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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the reviews are free!
 
As I continue into the second part of my King Conan series review, I feel I should acknowledge the several readers who sent me gently chiding messages regarding the massive heft of the first part.  And I understand. . .my little counter in the corner tells me it clocked in at very close to 4000 words!
 
I was trying to keep it slim, but the fact is, these double-sized issues PACKED with story make it a bit difficult.  What I wrote was only a bare-bones sketch of what's there!  The length of the reviews should serve to illustrate just how much there is to be found in those issues.  
 
I mean. . .SURELY it's not that I just get long-winded sometimes and I no longer have an editor to rein me in.  Nope.  Not that at all!
 
Seriously, though.  Thanks for the feedback.
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Here we are at Part 2.  Issues 6-10.  
 
I'm going to TRY to keep things trimmed down a bit. Probably not by much, but I'll try.  
So enough introduction and let's get to it!
 

KING CONAN

Marvel (1980)

PART TWO: Issues 6-10

 
ISSUE SIX 
(June 1981)
 
 
COVER: Walter Simonson
 
VENGEANCE FROM THE DESERT!
 
SCRIPT:  Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
Trocero continues to tell a tale of Conan's early days as King to his son, Conn.
 
As King Conan travels through the desert on his way to Khitai to rescue his kidnapped Queen Zenobia, he saves a Zuagir nomad from his Turanian captors.  He learns that an old friend of his, now a Zuagir chieftan, has been captured by the Turanians and is being held in a nearby city.  
 
Conan (formerly a Zuagir chieftan himself) gathers the tribes and makes plans to sack the city, entering it disguised as a merchant caravan.  
 
 
After successfully infiltrating the city and gaining knowledge of the layout ahead of his Zuagir horde, Conan signals the attack!  As the Zuagirs pillage the city, Conan fights his way to the Governor's palace.  
 
There, he is astounded to find the girl who led him into ambush in the city of Khanyria (in issue #5), but now dressed as a noblewoman.  After killing the Governor, and while the city's defenses collapse under the Zuagir attack, Conan demands answers from the woman, called Thanara.
 
While they speak, Thanara poisons Conan, putting him into a deep sleep.  With the aid of a Turanian Captain, Zanara manages to get Conan past the rampaging Zuagirs and out of the city to the Turanian capital of Aghrapur. . .where Conan wakes up several days later in the dungeon of King Yezdigerd!
 
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
The second batch of issues in this series review gets off to a fine start, with Conan temporarily setting aside his journey to Khitai and returning to his days as the leader of a ravaging horde of desert nomads.  There's plenty of action and intrigue here from writer Roy Thomas, who continues to provide rock solid Conan adventure.  
 
BUT. . .
 
There IS a problem with the art in this issue.  Especially when compared to the outright brilliance of the previous one. John Buscema's line work is fine, but there's something wrong with the printing in general.  The colors are garish (it's the same colorist that's been on since the beginning, so no team change), the overall tone is way too bright, and the text is simply unreadable in places, it's so blurry.  
 
The whole comic just seems too bright and a little off-putting.  Just look at the scans above to see what I'm talking about, especially the first one, where Conan's face is bright red for some reason.  I'm not sure what went wrong, but it goes on for a couple more issues before it's corrected.  It makes this and the next couple of issues a bit harder to visually enjoy. . .a shame, because the story itself is pretty epic.
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE SEVEN
 (September 1981)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
A CLASH OF KINGS!

 
SCRIPT:  Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
Continuing Count Trocero's telling a tale of Conan's early days as King to Prince Conn as they return to Aquilonia after defeating Thoth-Amon. . .
 
Conan finds himself in the dungeons of his old foe, Yezdigerd, King of Turan, after being poisoned by Thanara in the last issue.  He is brought before the old King for the first time in 30 years, and sees Thanara at his side.  
 
After being sentenced to be tortured, Conan breaks free and attacks the King, but is quickly overwhelmed by the King's guards until an unexpected ally joins the fight. . .Rolf of Aesgard, an old companion of Conan who happens to be in Turan at the time.  The pair fight their way from the throne room, but their only escape from the castle is to dive into the sea!
 
 
Conan and Rolf steal a boat and set out on the inland Vilayet sea, where they encounter a pirate ship of the Red Brotherhood, which Conan once led when younger.  Conan takes command of the pirates after winning a duel with their Captain.  
 
Knowing that Yezdigerd is still pursuing him, Conan decides to set a trap.  He lures Yezdigerd's ship onto hidden rocks, and then attacks, killing the King during the battle! The same creature that kidnapped Zenobia flies in to rescue Thanara.  Conan leaves the pirates in the command of Rolf and continues his journey east. . .
 
