Thursday, December 2, 2010

BAB Two in One: Lusty Rogues and Jungle Fever

Karen: My local comic shop, Atomic Comics here in Phoenix, had a couple of big sales recently, so I've acquired a nice stack of TPBs that I am making my way through. One of these is The Chronicles of Conan volume 2, published by Dark Horse. This TPB collects issues 9-13 and 16 of the original Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian series (the missing issues feature Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone; I assume there were legal issues with publishing them). The stories here are all illustrated by Barry Windsor Smith. While I have a healthy number of Conans in my collection, they are primarily the John Buscema era; perhaps three issues are the BWS issues. So I thought this would be a nice way to read some of those books. I've always liked Smith's Conan work, in fact I like his Conan and Dr. Strange work far better than his standard super-hero books.

Karen: For the most part, I've enjoyed it. But these re-colored pages are sometimes beautiful, and some times garish. Another knock against this edition is the lack of covers for each issue. That being said though, it's got a good price ($16.95), which was even cheaper with the sale. So if you're looking for a way to read classic Conan, I can give this a decent recommendation -just keep in mind my comments.

Karen; Let's get to the review. I'm going to look at a story from issue 11, titled "Rogues in the House". It's by Smith and perennial Conan writer, Roy Thomas, with 'embellishment' by Sal Buscema,
based on one of Robert E. Howard's original stories. Let me say that from the very first page this is a beautifully drawn book. Smith convincingly creates Conan's world. It is mysterious, dirty, majestic....from the dankest dungeons of the city to its most lavish homes, we see it all. Conan himself looks younger than the Buscema version. Still powerful but perhaps leaner, with a wild, sexy look. No wonder the book took off so well!

Karen: Conan is being held in a dungeon, turned in for killing a priest by a treacherous woman na
med Jenna, who Conan had been traveling with, and the two seemed pretty close, if you get my drift. While in prison he is visited by a foppish nobleman named Murilo. He offers to free the barbarian if he will do him a favor: kill the Red Priest, Nabonidus! The Red Priest is the true power in the city, and getting to him will be no easy task. But Conan accepts the offer.
Karen: After some complications, Conan escapes his prison. But before carrying out his charge, he decides to get revenge on Jenna. He approaches the quarters they once shared and sees Jenna's new suitor leaving to get some wine. Of course, the barbarian makes quick work of the lad, and heads upstairs to deal with the girl. There's a nice three panel piece here where you can really see Conan's rage building. Conan kicks in the door and Jenna tries to save herself with a variety of lies, but Conan isn't having it. This is a very well drawn and scripted sequence, where the Cimmerian heaves the lying wench on his shoulder and hauls her up to the roof. I've reproduced the entire page here, just so you can appreciate the storytelling. When she asks why she would betray him, Conan tells her, "For gold Jenna - for gold!" He then tosses her into the filth-filled pits below and has a good laugh. Perhaps Conan was the first real anti-hero at Marvel?

Karen: He
then makes his way to the Red Priest's home, where he also finds Murilo, who thought Conan would be prevented from escaping, so he came to kill Nabonidus himself. The two of them somehow manage to get themselves trapped under the house. They crawl through the sewers under the home, looking for a way in. Murilo tells Conan that he had been inside the home earlier, intending to kill the priest. As he crept up behind a seated Nabonidus, he was stunned to discover that the priest was some sort of hideous man-beast. The creature attacked him, and Murilo barely escaped with his life. The two journey on, and then find an unconscious man, who turns out to be the Red Priest himself. The creature that Murilo encountered was a bizarre man-ape named Thak that Nabonidus kept as a pet. The pet however turned on the master and is now loose in the house. Apparently it wants to emulate Nabonidus, and has put on his robes (how the heck do they fit?). The three of them put their issues aside and decide to work together to escape.There's a nifty sequence where they use mirrors situated throughout the house to see what Thak is up to. At one point, he fights and kills another of the priest's pets, a leopard, demonstrating just how powerful he is.

Karen: The only way for the threesome to get out of this mess means dealing wi
th the gargantuan Thak, who is planted smack dab where they need to go. Smith does a nice job in making Thak look impressively massive and solid. Of course, Conan is up to the task and engages the monster. It's a riveting fight sequence, with the barbarian in trouble until he gets an assist from Murilo. But eventually he does deal the death blow to the great man-ape, whom he says,"I have slain a man tonight -not a beast."

