feature requests

atom's Comic Book Blogs

  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

February 2024

SuMoTuWeThFrSa
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
2526272829 

Archives

Tags

Welcome to Longbox Junk. . .where I write comic reviews that nobody asked me to!

 
Here we are, folks!  The last four issues of my series review of Marvel's King Conan!  
 
These reviews have been taking me a LOT long than I thought they would.  Maybe next time I decide to do a series review, I'll NOT pick a title where every issue is a massive double-sized no ads hunk of comic book.  That and it's been quite a bit busier than usual at work, but enough with the excuses!
 
The good news is that, so far, King Conan has been a GREAT series!  Yeah. . .there's been a few bumps here and there, but overall I've been having a really fun time reading and reviewing these issues.  
 
I've even come to realize that there IS a Conan creative team standing right up there with the legendary Roy Thomas/ John Buscema combo. . .Doug Moench and Marc Silvestri!  Unfortunately, we only get a short time with Moench writing and that time was over in the last batch of King Conan (BOO!)
 
In this final batch of four issues, the regular writer switches over to Alan Zelenetz and we also get a couple of fill-in artists for Marc Silvestri.  What does that mean for King Conan?  Let's find out!

KING CONAN

Marvel (1980)

PART 4: ISSUES 16-19

 
ISSUE SIXTEEN (May 1983)
 

COVER: Marc Silvestri
 
BLOOD OF AQUILONIA
 
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
 
THE STORY:
 
After King Conan's son, Prince Conn, publicly challenges his father over the actions of some Aquilonian soldiers, Conan instructs one of his right hand men, Count Trocero, to show Conn the reality of ruling a Kingdom.
 
Travelling first to Stygia, Conn finds a land ruled by religion.  All things belong to the Cult of Set, even the lives of the common folk.  Conn demands that they try to save someone randomly taken to be sacrificed, and so he and Trocero end up infiltrating a Temple of Set.  After defeating the undead Temple guardian and the priests, the man they were trying to save kills himself. . .preferring to die rather than to disappoint his .
 
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
In the Aquilonian capital of Tarantia, King Conan discovers that the citizens of the Northern Aquilonian city of Tahrem are openly revolting against his rule.  He gathers a host of Aquilonia's best troops and sets forth to crush the rebellion before it spreads.
 
BACK WITH PRICE CONN. . .
 
Trocero and Conn manage to escape from Stygia and travel to the nation of Zingara. . .where the ruler cares for nothing but parties and debauchery.  Conn wanders the lawless streets of the capital city alone and is horrified by the barbaric gladiator fights he witnesses.  He quickly falls prey to the charms of a prostitute, who drugs and robs the young Prince before Trocero arrives to keep him from further harm.
 
 
MEANWHILE. . .
 
King Conan and the Aquilonian host arrive at Tahrem and prepare to assault the city gates.  The city's defenders mock Conan's demand they surrender and then refuse to send their women and children to safety during the coming battle.
 
ELSEWHERE. . .
 
Prince Conn and Trocero arrive in the capital city of the nation of Zamora.  They find the streets of the city deserted after dark, due to the iron grip of Malakon, a paranoid tyrant who has imposed a curfew, fearing to allow the citizens to gather lest they conspire against his rule.
 
The two are attacked and taken prisoner by a patrol, and are taken before Malakon, who accuses them of being Aquilonian spies.  While Malakon rants, Trocero and Conn learn of Malakon's own plot to have his men sieze the city of Tahrem and trick King Conan into believing there is a revolt brewing.
 
Conn and Trocero are then thrown into Malakon's dungeons by the mad ruler to starve to death.
 
 
Trocero and Conn manage to escape Malakon's dungeons and flee from Zamora, rushing toward Tahrem to warn King Conan of what they've learned before Conan lays waste to an innocent city.
 
At Tahrem, King Conan tires of waiting for the defenders to come to their senses and orders the attack! A brutal battle is joined, but before the Aquilonians can breach the gates, Conn and Trocero arrive and tell Conan of the Zamoran plot.
 
As the Aquilonian troops pour into the city, Conan orders them to slay only Zamorans.  Instead of the battle turning into a massacre, King Conan is greeted as the city's savior by the captive townfolk.
 
 
After the battle, as the victorious Aquilonian host returns to Tarantia, Prince Conn tells his father of what he learned during the past few weeks with Trocero.  He tells Conan that he now realizes that Aquilonia has its faults, but he now sees that Conan is at least TRYING to be the best King he can be.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I was more than a little disappointed to see Doug Moench leaving King Conan, but Alan Zelenetz steps in and gives us a great start to this final batch of King Conan comics!  I'd even say that this issue stands right there with Moench's last one (#15) as my two favorites of the whole bunch so far!
 
Yeah, there's plenty of action and adventure to be had, but the thing I liked best about this story was the focus on Prince Conn's journey to becoming a good ruler when his time comes.  That even getting robbed by a prostitute becomes a lesson on that journey.  It's some really nice character building for Conn and makes for a very enjoyable tale.
 
On the art side of things, Marc Silvestri's pencils just seem to get better with each issue he draws!  His touches of high fantasty and fine linework are JUST what this series needed.  Not to mention that this issue has a stunning cover by Silvestri. . .one I think is one of the best in the whole series!
 
Overall, simply a great issue from cover to cover!  
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE SEVENTEEN (July 1983)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
A TYRANT IN AMBER
 
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Rudy Nebres
 
THE STORY:
 
While hunting, King Conan and Prince Conn make the acquaintance of a young woman named Ayelet.  She has come to Aquilonia to enlist the aid of Conan in taking her rightful place on the the throne of Tel-Ammon in Shem, as the true Queen and heir of Atala.
 
At a feast that night, Ayelet tells her sorrowful tale. . .Her mother, the Queen slain when she was a baby, along with her twin brother, born just moments before the Queen's death at the hands of her husband, Ayelet's wicked father.  A sorcerer who had placed his soul in a piece of amber and become invulnerable to harm, and who now reigned over her kingdom with an iron fist.
 
Ayelet had been taken from the palace by a handmaiden and raised among the nomads of Zamboula until the day foretold the rightful Queen would rise and take her throne.  A day that has arrived.
 
 
Ayalet has heard of the legendary Conan and his unsurpassed ability to climb the unclimbable.  She asks him to scale the sorcerous tower of Bet-Shaid and steal the tyrant's amber-encased soul.  Taken by her story and seizing the opportunity to leave the boring city life behind for a while, King Conan agrees to help her.
 
And so Conan and Ayalet set forth for the city of Tel-Ammon.  It's a dangerous journey, and they are attacked by bandits along the way.  Arriving at the city, they manage to enter in disguise as part of a travelling circus there for the celebration of the anniversary of the wicked King Nebuhan's reign.
 
