atom's Comic Book Blogs

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"I have a lot of issues. . ."

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

July 2024




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!


Marvel (1980)

PART 4: ISSUES 16-19


COVER: Marc Silvestri
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Ricardo Villamonte
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!  
COVER: John Buscema
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Rudy Nebres
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.
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.
ISSUE EIGHTEEN (September 1983)
COVER: Marie Severin
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: Rudy Nebres
INKS: Rudy Nebres
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.
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!
ISSUE NINETEEN (November 1983)
COVER: Michael Wm. Kaluta
SCRIPT:  Alan Zelenetz
PENCILS: Marc Silvestri
INKS: Mike Gustovich
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.
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.
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.
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. . .


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.  
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!


Marvel (1980)

PART 3: ISSUES 11-15

 (July 1982)
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz
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.
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!
(September 1982)
COVER: Ron Frenz
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.
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!
(November 1982)
COVER: Marc Silvestri
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.
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. . .
(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.
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. . .
(March 1983)
COVER: Val Mayerik
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 first may have been the worst, but the best was the last issue of this bunch!  The Moench/ Silvestri team knocked this one right out of the park with a tale absolutely PACKED with action, adventure, and humor.
Moench outdoes himself as he tells a tale of Conan trying to recapture a bit of his youth and realizing that new legends are going to have to be written without him.  The dialogue between Conan and Thandar is simply fantastic as the two taunt each other during their adventure about being too old and being too young.  It's a great back and forth through the whole issue that is really enjoyable to read!
It's taken 15 issues for Conan's age in this series to REALLY be in the spotlight.  It's been a definite oversight up to this point. Judging from the letters column, I'm not the only one that noticed.  Moench dives right into it with humor and a bit of introspection. . .such a great way to bring a practically ignored aspect of King Conan into the spotlight!
Marc Silvestri's art seems to get better with each issue as he becomes comfortable with King Conan.  He perfectly handles this offbeat story, breathing life and motion into the characters and their surroundings that just makes me want MORE! 
Overall, a fantastic job all around!  This issue was a really enjoyable read, with art that seems to move across the page.  The Moench/ Silvestri team is getting better with each issue they do together and I can't wait to see what they have in store next!


I never thought I would see the day when I would say that I enjoyed another Conan comic team as much as Roy Thomas & John Buscema. . .but that day has come!  Doug Moench & Marc Silvestri have managed to give me a Conan that I didn't even know I wanted.  
Thomas and Buscema will ALWAYS be the definitive Conan team in my book (apologies to Barry Windsor-Smith fans), but Moench and Silvestri have done a fantastic job of it. . .every bit as good as anything Thomas and Buscema did with the character.  And to think that I never even knew that Doug Moench wrote any Conan comics!  I always knew him as more of a Batman and Moon Knight writer.
I guess it just goes to show that you never know what you'll find down in the bargain bins. . .which is where I got every issue of this series except #1.  Who knew I'd find a new favorite Conan team in comics barely "worth" cover price?
Yeah. . .issue #11 was a bit of a clunker, but in MY humble opinion King Conan so far is a series that absolutely DRIPS with quality storytelling and art.  These issues are giant hunks of sword and sorcery comic book fun and I'm still having a bit of trouble understanding why this series is practically ignored. 
If you are a Conan fan and haven't read these, you're missing out.  Simple as that.
Up Next. . .
MORE King Conan! 
It's the final batch of four issues in this series review, #16-19.
Be there or be square!

