Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Remember past lives? I don't even remember buying this comic...

...and I'm 90% sure I've read the original Robert E. Howard story as well, but couldn't say when. So we'll blog this comic so we remember it at least: from 1972, Supernatural Thrillers #3, "The Valley of the Worm" Adapted by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, art by Gil Kane, inks by Ernie Chua, aka Ernie Chan.

As James Allison lays dying, he has visions of his more glorious past lives, like the warrior Niord. Who's that, you ask? Only the inspiration for such legends as those of Perseus, Beowulf, St. George, and Siegfried. Niord and his band of Nordic Viking types were moving into a new land, which led to a skirmish with the darker-skinned Picts. (There's more than a few questionable racial issues in the work of Robert E. Howard.) Still, Niord spares a brave Pict by the name of Gorm (after bashing him in the head with a shield) and the two tribes eventually forge a peace. Niord and Gorm become hunting buddies, until Niord's nearly killed by a saber-tooth tiger. Gorm (misspelled Grom on more than a couple panels) repays his friend's kindness by nursing him back to health.

While he recovers, a number of his tribe split off to make their new home in "the Valley of the Broken Stones," which sounds...nice. Gorm tries to warn them, but they laugh him off, so it's their own fault when they get massacred by a monster, "the Dark One." Niord makes a plan to defeat the monster, by first taking out another: the giant serpent Satha. With a deadfall trap, he kills the snake and takes its venom, then goes to the Broken Stones; a ruined, monstrous temple. After killing a hairy, piping thing; Niord battles the monster, a "worm." His poison arrows probably would've done the job, but he tries to finish the wounded monster with his sword, and is smashed to a pulp for his trouble. Still, he dies happy as the temple collapses on the dying worm; and as the narrator dies himself in the present day.

I don't know if this story is "One of the Greatest Monster Epics of All Time!" as the cover proclaims, but not a bad little read. A quick GCD search shows its been reprinted a couple times; but I'm mildly surprised no one else has done a version of it.

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