 
Once inside the city, Conan makes his way to the soaring tower of Bet-Shaid.  He quickly discovers that the tower's great height is but an illusion, undiscovered by those unwilling to dare try climbing it. 
 
 Entering into the tower by a hidden portal, Conan makes his way deeper inside until he comes to a room and spots his prize. . .the amber-encased soul of wicked King Nebuhan!  Conan must fight against freezing sorcerous winds, but eventually he prevails.  
 
 
Upon taking the magical amber, an alarm sounds and Conan is forced to flee deeper into the tower as he is pursued by invisible spirits.  Eventually, he finds himself in a water-filled chamber, where he is forced to fight for his life against a gigantic man-eating crocodile! 
 
After defeating the beast, Conan continues through the dark passages of the tower until he finds himself in the palace itself, following the noises of revelry leading straight to King Nebuhan's throne room!
 
 
Among the celebrants in Nebuhan's throne room, Conan spots Ayelet, still in disguise.  He shouts to her that he has the amber and they leap to the attack, the two of them cutting their way through Nebuhan's guards as the partygoers flee the carnage.
 
 
As Nebuhan tries to flee, Conan throws the amber into a fire, destroying it and setting the castle on fire.  Ayelet makes her way through the flames to put a final arrow into her wicked father's heart.  Outside the flaming palace, Ayelet declares herself as the rightful Queen to the gathered populace, who cheer the end of Nebuan's evil reign.  Conan proclaims that Aquilonia will be the first to officially recognize the new Queen and all ends well.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
I really liked this simple, fast paced story a lot.  It's got a beautiful Queen seeking to regain her kingdom from her evil father.  It's got a tower of sorcery, filled with magical traps and nasty creatures.  It's got a desperate battle set against the flames of a burning castle.  What more could I ask for in a Conan story?  Not much!  This is just a good, tightly-written action story.
 
On the art side of things.  After John Buscema left as regular artist eight issues ago, I've been mostly satisfied with the artists who have stepped into his shoes. . .particularly the early work of Marc Silvestri showcased in this series.
 
BUT. . .
 
Just LOOK at the pages I've scanned above.
 
Buscema's art in this issue serves to remind me that, in MY humble opinion, John Buscema is THE definitive Conan comic artist!  You can just SEE in his work that Conan is a character that he loves to draw. He brings a special touch to this character that is unequalled (once again, my apologies to any Barry Windsor-Smith fans reading this).
 
Overall, a solid action packed story backed up with fantastic art.  THIS is what a good Conan comic is all about! It's stuff like this that is the reason I'm a Conan comic fan, and why I've been enjoying this series so much.
 
NEXT!
 
ISSUE EIGHTEEN (September 1983)
 
 
COVER: Marie Severin
 
THE DEVIL OF DARFAR
 
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: Rudy Nebres
INKS: Rudy Nebres
 
THE STORY:
 
While returning to Aquilonia after last issue's adventure, King Conan falls into a trap set by slavers trying to recapture some runaways.  After fighting his way out of the pit, Conan finds a cave where the escaped slaves are hiding.  
 

 
They're a motley group of misfits and freaks led by a hulking masked man called Montago.  He tells Conan that they escaped from a Kushite named Ibo Mala.  A former general disgraced by cowardice and banished. He now makes his way  by kidnapping unfortunate freaks like themselves and forcing them to provide entertainment as part of a travelling carnival.
 
Conan is taken in by the tragic tale of the misfits and informs them that he has spent more time as a slave than he would have liked, and if there's one thing in this world he hates, it's a slaver!  He reveals himself as King Conan of Aquilonia and that he will take up their cause by ending Ibo Mala and freeing the rest of his captive  performers!  
 
Besides. . .Ibo Mala's men killed his favorite horse, and someone needs to pay in blood for THAT.
 
 
As Conan, Montago, and a nameless dwarf set out for Ibo Mala's camp, we shift scene to the royal court of nearby Khorala, where festivities are in full swing for a royal celebration.  It is here that we meet Ibo Mala. . .who is frustrated that his misfit slaves haven't been found yet.  
 
The King is likewise frustrated by not getting the show he was promised, and humiliates Ibo Mala in front of the court, sending him out of the palace stripped of coin and lucky to be alive.  An enraged Ibo Mala demands that efforts to find the escaped slaves be doubled.
 

Meanwhile, Conan and his companions are attacked by an assassin.  The dwarf goes missing during the chase, but Conan and Montago manage to bring down the killer, but they get no information from him as to who hired him.  Fearing the dwarf has been captured, Conan and Montago continue on to Ibo Mala's camp.
 
Upon arriving, they are attacked by a cheetah.  After a tense battle, Conan and Montago free the rest of the misfit slaves, and learn that Ibo Mala has gone to Khorala, but should be on the road back.  Conan and Montago ride out to meet him.
 
Conan finds Ibo Mala on the road with his bodyguards.  Leaping to the attack, Conan and Montago cut their way through the hired swords until it comes down to battle between Conan and Ibo Mala, who is a ruthless and skilled warrior.
 
 
Upon Conan's defeat of Ibo Mala, he discovers that the missing dwarf was actually a spy among the misfits, and it was he who sent the assassin and loosed the cheetah on Conan.  The dwarf attacks, killing Montago and distracting Conan so that Ibo Mala manages to flee for his life.
 
At then end of things, the slaves are freed and promised a new life in Aquilonia, but Montago lays dead and Ibo Mala is nowhere to be found.  Conan mourns the loss of his new friend and continues on his journey home.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Although this wasn't a BAD story, it felt a bit like filler.  There's talk in the editorial page about big things coming up for the series beginning with issue #20, so I wonder if maybe the writer was spinning his wheels a bit before the big changes (which were a title change to "Conan The King" and a return to multi-part stories featuring more of Prince Conn ) on the horizon.
 
In any case, like I said, it's not a bad story.  I've just seen in this series that it could have been better.
 
On the art side of things.  Not bad, but not great. It's pretty good. I'd describe it as "Buscema-Lite" The art has its moments (such as King Conan mourning Montago in the page scanned above), but Rudy Nebres is no John Buscema. . .or Marc Silvestri, for that matter.  He's definitely a skilled artist, but when you get spoiled with some of the great artwork that's been in this series, it's hard to compare.
 
That said, the cover by Marie Severin? *chef's finger kiss* It's one of the best of the bunch! 
 
Overall, it's a pretty solid standalone adventure with some decent art.  The issue feels like filler, but it's still a good read.  And that's a fine testament for this series that even the filler issues are pretty good!
 