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Welcome to Longbox Junk, where I write comic book reviews that nobody asked me to!
When it comes to comic books, I'll admit that I'm much more of a fan of non-superhero characters.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to be said for a great Batman or Captain America story, but give me a Lone Ranger, Green Hornet, Spirit or Zorro story and I'm a very happy man!
Conan The Barbarian is right up there in the top ten list of my favorite non-superhero characters.  I think one of the things I like best about Conan is that he's a deceptively simple character that can be used in almost ANY kind of story!  
Conan fits right into horror stories, comedy stories, epic adventures, small character pieces, mysteries, heck. . .at the time of this writing, Marvel even has Conan teaming up with superheroes in the mainstream Marvel Universe (in the ongoing "Savage Avengers" series) and they're STILL great Conan stories!
Marvel's impressive original 275 issue (plus 12 annuals) run on Conan The Barbarian is a pretty good testament to just how versatile the character is.  Even better for a Longbox Junker such as myself, a hefty run like that means (with the exception of the earlier, more "valuable" issues) you can find a LOT of great Conan comics in the bargain bins.  Maybe not as ubiquitous as other dollar box fillers, but there's plenty of them out there to be found.
Which brings us to the issue at hand!
Coming in at roughly the halfway point of Marvel's run on the series, we have a tale that leans toward the horror genre, wherein we find Conan the Barbarian during his days as a wandering mercenary encountering a savage beast with a tragic secret.  Let's take a look, shall we?



Marvel (1984)


SCRIPT: Michael Fleisher & John Buscema
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Rudy Nebres
COVER: John Buscema
The late, great John Buscema was a Bronze Age heavyweight and he doesn't disappoint with this cover! The colors are rich and inviting, the composition is perfect.  I really like the contrast between the background and the shadows, which give us a hint of the story inside.  
This cover tells a story in ONE single image and it immediately grabbed my attention when I spotted it in the bargain bin.  It's just an amazing cover all around and I'm glad I have this in my collection!  Let's get inside and see what's going on. . .
We begin in the desert, witnessing a strange scene. Two horsemen pulling a box with a captive woman inside across the sand as she cries out for help. . .
Luckily for her, Conan the Barbarian just happens to be passing by within earshot of her cries and decides to investigate.  As the woman begs for her life, Conan demands she be freed.  A fight breaks out and Conan easily dispatches her captors before letting the woman out of the box.
Not long after rescuing the woman, her father arrives on the scene.  He initially thinks Conan was one of her captors, but she tells him of Conan's brave rescue of her.  
Her father informs Conan that a certain Sheik Abdul Zu Fadh has been obsessed with gaining the hand of his daughter for over a year and has become enraged at her rejection of him.  This is not the first time he's had her kidnapped.  
They all return to her father's camp and prepare for a celebration in Conan's honor.
Later, at the celebration, we learn the girl's name is Kahlima and her grateful father is Ali Maksoud.  After dancing for her barbarian savior, Kahlima departs for the evening. . .
Not long thereafter, eerie howls rend the night air.  Conan is unconcerned, but Ali Maksoud seems to be mysteriously more worried than he should be.  After he departs to check on the noise, the back of the tent is ripped open and a huge wolf-like creature attacks!
As Conan fights for his life against the supernaturally strong creature, Ali Maksoud and his men rush to his aid, barely managing to pull the monster off of him.  The creature flees into the night.  Conan is ready to give chase, but Maksoud convinces Conan to leave it be, as he fears an ambush that might cost him more men.  Conan reluctantly agrees.
Come the dawn, Conan is roused by shouts of alarm.  Kahlima is missing again!  All signs point to another abduction by Sheik Abdul Zu Fahd.  Conan joins Ali Maksoud and his men as they set off to follow the trail of the kidnappers. . .
After a long chase through the day and into the evening hours, Conan and company finally discover the camp of the kidnappers, as well as Kahlima bound to the rocks.  Conan is wary of an ambush and his misgivings come true as a large band of armed men appear, led by none other than Sheik Abdul Zu Fahd!
Conan mocks the Sheik for having to kidnap women he wants to marry.  But Zu Fahd protests that he doesn't want to marry Kahlima, but that she's responsible for the death of his only son. . .
A battle between the two armed bands breaks out, but as they clash and the moon rises, Conan finally learns the truth of things as Kahlima begins to transform into the same horrific beast that attacked him the night before!
The enraged beast breaks free of its bonds and begins to attack both Zu Fahn and Ali Maksoud's men indiscriminately, sending the men into a fearful panic as Conan desperately tries to fight the creature.
Sheik Zu Fahd cries out to his men to bring him an arrow tipped with a deadly black lotus poison, but Ali Maksoud prevents him from shooting it at his transformed daughter.  Instead, he uses the arrow on her himself. . .
As the deadly poison takes effect and the creature changes back into human form, Ali Maksoud cradles his beloved daughter in his arms one last time as he tearfully explains that she was born from a night spent with a demon in disguise, and that he tried to conceal Kahlima's true nature because of his love of her.  
Conan walks away from the tragic scene without a word and rides into the desert night, reflecting that this is an event that will live on in the tales of these desert people, but as for him. . .it's just another thing to put behind him on his journey through life.
The End.
All right, there it is. . .Conan the Barbarian and The Night of The Wolf.  Let's break it on down!
Prolific comic legend Roy Thomas wrote the lion's share of Marvel's Conan run, so it was interesting to see an issue written by someone else.  Thankfully, Michael Fleisher does a great job filling Thomas' shoes on this story!  
It's simple, it's action-packed, and it's a good, solid adventure story that leans a little into horror.  Fleisher doesn't get fancy here, and because of that, this story has the timeless feel that is a hallmark of any good Conan story.  It doesn't matter that this was written 37 years ago, it reads like it was written yesterday. . .or in the 1930's, for that matter.  A good Conan story should have that timeless feel to it, and Fleisher captures it very nicely.
To be fair, there ARE a few places where the overblown dialogue has a faint whiff of Bronze Age Marvel bombast, but it's not really distracting from the simple story at hand.  All in all a very solid "one and done" story.
Now let's talk about the art. . .
The story is solid and well done, but it's the art that's the REAL star of the show here!  Like I observed in my look at the cover of this comic, the late John Buscema was a Bronze Age heavyweight and fully deserves a place of honor in the hall of comic book legends.  It's his work that REALLY makes this story shine!
The first handful of Conan issues are a bit pricey and considered more "valuable" to collectors because of the Barry Windsor-Smith art. . .and rightly so.  But in MY extremely humble opinion, Buscema's long run as artist on the title was superior.  
When I think of Conan, it's Buscema's work that immediately comes to MY mind.  His detailed, kinetic artwork breathed life and energy into Conan's world in a way that's rarely been matched to this day.
Just LOOK at the pages I scanned above!  Every panel of this comic is a feast for the eyes!  This single issue alone is a master class in visual storytelling that a lot of modern artists could definitely take a lesson from.