 
Weeks later, we find Conan in the eastern country of Vendhya, on the border of Khitai.  A mysterious messenger leads Conan into the royal palace, where he is reuinited with an old flame from his days as the chieftan of a nearby tribe of hill people. . .Devi Yasmina, now a Princess upon a troubled throne.  
 
Later that night, Conan and Yasmina are attacked by her cousin and a band of assassins.  He is intent on stealing her throne.  Conan kills Yasmina's cousin and she offers him her kingdom and her hand in marriage.  Conan refuses and sets out once again for Khitai.
 

To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Roy Thomas packs so much great Conan adventure into this issue that it really feels like there's TWO stories here. . .Conan's escape from Turan and his adventure with the pirates to end Yezdigerd's pursuit AND Conan reuiniting with an old flame and helping protect her rule from her cousin's plots in Venhya!  
 
I really wasn't counting on so much story being in these issues when I decided to review the run.  It's making it hard to keep things trimmed down.   I'll say one thing. . .these comics were a little expensive by 80s standards, but Roy Thomas made SURE they were worth every extra penny.
 
On the art side of things.  Once again, John Buscema's line work is just as great as it ever was, but the strange look of the previous issue continues just as badly into this one.  The whole thing just looks washed-out and too bright, with garish colors in some places, really weak color in others, and blurry text on a few pages that can hardly be read.  
 
Overall, this is a great Conan story.  Too bad it's a little hard on the eyes.
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE EIGHT
 (December 1981)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
A QUEEN RECLAIMED!
 
 
SCRIPT:  Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema & Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
Count Trocero finally finishes telling young Prince Conn a tale of Conan's early days as King of Aquilonia. . .AND we arrive at the epic conclusion of this four-issue story arc!
 
As Conan crosses the treacherous Himelian Mountains on the final leg of his journey to Khitai, he is ambushed by a savage snow beast.  Conan barely manages to survive the battle, thanks to the power of the Ring of Rakhamon (Given to him in issue #5).
 
On the other side of the mountains, Conan is finally in Khitai.  After crossing the great defensive wall, he travels through the bamboo jungles near Paikang.  He encounters a beautiful woman being staked out for sacrifice.  After killing the soldiers guarding her, Conan is attacked by a gigantic lizard beast!
 
Using his wits and barbarian cunning, Conan manages to destroy the monster, and then travels with the woman to her village.
 
 
In the village, Conan learns that he matches the description of a prophecy that has been made about the downfall of Khitai's despotic leader. . .the sorcerer Yah Chieng!  Convinced Conan is the foreign Avenger spoken of in prophecy, the surrounding villages gather their few fighting men to join Conan.
 
The plan is to secretly infiltrate the fortress of Paikang during a large festival when the gates are opened to the public.  As Conan's allies spread through the crowd, Conan makes his way to the palace dungeons, where he has learned a band of western mercenaries are being held.  He is surprised to find an old friend, Lyco of Khorshemish, among them.  He puts Lyco in charge of the freed mercenaries and tells them to await the signal to attack.  
 
Conan then delves deeper into the palace dungeons, where he defeats several traps using the magic powers of the Ring of Rakhamon.  Finally, he discovers the chamber where his Queen Zenobia is being held and prepared for a dark ritual sacrifice by none other than Yah Chieng!
 
 
Conan leaps to battle his foe, but even with the Ring of Rakhamon, he is no match for Yah Chieng's dark sorcery and King Conan is defeated!  BUT. . .Conan finds himself standing before the throne of Crom himself!  The of the Cimmerians returns Conan to life and imbues him with the mighty power needed to defeat Yah Chieng and free Zenobia.
 
 
And so ends Trocero's tale told to Prince Conn.  Conan has been listening the whole time, satisfied that his son has heard the truth.  Conn swears to live up to Conan's mighty heritage and all's well that ends well.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Once again, Roy Thomas provides an issue absolutely PACKED with story.  The description above is about as bare-bones as it can get!  This story has it all. . .action, adventure, sorcery, even Crom himself!  It's a truly epic end to this sprawling tale of Conan's journey to the far off land of Khitai, and these four issues are probably worth reading this series for alone!
 
BUT. . .
 
Unfortunately, the problems with the art. . .no, not the ART.  John Buscema's pencils are every bit as epic as the story they illustrate.  The problem is with the printing, for some reason.  Like the previous two issues, there are places with garish colors, places with almost no color, and very blurry text here and there.  The whole issue looks too bright and washed out.  
 