AND FINALLY!
 
ISSUE NINETEEN (November 1983)
 
 
COVER: Michael Wm. Kaluta
 
BONES AND A BLADE
 
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Mike Gustovich
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale in the port city of Napolia, in Argos.  Queen Zenobia has gone there on a diplomatic visit while Conan is away helping Queen Ayelet gain her throne (Issues 17 -18).  The city is attacked by a band of pirates, led by the ruthless Iron Bones.  Zenobia is taken hostage and a message dispatched to Aquilonia demanding ransom for her return.
 
 
Upon King Conan's return to Aquilonia, he is informed of Zenobia's capture.  He flies into a violent rage and immediately commandeers a ship and crew to set forth for the Western Sea and rescue his Queen.
 
IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
Zenobia is treated cruelly by the pirates and their uncouth leader.  The first mate of Iron Bones' crew, Nestor, steps in to stop their torment of the captive queen.  When he visits Zenobia later in her cell, the two discover that they grew up in the same nation of Nemedia and both under the tyrannical rule of Tarascus.  As they talk into the night, Nestor and Zenobia begin to form a connection.
 
 
MEANWHILE. . .
 
Aboard King Conan's ship, discontent brews among the commandeered crew as Conan steers them deeper into the pirate-infested waters of the Western Sea.  Things come to a head with a violent mutiny!
Conan and his bodyguards manage to quell the uprising and continue on their course.
 
Aboard Iron Bones' ship, mutiny is ALSO afoot when Nestor challenges Iron Bones to a duel for control of the ship and crew after learning that the pirate captain plans on killing Zenobia. . .ransom or no ransom.
 
Nestor defeats Iron Bones as the lookouts spot King Conan's ship coming upon them fast.  He frees Zenobia and prepares his men for battle.  He informs Zenobia that he plans on fighting Conan himself, with her hand as the prize!
 
 

King Conan and his men attack the pirate ship, leaping aboard, Conan cuts his way through the pirates with a barbarian rage, shouting for his queen!  Nestor confronts King Conan and the two of them fight alone while the battle rages around them.  Nestor proclaims his love for Zenobia and his intent to take her for his own.  This fuels Conan's rage and he runs the love-struck pirate captain through!
 
 
 
King Conan and his men prevail over the pirates and Zenobia is freed.  Their re is joyful until Conan informs Zenobia of Nestor's death at his hand. . .unaware of the connection Zenobia had forged with the handsome pirate from her own homeland.  The victory and her freedom are bitter when Zenobia sees Nestor, dead.
 
But in the end, she takes comfort in the arms of her King as they set sail for home.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Another issue that feels a bit like filler as King Conan heads for upcoming changes (more on that below).  It's not a bad story. . .it's hard to go wrong with a swashbuckling Conan pirate tale, but like the previous issue, it just seems like it could have been better.  But ALSO like the previous issue, it's a good testament to the quality of this series that even the filler issues are pretty good reads.
 
On the art side of things, this issue sees the return of Marc Silvestri after an absence of a couple of issues.  Unfortunately, this is not his best work on the series.  Like the quick and simple story, Silvestri's art also seems to not be as good as it should be.  Don't get me wrong.  It's not BAD.  It's just that I KNOW from previous issues that it could be better.
 
Overall, this is another issue that just seems like filler.  The story and art are both good, but they could also both be better, and both writer and artist HAVE shown me better in previous issues.  I have the feeling that these last two issues were just sort of tossed off to tie up some loose ends before the changes coming up.  
 
And speaking of those changes. . .
 

CONCLUSION

 
I always thought that King Conan and Conan the King were two separate series.  Come to find out, Conan the King is a direct continuation of King Conan, starting at #20.  I had assumed I just never came across any Conan the King issues under #20 because that's just the nature of the bargain bin.  
 
WHY they decided to change the name of the series is sort of a mystery I can't find the answer to.  There's all sorts of talk and ads in the last several issues of this series about big things coming up starting with King Conan #20. . .
 
 
But when the series continued, it was called Conan The King.  The series continued under the new name for another 35 issues, with Zelenetz and Silvestri as the main creative team for a good chunk of the run (along with some utterly fantastic covers by W.M. Kaluta as well).  The series ended in 1989 with issue #55.
 
SO. . .
 
What SHOULD happen here is that I keep on reviewing the series.  But I don't have the full 35 issues of Conan The King.  I have 15 of them, including the first (20th?).  So I won't.  That said, the Conan The King issues I DO have are all very good reads.  There's a bit more of a focus on Prince Conn in the Conan The King issues, but there's plenty of Conan adventure and great art to be had. 
 
The name change still sort of bothers me as a little comic book world mystery.  If anyone out there reading this can shed some light on it for me, I'd appreciate it.  The fact is, information on both King Conan AND Conan The King is sparse, to say the least.  I'm pretty sure I'm the only person who has ever actually reviewed these issues.  
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Enough about Conan The King.  Let's wrap up the series at hand.
 
Simply put. . .if you are a fan of Conan comics and haven't read King Conan, you're missing out on some fine comic books.  Yeah, there's a few bumps in the road, but really there's only ONE issue out of the nineteen reviewed here that I would call bad (Issue #11).  
 
Believe me when I say that only one issue out of nineteen being bad is something that is unusual with Longbox Junk.  A lot of series can't even pull off SIX issues before jumping off the rails.  Heck, sometimes they can't even get up to THREE issues!  ONE out of NINETEEN is great.
 
Overall, this is a series that has a lot of quality. . .good writing, good art, and big chunky double-sized issues with minimal ads.  These issues were a little more expensive than average for the mid 80s, but you definitely got your extra money's worth with these hefty comics!
 
So before I wrap it up and move on past King Conan, I'll say it again. . .
 
If you like Conan comics, do NOT pass this series up!  
 
The issues aren't really "worth" anything to collectors, so they are easy to find individually in the bargain bins (except the first issue, which IS a bit harder to find, but still not hard on the wallet.  I think I paid ten bucks for mine).  They've also been collected several times, so not hard to find at all.  
 
Overall, King Conan deserves a Longbox Junk gold seal of approval!
 
Up Next. . .
 
We've spent some time in the Hyborian past.  How about a little trip into the future? Say. . .the year 2099?  That's right. . .MARVEL 2099!
 
In the next few Longbox Junk entries I'll be taking a look at some first issues of Marvel's ill-fated future world to see what these bargain bin mainstays are all about.  Hulk 2099, X-Men 2099, Punisher 2099, Spider-Man 2099, Doom 2099 and Ravage 2099!
 
Be there or be square.