Karen: Unfortunately, Nabonidus turns on the other two and tries to kill them, but the fast reflexes of Conan bring him down. "Priest -you talk too much -and act too slowly!" The man dies with a dagger thrown into his chest.
With that, the Cimmerian is off to his next adventure.

Karen: It's been a long time since I read a Conan comic, probably more than ten years! For several years I was a regular reader - I vaguely recall the stories with Belit. But this was a great way to renew my interest. I can only imagine what someone reading this in 1971 thought! Violent, sexy, scary, fantastic -Conan must have seemed like a whole new world to readers in the early 70s. This was a fun read and it felt like the writer and artist were putting their all into it, a true labor of love.

Doug: It's been a month since our last installment of Joe Kubert's wonderful adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes. So without delay, let's plunge into Tarzan #209, cover dated June 1972. As in the past, Kubert served as writer, artist, and editor.

Kerchak, king of Tarzan's tribe, launches a challenge against Tarzan. After Tarzan's mother, Kala, had been killed by the black warrior, many among the tribe felt that Tarzan was now unprotected. Kerchak got more than he bargained for, as the white ape used the knife of Lord Greystoke again and again, killing the large bull. It's another ferocious battle, but by now Burroughs' readers had to know that the outcome had little doubt. Upon Kerchak's death, two things happened -- the death of Tarzan's father had been avenged, and with Kerchak's death Tarzan now ascended to the throne of his tribe. But at the same time, Tarzan left for his cabin to study more of the artifacts there.

Upon returning to his people, however, he was challenged again by Terkoz. Feeling powerful, Tarzan threw down his "long tooth" and fought the larger bull hand-to-hand. It didn't end well for Terkoz, as Tarzan got him in a full nelson and brought him to the brink of a broken neck. Sparing his life, Tarzan banished the now-shamed Terkoz from the tribe. Methinks we'll see more from this nasty one, however! Again heading back to the cabin of his father, Tarzan's eyes were met with a huge surprise!

White men, as Tarzan had only seen in his storybooks, were coming ashore. But what a motley crew! They argued, fought, and one man shot another. Tarzan was curious, and disgusted. Going ahead to his cabin, he left a note to warn off these interlopers. Little did he realize that among the party were William Clayton of the line of Greystoke, and Jane Porter and her father. As Tarzan watched, Clayton argued with one of the sailors. Turning away, Clayton had no idea that a gun was pointed at his back; but before it could be fired, a spear shot down from the trees. Tarzan had saved his cousin, the man who would be Lord Greystoke.

Hiding in the cabin, young Jane Porter and her assistant Esmeralda cowered at every noise. As the sailors rowed back to their ship, leaving the Clayton party alone, William Clayton took off into the woods in search of Professor Porter -- who had wandered off. I'll tell you, the animators at Disney must have read Kubert's take on the legend, as Jane's father in that cartoon bears quite a remarkable resemblance to this DC version. Clayton unknowingly drew the attention of Numa the lion. Trouble was for Numa, that Tarzan had followed. With a smile on his face, Tarzan dispatched the full-grown lion in a fight that didn't even seem fair!

But then, hearing a gunshot, the two men rush off toward the cabin. Inside, Jane and Esmeralda are being menaced by Sabor the lioness! Arriving quickly, Tarzan rushed to the window and grabbed the tail of the big cat, yanking her back out through the window and quickly killed her. The next day, Tarzan stood vigil in secret once again. Spying another ship approaching, Tarzan soon recognized the same men -- come to reclaim their treasure chest. Well, what better way to stick it to them than to steal the stolen treasure? Hoisting the extremely heavy chest on his shoulder the ape-man carried it off into the jungle. Had Tarzan been able to hear at great distance, he'd have picked up on a concern among the men, news that would soon change his life -- the pirates were being pursued by a French liner.

But, while away Tarzan lost site of Jane and Esmeralda, now wandering into the forest. But Terkoz found them! Snatching Jane just as Tarzan returned, the crazed bull fled with the young girl. I think you know how this turned out -- and Tarzan then claimed his mate!

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