It's not QUITE as bad as the other two issues with this problem.  It looks like maybe they noticed and were trying to correct, so it's a noticeable improvement but it's still bad enough to be the only real disappointment I have with this story.
 
Overall, a great conclusion to Conan's epic four-issue quest.  It's too bad the printing issues in three of the four take the whole thing down a notch or two.  The GOOD news is that the printing problems seem to have been taken care of in the next issue, so let's check it out!
 
ISSUE NINE
(March 1982)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
BONES OF THE BROWN MAN

 
SCRIPT:  Doug Moench
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
King Conan brings his son, Prince Conn, along with him on a trip to the borderlands of Aquilonia and across the River Styx to parley with a Pictish Chieftan called Dekanawatha Blood-Ax.  Conan intends for his son to observe diplomacy in action.
 
Conan and company find Blood-Ax to be an agreeable negotiator and an agreement is made regarding Pictish hunting parties crossing the Aquilonian border.  They spend the night with the Picts, planning to observe the manhood ritual of Blood-Ax's son, Akenak, the next day before leaving.
 
The next day, Blood-Ax's Shaman, Goronda Zek, informs those gathered that Akenak's trial of manhood involves finding and bringing back three prizes: The wings of an eagle, the horns of a sacred white stag, and two bones of an ancestor.  Prince Conn is determined to prove to Conan that he is also a man, and he insists on taking the trial of manhood in competition with Akenak.  Conan and Blood-Ax agree.
 
 
The two youths rush into the wilderness in search of the first prize, the wings of an eagle.  Prince Conn finds an eagle first, but  Akenak manages to claim victory.  As the two competitors begin to track the sacred white stag, we learn that there is a plot afoot to steal leadership of the Picts from Blood-Ax, with the shaman Goronda Zek as the leader.  
 
The trial of manhood is but a ruse, and the three prizes are actually powerful totems for Zek to work his dark magic with!  In the meantime, Prince Conn has successfully tracked and killed the sacred white stag and claimed the second prize.  With the contest tied, they both rush for the river grotto where the bones of the Picts are laid to rest in order to claim the final prize.
 
 
At the grotto, Akenak claims the third prize, but only with Prince Conn's help.  The two youths are taken prisoner by Goronda Zek and his conspirators.  Zek uses the three prizes to work an evil spell, bringing a long-dead river spirit to life in order to kill Conan and Blood-Ax!
 
Conn manages to leave a message for his father with Akenak providing a distraction.  Upon discovering the message, Conan and Blood-Ax set forth to rescue their sons. . .but find themselves falling into a trap!  
 
The two warriors find themselves in battle against a gigantic creature calling itself The Brown Man.  Conan and Blood-Ax discover their weapons do little against the magical giant, but they manage to use their wits and bring the battle to a draw.  Conan negotiates with Brown Man and convinces him to attack the camp of Goronda Zek and his warriors instead.  Brown Man agrees.
 
 
After the Brown Man deals with Zek's warriors, Conan and Blood-Ax confront and kill the traitor Shaman and rescue their sons as the Brown Man returns to the river, greatly wounded from the battle.  At the end of it all, Conan and Blood-Ax ask their sons who won the contest, but they both agree that the other one did, and so both are granted manhood.  All's well that ends well.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
With this issue, comic legend Doug Moench takes over as regular writer of this series until issue #16.  All in all, he does a great job stepping into Roy Thomas' big Conan shoes with this standalone tale.  When I think of Conan I DO think of Thomas, but Moench brings a little something different to the table. . .a more introspective story about what it means to be a man.  
 
Yeah, there's a giant monster too, but Brown Man is only in the last 8 pages.  I liked that most of this story focused on Prince Conn trying to prove something to his father and realizing that it doesn't even matter in the end.  It's just a really good one-shot Conan story with some interesting thoughts weaved into the plot.  It's actually one of the best issues of this series so far!
 
On the art side, as you can see from the page scans above, whatever was going on with the printing has been corrected and the definitive Buscema/Chan Conan art team is really shining again!  It's just page after page of magnificient Bronze Age art that invites the eye to linger.  
 
So, Doug Moench steps up to the task of writing Conan after the great Roy Thomas and does quite well.  The art is also back to being great.  I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes from here!
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE TEN
(May 1982)
 
 
COVER: Ernie Chan
 
THE FANG OF SET
 
SCRIPT:  Doug Moench
PENCILS: Ernie Chan
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
With Queen Zenobia away from the capital city representing Aquilonia at a royal wedding, and Prince Conn away for a month training with the elite Aquilonian Iron Legion, Conan chafes at the boring day to day life of a King and jumps at the chance to leave the palace when an old man petitions the King for help.  His daughter has been abducted by followers of the Serpent , Set.  They plan on sacrificing her at the mysterious "Plateau of Mist" on the border of the Kingdom. 
 