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the blog absolutely STUFFED with comic book reviews nobody asked me to write!
 
Continuing on with my series review of all 19 issues of Marvel's 1980 King Conan series, we've come to part three. . .issues 11-15.  These reviews have been taking a quite a bit longer than I thought they would because each issue so far has been a thick and HEFTY hunk of Bronze Age Conan goodness! 
 
I've been having a lot of fun with this series so far, and I'm STILL trying to figure out why there's barely a mention of it online when there's PLENTY of stuff about Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan, which were also on the stands from Marvel at the same time.  Was a third title TOO much Conan?
 
Maybe THIS batch will hold some answers.  Up until now, things have been pretty steady with the creative team, with a barely-noticable change in writers from Roy Thomas to Doug Moench and with John Buscema and Ernie Chan being the basic art team combo.  But with this batch, the art team begins to swing to and fro a little bit.
 
With these changes, will the series be able to maintain the high standard of excellence I've seen so far? 
 
Let's find out!  Ready? Let's do this!

KING CONAN

Marvel (1980)

PART 3: ISSUES 11-15

 
ISSUE ELEVEN
 (July 1982)
 
 
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz
 
THE HAUNTER OF THE CENOTAPH
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Alan Kupperberg
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
After learning last issue that there is a conspiracy against King Conan's throne that goes beyond disgruntled and scheming nobles, Conan gains a clue from a failed assassin's medallion that there may be answers waiting in the Nemedian town of Thalia.  
 
Deciding to end the conspiracy once and for all, Conan sets forth alone to the western lands. . .but not before receiving a vision from the Pictish Druid, Diviatix.  A vision of fire and blood at the hands of a horrific being called Pentagar Zex. . .The Death-Shaper. A prophecy that seems to tell of Conan's death!
 
 
 
Over the long journey to Nemedia, Conan grows a beard to disguise himself.  Upon his arrival in Thalia, Conan learns of a mysterious haunted forest and a mercenary camp outside it where the men wear medallions like the one Conan took from the assassin in Aquilonia.
 
Making his way to the camp, Conan easily passes an initiation test of battle and joins the mercenaries as a common soldier.  He is introduced to their leader, a strange woman called Cynnera.  She makes a speech to the men, revealing her plan. . .to kill King Conan and take over Aquilonia!  
 
She plans to accomplish this by using sorcery to raise a great warrior of a past age called Pentagar Zex. . .the same name from the druid's vision before Conan left on his quest!
 
 
That night, Cynnera reveals that she knew her new soldier was actually Conan the King.  She offers him a place at her side after raising Pentagar Zex.  The three of them together can easily take over the entire world! Conan plays along, but after she is asleep, he enters the tomb of Pentagar Zex to try and find a way to stop her evil plot.
 
His deception is quickly discovered by Cynnera and during their fight, Conan accidentally ends up raising the mighty warrior Pentagar Zex!  He fights a desperate battle against the gigantic undead warrior, but Conan finds himself on the losing side. . .until he destroys one of the medallions and realizes that's what will weaken Zex.  
 
As Conan destroys the monstrous Zex, the mercenaries turn on Cynerra and kill her while Conan leaves the tomb and begins the journey back to Aquilonia, convinced that the conspiracy against his throne has come to an end.
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
*Sigh*
 
I KNEW it was eventually coming.  It's rare that a series can go on this long without breaking down.  It finally happened.  This issue was simply disappointing. There's little of the outstanding quality that came before to be found.  
 
The art is the strongest disappointment.  I'm not here to try and knock a comic legend like Alan Kupperberg off his pedestal, but I've also gotta be truthful and say that THIS is some pretty lousy art.  Kupperberg has done SO much better work than this (I point to his often outstanding work on Marvel's original Invaders series).  But THIS? No.  Kupperberg may be a good superhero artist, but he's definitely not a good fit for Conan.
 
And then there's the story itself.  Doug Moench has done a fine job on King Conan so far, but THIS story just seems lazy and by the numbers.  Moench has brought a slightly more introspective style of writing to King Conan, but here it just seems like he was writing from a "Monster of the Month" template and barely paying attention.
 
Bad story. . .bad art. . .even Sienkiewicz's cover is underwhelming. A disappointing issue all around.  NOT a good start to this batch. I'm hoping this was just an off issue.  Let's check out the next one and find out!
 
ISSUE TWELVE
(September 1982)
 
COVER: Ron Frenz
 
THE TOMBS UNDER TARANTIA
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Ron Frenz
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
 
Strange things are afoot in Tarantina, the capital of Aquilonia.  King Conan is summoned in the middle of the night to hear a dire warning from the wizard Alcimedes about evil portents seen in the stars above.  That same night, Darweena (the sorcerer's daughter from issues #10 & 11) is possessed by her father's evil spirit and forced to obey his bidding from beyond the grave!
 
 
The next day Conan's son, Prince Conn, returns home from training with the royal Iron Legion (from issue #10) but is distracted by a game with some local youths.  In his rush to return home, Conn takes a shortcut through the graveyard and mysteriously disappears to the horror of his new friends!
 
As King Conan sets forth to the graveyard with Alcimedes and a handful of fighting men in search of his missing son, Conn wakes in the darkness and is witness to a horrific ritual as two men are sacrificed before a mysterious door.
 
Above, Conan and his men fight their way through the graveyard as they are attacked by lizard/human hybrid creatures.  Discovering a tunnel leading beneath the graveyard, Conan and his men rush forth in search of Prince Conn.  At the end of the main tunnel, they discover a glowing doorway.  
 
Alcimedes tells Conan that such doorways are openings to a strange place between the stars inhabited by demonic beings, but THIS doorway leads to the realm of a dark elder called Murgor-Tsoggua, a being trapped by powerful sorcery long centuries before.
 
To Alcimedes' horror, he sees the elder approaching through the mist on the other side of the door.  Conan and Alcimedes frantically work together to close the door and barely manage to do so before Murgor-Tsoggua is able to enter their world.  Alcimedes seals the door shut with magic and silver. . .but with the closing of the door, Conan fears that his son is lost forever.
 
 
The next day, seeing Queen Zenobia's overwhelming grief for their lost son, Conan decides to re-enter the tunnels beneath the graveyard and go through the sealed doorway and search for Conn, even if he dies in the process.  
 
Conan prepares for the battle by having a silver sword forged, and then enters the tunnels. . .only to find the sealed door missing from the chamber where it had been!  A distraught Conan finds a fresh tunnel and follows it. 
 
As he explores in the darkness, Conan is overjoyed to find Conn, alive and in hiding from the creatures he escaped from!  Father and son continue to follow the tunnel until its end in the royal palace!  
 