A simple, action-packed story with that timeless feel needed for a good Conan tale, backed up by page after page of fantastic artwork from a comic book legend. . .what more could you want?
If you're a fan of Conan the Barbarian, you'll love this story!  If you're not a fan, this probably won't change your mind because it hits just about everything that a good Conan story should have in it.  
I hate to make myself sound old, but they just don't make comics like this anymore.  From page one to page done, this is a great example of why Bronze Age comics still hold such a big place in the heart of many comic book fans. . .and I'm one of them.
Up Next. . .
I haven't decided yet, but I WOULD like to take this opportunity on the eve of Thanksgiving to thank each and every person reading this for spending a little bit of your precious time here with me.  I am indeed sincerely thankful that there are fellow comic fans out there who like to read these reviews that nobody asked me to write.  I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

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While pondering how to have a bit of celebration for the 175th Longbox Junk Comic review that nobody ever asked me for, it crossed my mind that there really aren't many comic series that have hit 175 issues recently, thanks to "The Big Two" wanting to promote those SWEET #1 issues, and in the process rebooting most popular series back to #1 every couple of years whether they need it or not.

Now, this isn't really the place for a rant about things like. . .say. . .THE PUNISHER BEING ON FRIGGIN' VOLUME TWELVE NOW. . .for example.  No, my friends.  There's an old saying about how if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  I've decided to take that saying to heart and reboot Longbox Junk back to that SWEET Collector's item #1! 

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There's nothing wrong at all with a good ongoing series, but if anyone were to ask me what my favorite form of comic art is, I would immediately answer "The One Shot". Within the framework of a single issue, the creative team is challenged to give us everything we need to enjoy a story. They're pretty much forced to swing for the fences. Here are 5 random single issues from my collection read and reviewed for your consideration. Are they home runs or foul ? Let's find out!

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Welcome to another round of random single issue Longbox Junk.  Let's get this party started!


A team-up between two great characters. . .Azrael and The Question.

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