Moench/Silvestri creative team!
Let's get into the last issue of this bunch of King Conan comics and see what else they've got in store. . .
COVER: Val Mayerik
THE LOOTERS OF R'SHANN
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte & Jon D'Agostino
When King Conan decides to spend a night on the town in disguise, he makes the acquaintance of a brash young rogue named Thandar. Later, Conan accidentally stumbles onto a scheme involving Thandar, his lover Brissa, and a nobleman named Pontrero.
Conan witnesses Brissa setting up Pontrero for a theft of his home by Thandar while distracted by his beautiful lover. Conan decides that he'll have a bit of fun and follows Thandar to the nobleman's home.
After interrupting Thandar's heist, Conan and the young rogue battle in Pontrero's home. During the fight, Conan's disguise slips and Thandar is shocked to see that his rival thief is the King of Aquilonia!
The fighting stopped, Thandar informs Conan that he is a great hero among the Rogues of the world. . .that Conan's name is whispered in legend and tales told in the night, and that Thandar himself holds Conan as the greatest example of the roguish arts that he can follow!
Conan is greatly amused at his legendary status and takes a liking to Thandar. He helps the young rogue fight off Pontrero's guards and they escape pursuit together through the streets of the capital city.
After escaping the city, Thandar shows Conan the treasure. . .incense meant to open the sealed door of the nearby hidden temple of R'Shann belonging to a shadowy cult known as the "Hidden Ones", an ancient organization that likes to infiltrate other religions to achieve their evil ends. It's a cult Conan knows well.
Conan is ready to head back to the palace and end the night's adventure, but Thandar taunts the King for being old and soft and not knowing a good bit of dangerous thievery when he was offered one. Conan decides to prove the young whelp wrong and agrees to come along, if just for a bit of fun.
After arriving at the temple of R'Shann the next day, Thandar burns the incense to open its sealed door, but the two rogues quickly learn that Thandar was informed wrong about something when, instead of opening the temple, the incense summons ghostly spirits that possess a giant tree that comes to life and attacks the would-be thieves!
After a desperate battle, Conan and Thandar manage to defeat the spirit-possessed tree, only to be taken by surprise by a large group of armed men led by none other than the nobleman Pontrero and Thandar's lover, Brissa!
As Conan and Thandar are taken prisoner, Prontrero and Brissa taunt Thandar about how easily he was misled and used to clear the path to the temple so that the treasure could be taken by them instead.
The nobleman's party enters the now-unlocked temple, leaving Conan and Thandar tied as captives outside. But it isn't long before screams begin to echo out of the temple's door. Conan bullies their terrified guard into freeing them, and the pair of rogues rush into the temple to see what's afoot.
Inside, they find Brissa. . .broken and beaten to death. Conan and Thandar follow the sounds of fighting and come to the main chamber of the temple, where Pontrero and his few remaining men are desperately fighting a battle against gigantic ape-like creatures!
Conan and Thandar leap into the fray and manage to defeat the temple's guardians, but are unable to save Pontrero. Thandar takes the treasure chest and discovers that it is just more incense meant to summon the temple guardians. . .priceless magic for the Hidden Ones, but worthless to anyone else!
Conan has a good laugh at Thandar's expense as he tells him that the quest for treasure is usually better than the treasure itself and that he had a good time recapturing a bit of his youth, but it's time for him to go back to being a King. Thandar tells Conan that he's headed for Stygia to see what adventures await, and the two part.
The first may have been the worst, but the best was the last issue of this bunch! The Moench/ Silvestri team knocked this one right out of the park with a tale absolutely PACKED with action, adventure, and humor.
Moench outdoes himself as he tells a tale of Conan trying to recapture a bit of his youth and realizing that new legends are going to have to be written without him. The dialogue between Conan and Thandar is simply fantastic as the two taunt each other during their adventure about being too old and being too young. It's a great back and forth through the whole issue that is really enjoyable to read!
It's taken 15 issues for Conan's age in this series to REALLY be in the spotlight. It's been a definite oversight up to this point. Judging from the letters column, I'm not the only one that noticed. Moench dives right into it with humor and a bit of introspection. . .such a great way to bring a practically ignored aspect of King Conan into the spotlight!
Marc Silvestri's art seems to get better with each issue as he becomes comfortable with King Conan. He perfectly handles this offbeat story, breathing life and motion into the characters and their surroundings that just makes me want MORE!
Overall, a fantastic job all around! This issue was a really enjoyable read, with art that seems to move across the page. The Moench/ Silvestri team is getting better with each issue they do together and I can't wait to see what they have in store next!
I never thought I would see the day when I would say that I enjoyed another Conan comic team as much as Roy Thomas & John Buscema. . .but that day has come! Doug Moench & Marc Silvestri have managed to give me a Conan that I didn't even know I wanted.
Thomas and Buscema will ALWAYS be the definitive Conan team in my book (apologies to Barry Windsor-Smith fans), but Moench and Silvestri have done a fantastic job of it. . .every bit as good as anything Thomas and Buscema did with the character. And to think that I never even knew that Doug Moench wrote any Conan comics! I always knew him as more of a Batman and Moon Knight writer.
I guess it just goes to show that you never know what you'll find down in the bargain bins. . .which is where I got every issue of this series except #1. Who knew I'd find a new favorite Conan team in comics barely "worth" cover price?
Yeah. . .issue #11 was a bit of a clunker, but in MY humble opinion King Conan so far is a series that absolutely DRIPS with quality storytelling and art. These issues are giant hunks of sword and sorcery comic book fun and I'm still having a bit of trouble understanding why this series is practically ignored.
If you are a Conan fan and haven't read these, you're missing out. Simple as that.
Up Next. . .
MORE King Conan!
It's the final batch of four issues in this series review, #16-19.
Be there or be square!