 
Following the signs and sounds of battle, Conan and Conn find the palace under attack from the human/lizard hybrid servants of Murgor-Tsoggua!  They fight their way to the royal chambers, where Conan is stunned to see the doorway to Murgor-Tsoggua's realm manifested and opening at the command of Darweena!
 
Rushing to the defense of Queen Zenobia, Conan confronts Murgor-Tsoggua himself as he comes through the fully-opened door into the human realm.  Darweena manages to shake off her father's spell, horrified at what she has been forced to do, she sacrifices herself to distract Murgor-Tsoggua long enough for Conan to wound the elder with his silver sword and force the otherworldly creature back through the doorway.
 
Thanks to Daweena's self-sacrifice, the door between worlds collapses and disappears.  The danger is over with. . .for now.  Conan and his family are reunited and all is well.
 
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay. . .not bad!  I was hoping the disappointing issue #11 was just an "off" filler and it seems this issue has the series back on track with a strong story dripping with  H.P. Lovecraft influence.  Because of that touch of classic otherworldly horror, I think this might actually be one of my favorite issues so far!
 
I've always been a fan of Lovecraft's dark, melancholy stories of the things that live beyond the sight of man, and this story is a great combination of sword-swingin' action and terror from beyond trying to get into the human world.  Yeah. . .it's been done before.  H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Howard were friends and included nods to each others work in their own.  But even so, this was a very enjoyable comic take on the combination of sword & sorcery and eldritch horror.
 
On the art side of things, after last issue's disapppointing art, I was glad to see Ron Frenz providing some pencils more along the lines of what I would call Conan's usual "look".  The art is close enough to John Buscema's style, but with just enough difference to not be an attempted copycat.  
 
Overall, this issue was a really good read.  Let's get into the next one!
 
ISSUE THIRTEEN
(November 1982)
 
 
COVER: Marc Silvestri
 
CIRCLE OF SORCERY
 
SCRIPT: Doug Moench
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
 
Three powerful sorcerers gather to discuss the many failed plots and plans against King Conan and Aquilonia that they have supported or been part of since the beginning of this series.  They are the savage Kushite, Jumbassa. . .the seductive Ophirean sorceress, Scyllana. . .and the crafty Urazai of Khitai.  They believe that the best way to conquer Conan is to just tell him where they are and work together, so they won't be taken by surprise like others have.
 
In Aquilonia, King Conan is disturbed by the events of last issue.  He THOUGHT the conspiracy against his throne was done with, but had been proven wrong.  When he receives a magical message from the wizard Urazai challenging Conan to come to a hidden island of sorcery and end things once and for all, Conan immediately sets forth. . .once again leaving the Kingdom without a King.
 
 
Once Conan has gone, other plans are set into motion and rebels within Aquilonia wait for the word to strike.  Conan himself follows the directions given to him and is taken by a mysterious boatman to an island with three giant towers. 
 
 Fighting through many dangers, Conan chooses to climb the tower of Jumbassa first.  After dodging the Kushite's deadly traps, Conan and the jungle wizard finally come face to face.  Conan prevails after a brutal battle where he turned the wizard's magic against him using a silver mirror.  With the first wizard of the three challengers down, Conan turns his attention to the tower of Scyllana.
 

 
 
Not wanting to fight his way through the creatures below, Conan fashions a crude hang glider and is able to make it to Scyllana's tower without incident.  Once inside, Scyllana summons beautiful demonic women to seduce Conan. 
 
 As he falls under their spell and the demons leech the life from Conan, Scyllana comes to deliver the final blow, but Conan manages to resist and fight back, setting the tower on fire and burning Scyllana and her demons as he makes his escape. . .leaving only one wizard of the three standing.  
 
 
Arriving at the final tower, Conan quickly falls prey to the cunning trickster Urazai's trap.  He makes Conan believe that he is a thief who has killed Urazai, and then lures Conan into a magical web, where Conan must fight for his life against a horde of creatures summoned by the wizard. 
 
As Conan fights, Urazai gives the signal to the Aquilonian rebels and they attack the capital city!  Conan finally manages to free himself from the magic web and confronts Urazai, who tries to escape on the back of a waiting dragon!  Conan attacks and forces Urazai to fly the dragon to Aquilonia in exchange for the defeated wizard's life.
 
 
The incredible speed of the magical dragon whisks Conan to his capital city in time to find his forces engaged in a desperate, losing battle to keep the attacking rebels from the royal palace.  Urazai tries one final trick and Conan finally kills the wizard for his trouble. 
 
 King Conan then leaps into the fray, inspiring his battered men to push forth and drive the rebels from the palace.  The enraged dragon lays waste to everything around it, helping Conan at first, but soon the King is forced to kill the creature.
 
In the end, Conan and his troops manage to win the day, routing the rebels from the city. King Conan finally allows himself to relax, now convinced that he has rooted out the conspiracy against his throne once and for all.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Not bad.  Not quite as good as the last issue, but still some mighty fine comic book sword and sorcery!
This one is pure action from start to finish. . .Conan vs. not one, not two, but THREE evil wizards who have challenged him, and THEN a massive battle including a giant dragon!
 
With all the action, there's not much room for Moench's little touches of story depth he's been adding since he came on board as writer.  There's a few of them there, but this issue reads a lot more like something Roy Thomas would have written, which isn't a bad thing!  
 
The most interesting thing about this issue to me is the art.  The new artist coming on board (and staying for 4 of the remaining 7 issues) is Marc Silvestri. . .before he was a superstar and one of the founding fathers of Image Comics, of course.  This is some of his earliest professional work and doesn't really reflect much of the signature style that would come later for Silvestri on titles such as Cyberforce and The Darkness.  
 
Here, Silvestri gives us a much more traditional style of comic art, but with a light touch of high fantasy that we haven't seen in the series yet.  Much like Doug Moench adding a little more depth to the writing on King Conan that I didn't even know I wanted, Marc Silvestri's high fantasy touches are also a nice little change from the usual style of Conan art.  It's not the Silvestri art that I'm familiar with, but I like it!
 
The Moench/Silvestri creative team is off to a good start.
Let's see what they give us in the next issue. . .
 
ISSUE FOURTEEN
(January 1983)
 
 
COVER: John Buscema
 
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.
 
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
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. . .
 
ISSUE FIFTEEN
(March 1983)
 
 
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 End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
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!
 

CONCLUSION

 
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!

- read more

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!

- read more

Welcome to Longbox Junk, the place where I write comic book reviews even though nobody asked me to!  To be fair, nobody has asked me to STOP writing them yet, so there's that.

 
ANYWAY. . .
 
