Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Emerald Lust" sounds dirtier than it is...

Some years back, we checked out what I thought was the last issue of Savage Sword of Conan that I bought on the newsstands; but the other day I picked up a half-dozen issues from around then. And yet ended up blogging this issue I already have. From 1990, Savage Sword of Conan #170, "Emerald Lust" Written by Chuck Dixon, art by Gary Kwapisz. Joe Jusko cover, but SSOC covers were frequently disconnected from the interior stories, so there wasn't a hint there.

This issue, seemingly unrelated events lead to disaster: a shipwrecked, frozen Kothian is hit then picked up by the longboat of Captain Varnigern. After sleeping with a chieftain's daughter, Conan is forced to make a hasty retreat, with Aerik Blackeye swearing vengeance and giving chase with his men. And later, the pirate Valeria invites herself in to hear the Kothian's dying words...

...about an emerald the size of a mountain. Varnigern, described later as "loving gems more than a woman does," is sold; figuring that to be "too big a lie not to be true!" and joins forces with Valeria. Meanwhile, Aerik's looking for warriors to join his manhunt for the "big oafish Cimmerian" who sullied his daughter, and gets a ringer: Red Sonja! (Referred to as Sonja of Hyrkania at first, possibly because this is a black-and-white comic!) Aerik either doesn't remember Conan's name or doesn't care, but Sonja does think that pig sounds familiar...

Seeking new climes, Conan offers his services to Varnigern, who as much as tells him to piss off, before Valeria sees him and jumps him. She's thrilled and pissed to see him, since after he cut out last time they were together, Valeria's crew turned on her. Conan does not take a lot of her guff, though, throwing her over his shoulder. Varnigern's ship sets sail, mere moments before Aerik's band arrives! Sonja offers not to charge for this one, but Aerik's not giving up that easy.

Meanwhile, Conan is once again enjoying Valeria's company, even if she is a bit crazy for him, and he thinks this emerald hunt is probably a bad idea. Sailing further and further north, the ice continues to pile up around their ship, until at last they see it: a veritable mountain of emerald!

As the giddy crew hack pieces off it, Conan and Valeria both realize real emerald is harder than that; when Conan picks up a shard...it melts in his hand. The emerald is nothing but oddly colored ice! Varnigern is understandably a bit perturbed, but Valeria protests she couldn't have known, and Conan has things about settled down when Aerik's ship arrives, hellbent on Conan's head! I don't think they even noticed the "emerald" as they ram Varnigern's ship; but after sailing to the unchartered roof of the world, surrounded by ice and danger, they probably were pretty enthusiastic about finally getting to murder Conan.

Worse, Sonja recognizes Conan, and Valeria sees her eyeballing her man, and the two of them are soon at it like mad dogs. Valeria accuses Sonja of wanting Conan for herself, and when Sonja protests she invokes her "oath of chastity," which just makes Valeria certain Sonja wants Conan to beat her. Wait, not like that...suffice to say, they hate each other immediately.

Both crews battle, unmindful of their surroundings, so when a chunk of iceberg falls on Aerik's ship, just about everyone is killed. Valeria and Sonja pull themselves out of the freezing water, but think themselves doomed until Conan does likewise. Conan tells Sonja "we should draw a line across the belly of the world and stay on either side of it, Sonja." Pretty great line, there. He forces them to fall in line, since their only chance of survival was together. Facing a week's hike to the outskirts of Vanaheim, the trio face giant seals and a blizzard before getting back to forests vaguely in the neighborhood of home, and Conan laments the deaths of five score men, on a dying man's word, for a handful of ice. Completely ignoring that Conan probably got Varnigern's crew killed more than the emerald, but even so.

I really, really want to read Gail Simone's Conan/Red Sonja miniseries; but this issue is the bar it would have to beat for me.

2 comments:

Dale Bagwell said...

Did Sonja ever eventually give up the goods? Maybe to Conan?

googum said...

Not in the Marvel continuity that I know of. Not for lack of trying on Conan's part, either!