Of course, Conan is unaware he is riding into a trap laid for him by conspirators against his throne.
 
 
Upon arrival at the hidden plateau, Conan and company climb to the top, where they are amazed to discover a sort of lost world on top. . .a misty jungle, heated by volcanic vents.  It's populated by giant living dinosaurs, survivors from a long past age.  
 
After Conan and his men fight their way through the jungle, they finally come upon the altar of Set, with the old man's daughter, Darweena, chained for living sacrifice to a gigantic dinosaur called The Father of Set!
 
Conan leaps to the attack! After losing his sword, he finally manages to defeat the huge creature using one of its own teeth as a spear.  The girl is rescued and what's left of Conan's party returns to the capital city. Conan's adventure is over with. . .or so he thinks!
 
 
Upon their return to the capital city of Tarantina, King Conan finds that there has been a rebel uprising in his absence.  It has been put down, but Conan is disturbed by how things seem to always fall apart when Queen Zenobia is away.  In the meantime, the conspiracy to draw King Conan away from the city and kill him has failed, but the conspirators remain, and they shift their plans in another direction.
 
The old man whose daughter Conan rescued has carved a fine statue and necklace for King Conan out of the tooth that he used to slay the Father of Set.  That night, a foul sorcery is worked on Conan's palace. . .the old man is actually the sorcerer Mimus, a follower of Set! 
 
As a deadly mist engulfs Conan's guards, the King is warned of the attack by Darweena, the sorcerer's daughter, who has decided to aid Conan after he saved her life.  Conan confronts the sorcerer, but he uses the carved tooth to raise the Father of Set from the dead in Conan's own throne room!
 
 
With Darweena's help, Conan manages to turn the giant beast against Mimus, and then kill the creature by collapsing the pillars of the throne room onto it. . .ending the spell and dissolving the deadly mist.  
 
The next day Queen Zenobia returns and is hardly surprised to find the city and palace in chaos and disarray after leaving her husband in charge of things alone for a few days.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Doug Moench settles into writing King Conan with another great little one shot story packed full of action, sorcery, and adventure.  It's not as introspective as the one in issue #9, but it definitely has some interesting character moments from Conan realizing that he may be King, but Zenobia is the one who REALLY holds the Kingdom together.  I love Roy Thomas writing Conan, but Doug Moench is doing a fine job of it so far.
 
Ernie Chan does both pencils AND inks in this issue and it looks great!  It's definitely a different style than what's come before. . .it's a much darker and bolder look than Chan's inks over Buscema's finer pencils, and it really packs a savage punch! To ME John Buscema IS Conan art. . .but you know what?  I didn't miss his pencils a single bit reading this issue.  Ernie Chan does a fantastic job from cover to cover!
 
Overall, this was a really enjoyable issue.  I like that the series has moved away from continued storylines and into one shot King Conan tales.  Not that I didn't like the extended stories.  I just like to be able to read a whole story in one big issue, and the double size of King Conan issues is a perfect platform for exactly for that.
 

CONCLUSION

 
So there you have it.  Issues 6-10 of King Conan.  In this batch, the series moves away from extended storylines in favor of one shot stories. . .and in MY book, that's a good thing.  The oversized double issues are perfect for big, chunky standalone tales. 
 
 Each one of these issues is packed SO full of story that it makes me wonder if maybe I might have done the series a bit of a disservice in reviewing them in batches when each individual issue deserves a full review!  But here we are, and so we go on!  Just know once again that there's quite a bit being left out in the bare bones reviews of these issues.  
 
These comics cost about twice as much as most comics on the stands in the early 80s and brother, they are worth every extra penny!  I'm still trying to figure out WHY not much has been said about this series, and why there's so little information on it.  I'm wondering if maybe that higher price point might have had something to do with it, because it's certainly not the quality of the stories or art, which are both top-notch late Bronze Age work.
 
Overall, despite some sort of strange printing problems on issues 6-8, every single one of these issues are a great read for any Conan comic fan.  They are huge stories packed with great art. . .the sort of comic books that you want to take a little extra time to enjoy.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next batch has in store!
 
Up Next. . .
 
King Conan Part Three!  Issues 11-15.
The art team begins to swing in the wind a bit with the next batch, with several artists coming and going.  Can King Conan continue to stay on the rails and keep up the excellence I've seen so far?
 
Let's find out! 
 
Be there or be square!

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