It's been a while since I tackled a whole series.  At one time, writing reviews of an entire comic series from issue one to issue done was the bread and butter of Longbox Junk.  Unfortunately, my free time at work (where I write these) tends to fluctuate in a big way. . .especially in summer. . .and Longbox Junk sort of gravitated toward single issue reviews with some mini-series thrown in here and there.
 
BUT. . .
 
Here we are. . .getting ready to jump into the 19 issues of Marvel's 1980 - 1983 run of King Conan.  By my former standards, it's not a long series.  I mean, I reviewed all SEVENTY issues of DC's Pre-New52 Jonah Hex run, right?  But for getting back into series reviews a little bit, 19 issues feels okay to start with.
 
The series at hand came out when Conan hit what was probably his comic book high with Marvel holding the license.  They had this title, Savage Sword of Conan, and the tentpole Conan the Barbarian series all on the stands at the same time (not to mention a Conan newspaper strip).  
 
There's a lot written on the other series, but not much about King Conan.  I'm not sure WHY, but there's almost nothing about this comic series on the internet beyond the most basic information about publishing dates and creative team credits.  Maybe because it came out in the 80s? I don't know.
 
Which is why I'm reviewing it.
King Conan.  Let's do this!

KING CONAN

Marvel (1980)

PART ONE: Issues 1-5
 
ISSUE ONE
(March 1980)
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE WITCH OF THE MISTS
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
While on a hunting trip, King Conan of Aquilonia's first-born son and heir, Prince Conn, is taken captive by a mysterious old woman.  While searching for his son, Conan discovers a message telling him to follow the sign of the white hand to the northern land of Hyperborea if he wants Prince Conn returned alive.  And so Conan sets forth alone.
 
 
After fighting his way through dangerous marshes on the road to Hyperborea, Conan is led to a dark fortress, where he is reunited with his son.  The captive King and Prince soon discover the hand behind the plot to be none other than a foe from Conan's past, the sorcerer Thoth-Amon!  
 
Now at the head of a powerful group of wizards called The Black Circle, the capture of King Conan is part of a plan to ruin the Western Kingdoms.  Conan and Conn are led before Thoth-Amon and other leaders of the Black Circle, where Conan is forced to fight their fanatic followers for their amusement.
 

 
 
During the fight, Conan manages to escape and wreak havoc on the gathered sorcerers, killing them all except Thoth-Amon, who manages to escape just before Conan's right hand man, Prospero, and a band of the King's Guard arrive.
 
Conan has rescued his son and eliminated a threat on his northern border, but he has been made aware of the bigger threat of Thoth-Amon and his Black Circle.  What will they do next?
 
The End.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
THIS is how you start a comic series!  This first issue kicks in the door with action, adventure, and intrigue.  It's everything a Conan fan could possibly want in a comic!
 
The definitive Marvel Conan team of Roy Thomas and John Buscema start this series off in grand style with a story that is engaging to read and wonderful to look at from the first page to the last!  
 
There is absolutely NOTHING I don't like about this issue.  It's pure Conan fun, and it makes me want to get right into the next issue.  What a great start!
 
 
ISSUE TWO
(June 1980)
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE BLACK SPHINX OF NEBTHU
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Ernie Chan
 
After a failed attack on an Aquilonian border kingdom, King Conan suspects sorcery at hand.  He enlists the aid of a druid and sets forth with an army to the ruins of Nebthu, in Stygia.  He has learned from the druid that his enemy, Thoth-Amon was behind the failed attack and has his lair with the magicians of his Black Ring at Nebthu.
 
 
Arriving at the ruins of Nebthu and joined by his son, Conn, Conan discovers a secret door in a gigantic statue of a black jackal.  Conan and his company enter a twisted maze of tunnels beneath the ruins, eventually coming to a large arena, where Thoth-Amon and his black magicians finally spring their trap!
 
But Conan has brought his own magician. . .the druid.  And so, a battle between white magic and black ensues in the darkness while Stygian troops attack Conan's encamped men by surprise above!  Conan sways the sorcerous battle to his side when he reveals that he has brought the Heart of Ahriman. . .a powerful talisman that Thoth-Amon covets.
 
 
 
With his black wizards destroyed by the combined power of the druid's magic and the talisman, Thoth-Amon makes a hasty escape, but not before summoning a gigantic jackal monster!  
 
As Conan and company flee the huge beast and make their way to the surface, the monster attacks indiscriminately, mowing through the Stygian troops before returning to its hidden underground lair.
 
Despite taking heavy losses, Conan is determined to pursue Thoth-Amon and bring an end to his plots once and for all.  And so, Conan sets for with his son and the remains of his army for the mysterious southeastern land of Zembabwei, following the directions of the druid, who takes his leave of Conan.
 
To be Continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Thomas, Buscema, and Chan keep up the momentum of the first issue with a second that actually gives the reader even MORE action, adventure, and intrigue, backed up with incredible Bronze Age artwork!  This issue had me hooked even harder than the first, right from the opening page! 
 
So far, the two opening issues of this series have delivered everything I could ever want in a great Conan adventure, and it makes me want to get right into the next issue. . .so let's do it!
 
ISSUE THREE
(September 1980)
COVER: John Buscema 
 
RED MOON OF ZEMBABWEI!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Danny Bulanadi
 
As they continue their pursuit of Thoth-Amon into the mysterious southlands, King Conan and his Aquilonian troops are taken by surprise during a night attack by flying lizard like creatures and their human riders!
 
During the attack, Conan and his son, Conn are taken prisoner and flown to the mysterious city of Zembabwei.  There they are taken before Thoth-Amon and his ally, the savage wizard-king,  Nenaunir.  Conan and Conn are sentenced to die. . .sacrificed to the snake , Damballah (the same serpent worshipped by Thoth-Amon as Set) during the Red Moon twelve nights hence!
 
 
While imprisoned in the dungeons beneath Zimbabwei, Conan makes friends with a prisoner in another cell named Mbega.  Mbega is the twin brother of Nenaunir, and has been imprisoned for attempting to revolt against his brother's iron-fisted rule.  
 
In the meantime, Conan's troop arrives at Zimbabwei after ten days.  Conan's friends Trocero and Pallantides despair at the heavily fortified city but hatch a plan to secretly infiltrate the fortress by way of the sewers using the rogue's skills of Murzio of Zingara. . .another of Conan's companions travelling with them.
 
On the eve of Conan and Conn's sacrifice, Murzio manages to find their cell in the dungeon, but is unable to unlock it.  Conan has the thief free Mbega instead, hoping that the King's brother can raise the population of the city against its hated ruler.
 
 
Conan and Conn are brought before Thoth-Amon, King Nenaunir, and the gathered priests of Zembabwei at the altar of the serpent Damballah.  As the moon turns blood red and the priests chant, Conan struggles to free himself and his son as the spirit of Damballah forms and begins to squeeze the life out of Conan!
 
While Conan struggles for his life against the serpent 's avatar, Conn manages to strike down King Nenaunir, ending the summoning spell and saving his father!  At the same time, Mbega and his partisans rush the altar and a fight ensues, with Conan's Aquilonian forces arriving to turn the tide of battle in favor of Mbega as Thoth-Amon once again flees.
 
In the end, Mbega takes control of Zembabwei.  Conan and his company of Aquilonians leave the city and head further south in dogged pursuit of Thoth-Amon, determined to end him once and for all!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Although this was another very enjoyable issue, it repeats a lot of elements from the first issue. . .Conan and his son taken prisoner by Thoth-Amon, with a desperate battle to escape breaking out and Conan's Aquilonian companions rushing in at the last moment to save the day, only for Thoth-Amon to escape in the confusion.   
 
Roy Thomas writes the story in an engaging way, with his usual fantastic turns of phrase, but hopefully he isn't already starting to fall into a story rut on only the THIRD issue!
 
The series also changes inker on this issue.  He has a different style than Ernie Chan that knocks the art down half a notch.  It's still really good. I mean, it's John Buscema's pencils.  Of course it's going to be good.  How could it not be?  But Ernie Chan's inks are just SO complimentary to Buscema's work that any change just sort of hits the eye wrong.  The art isn't bad by any means, I just prefer Chan's inks.
 
All in all, this was another good issue.  I'm just a bit concerned by what looks like a story rut starting to form.  Let's see what the next issue holds!
 
ISSUE FOUR
(December 1980)
COVER: John Buscema 
 
SHADOWS IN THE SKULL!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Danny Bulanadi
 
Still in pursuit of Thoth-Amon, King Conan is directed by a wizard to travel further into the southern jungles, and then east, to the Land of No Return at the very edge of the known world, where the serpent folk of old ruled long before the coming of men.
 
And so, Conan sets forth with a host of King Mbega's (from last issue) best men, as well as a group of Amazon warrior-women led by Nzinga. . .the daughter of an old acquaintance of Conan from his younger days.  
 
Conan leads the expedition from the air alongside his son and Mbega's best scouts, riding the serpent-like wyverns used to capture them in the previous issue.
 
After many days of travel, Conan's expedition finally comes in sight of landmarks given to them by the wizard in Zembabwei. . .a huge waterfall and a cliff face in the shape of a skull.  But as the King and his wyvern-riders investigate, a mysterious weakness befalls them and their flying mounts tumble to the ground!
 
In a hidden valley below, Conan and company discover an ornate palace.  They are greeted by a mysterious band of women from the palace and the cave city beyond called Yanyoga.  Conan decides to take them up on their offer of hospitality. . .
 
 
As Conan and Mbega's scouts fall under some sort of spell during the following days of drinking and wanton vice, only Conan's son, Conn is able to keep a somewhat clear head.  As one of the beautiful women attempts to seduce the young prince, he sees her reflection and is horrified to learn that the women are actually serpent-folk in disguise!
 
Mbega's warriors on foot, as well as Nzinga's Amazons arrive in time to help young Conn fight his way through the palace.  Thoth-Amon is spotted with the serpent queen and Conan's friend Trocero presses the attack on their long-sought quarry, though King Conan is nowhere to be seen. The wizard disappears from sight, escaping once again!  
 
 
King Conan wakes on a mysterious shore and finds himself in the company of his foe, Thoth-Amon!
The wizard gloats and taunts Conan, who attacks him.  But as he touches the wizard, Conan finds himself transported to a strange realm where the two enemies battle as spirits!
 
Conan fights well, but finds himself on the losing side of the spirit battle, but unknown to Thoth-Amon, Conan's son has managed to follow the two through Thoth-Amon's portal.  And with an enchanted knife given to him in Zembabwei, Conn kills Thoth-Amon and ends the fight on the spirit plane, dragging both Thoth-Amon and his father back to the real world, where Thoth-Amon dies and crumbles to dust!
 
 
In the end, Conan takes Thoth-Amon's ring of power and throws it into the sea before heading back to the lair of the serpent-folk alongside his son to help his allies finish off the savage creatures, satisfied that Conn is becoming a warrior worthy of being his heir.
 
The End. . .To be continued.
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Okay then, there it is.  The big extra-sized finish to the four-issue "Chasing Thoth-Amon" opening story arc.  All in all, a fine ending indeed!  Yeah, there's still some concern that the series is falling into a "Conan gets captured every issue" story rut, but then again, Roy Thomas is able to make even the weakest story sing with his outstanding writing.  The framework may be flimsy, but Thomas makes the "final" battle between Conan and Thoth-Amon an epic adventure!
 
On the art side of things, John Buscema provides visuals every bit as epic as Thomas' writing. . .which comes as no surprise to me or anyone else who is a fan of Buscema's work.  What IS a bit surprising is that Danny Bulanadi seems to have course-corrected his inks a bit to be more complimentary to Buscema's pencils.  I still prefer Ernie Chan's inks on Conan, but Bulanadi makes an admirable effort to step into Chan's shoes.
 
Overall, an epic end to the first story arc, with writing that drips with adventure and art that takes the reader to another world for a while.  What more could a Conan fan want? Let's get into the next issue and see if this creative team can keep up the great work!
 
ISSUE FIVE
(March 1981)
COVER: John Buscema
 
THE RING OF RAKHAMON!
 
SCRIPT: Roy Thomas
PENCILS: John Buscema 
INKS: Danny Bulanadi (Ernie Chan?)
 
As a weary King Conan and his Aquilonian troops make the long journey back home after almost a year away in pursuit of Thoth-Amon, Prince Conn asks Count Trocero for a tale of his father's early days as King to pass the time. 
 
The rest of this tale is told as a flashback to before Conn was born. . .
 
It was the night of a great feast in the Aquilonian capital of Tarantia.  But the festivities are interrupted by the kidnapping of Queen Zenobia by a mysterious flying creature!  King Conan declares that he will no longer be King of Aquilonia until he has retrieved his queen and had his vengeance.  
 
And so, leaving the kingdom and its armies in the hands of his most loyal advisers, Trocero and Prospero, Conan sets forth alone to the desert city of Khanyria, seeking a wizard of old acquantance, Pelias of Koth, intending to search for clues using his magic powers.
 
Unknown to Conan, a court spy has learned of Conan's destination and that he's travelling alone.  The information is given to a rebellious noble supporter of Aquilonia's former King and a trap is set!
 
 
Several days ride later, Conan arrives in Khanyria.  Almost immediately upon entering the city, he is lured to an ambush in a tavern.  Conan manages to defeat seven men after a brutal battle, but is astonished to find that he recognizes several of them from previous adventures.  He is determined to find out who brought together such a motley crew and why. . .but AFTER he finds Zenobia.
 
In the yellow stone tower of the wizard Pelias of Koth, Conan is greeted as an old friend and Pelias agrees to help him find who kidnapped Zenobia.  Using a magical mirror, Pelias summons a vision of another wizard. . .one who is aware he is being watched!  Conan saves them both by breaking the magic mirror, then demands answers.
 
 
A shaken Pelias tells Conan that the plot goes far beyond a mere kidnapping.  Since he has become King of Aquilonia, Conan has disrupted or delayed many plots and plans for conquest of the Hyborian lands without even knowing it.  The powerful wizard in the mirror is Yah Chieng, who dwells in the far away land of Khitai.  He is behind the kidnapping of Zenobia as a means to lure Conan away from Aquilonia and destroy him.
 
Conan refuses to abandon his vengeance despite knowing he's walking into a trap.  To aid him against the powerful magic of Yah Chieng, Pelias gives Conan a legendary magical ring in his possession. . .the Ring of Rakhamon!  But before he can use the power of the ring, Conan must pass the ring's test.
 
And so, Conan is pulled into a strange world of spirits and finds himself in mortal combat against a powerful creature.  A desperate battle follows, but Conan finally prevails through sheer strength of will, and the Ring of Rakhamon submits to him.
 
 
Now armed with knowledge of who was behind Zenobia's kidnapping, magical aid, and a destination, Conan sets forth with the rising sun for the mysterious and distant land of Khitai!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Usually when it comes to reviews of full comic series, I run into diminishing returns the further I get into it.  Normally by issue five or six (if even THAT long) I start seeing a decline or a plateau.  But not here!
 
Not only does this series continue to maintain a high level of quality, but the fifth issue is the best so far!  It's a pretty rare thing to see a series actually IMPROVE in later issues, but King Conan's fantastic creative team pulls it off with style.
 
Roy Thomas continues to grab and pull me into Conan's savage world with page after page of superbly-written adventure and intrigue.  John Buscema brings Thomas' words to life with fantastic imagery that's simply a feast for the eyes from the first page to the last.  THIS is what a great Conan comic is all about! THIS, right here. This issue has everything a Conan fan could want.  I can't wait to see what happens next!
 
A note about the art in this issue before I finish here.  Danny Bulanadi is credited on the masthead as inker here, and I was pretty amazed at the way he continued to successfully step up and try to match the unmatchable Ernie Chan.  Bulandi is also credited on the Grand Comics Database (GCD)  and elsewhere the stats for this comic are listed as the inker as well.  BUT. . .in the letter column for issue #7 there's an indication that the inks are actually done by Ernie Chan.  
 
With the lack of information about this series beyond raw creative team credits out there, I have a suspicion after comparing this issue to earlier ones that Chan actually did most of the inks (if not all), and that the information online isn't accurate and is based on an error Marvel made in the credits for the original issue back in 1981 and has just been copied from place to place online without actually checking.  
 
Does anyone care?  Probably not.  But I like to think that Longbox Junk reviews add to the general body of comic knowledge as regards comics not many (if ANY) reviews have been done of, so there's that. 
 
ANYWAY. . .
 
Let's wrap up this first part now.
 

CONCLUSION

 
I think you can probably tell from the individual reviews above that I had a lot of fun reading these first five issues of King Conan.  Roy Thomas and John Buscema are a hard creative team to beat when it comes to Conan.  I'm not even sure if they CAN be beaten!
 
I've already spent quite a bit of time above singing the praises of Thomas and Buscema's work on this series so far, but I was trying to keep the reviews sort of short so this didn't turn into a total scroll bomb (not sure how well I suceeded, but it's the thought that counts, I guess).  So in this wrap up, I'll touch on a few things I really liked about this series so far that I didn't mention above.
 
First, I love the HEFT of these issues!  They're double-sized and that extra page space gives these stories room to breath and be epic.  These are comics that are simply packed with awesome Conan adventure.  The reviews above are REALLY condensed sketches of what is actually in the pages.  There's so much story in each issue that it would probably take a YEAR in modern comics to cover each one of them.  
 
The second thing I loved about these issues that I didn't touch on above is that each one of these (except the last one) comics can be read on their own as an individual awesome Conan story without reading the others.  They're all tied together, but they can also be enjoyed separately.  This is probably because this series was published quarterly, with just four issues coming out per year.  So if you do spot one of these in the bargain bin, don't worry too much about not knowing what happened before or after.  The whole story is great, but the individual parts are great on their own.  I like that a lot!
 
Oddly enough, considering what I JUST said above, the third thing I loved about these issues was that they have a continuity with OTHER Conan comics. . .particularly Savage Sword of Conan.  All through these issues there are characters and references to Conan's previous adventures.  For example, in the fourth issue, the leader of Conan's Amazon allies is Nzinga, the daughter of an Amazon Queen Conan met in Savage Sword of Conan #4.  
 
There's a lot of effort in these issues to tie the series into continuity with what came before.  There's even a few references to Marvel's short-lived Kull the Conqueror series!  So while these issues can be enjoyed as stand-alone stories, they can ALSO be enjoyed by those who love following those editorial continuity notes to discover the whole story. 
 
Overall, I really enjoyed these first few issues of King Conan.  If you are a Conan fan then I heartily recommend you check them out if you haven't already.  Each oversized issue is packed from cover to cover with awesome Conan adventure and wonderfully savage arwork.  These first five issues are truly some premium Bronze Age sword and sorcery comics.
 
Up Next. . .
 
Let's see if Marvel can keep up the quality as King Conan continues!  Looking ahead, I see some creative team changes coming, so we'll see what happens.  
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

World Community Grid Logo
ComicBookRealm.com: 72 years, 71 days, 5 hours of Run Time
Help projects like: Smash Childhood Cancer, OpenZika, Help Stop TB, FightAIDS@Home - Phase 2, Outsmart Ebola Together, Mapping Cancer Markers, FightAIDS@Home
Join World Community Grid today!
When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network.
  • Newest
  • Marvel Comics's Alien: Black, White, & Blood Issue # 1b
  • Beer Butt Comic's Mighty Mighties Issue # 3
  • Marvel Comics's Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver Issue # 1j
  • Seven Seas Entertainment's The World's Fastest Level Up Soft Cover # 2