Friday, December 29, 2017

"The End" Week: Conan the Barbarian #275!

We checked out the previous issue earlier this year, since I never thought I'd get this one; but I found a nice reader copy while I was on vacation! From 1993, Conan the Barbarian #275, "Cry Kozak!" Written by Roy Thomas, pencils by Mike Docherty, inks by Ricardo Villagran, Alfredo Alcala, and Ernie Chan. And a Colin MacNeil cover with "The End!" right on it!

Conan had been captain of the mercenary Free Companions, but being kidnapped by masked cultists the previous issue may have been the last straw. He might've left them to their own devices, if one hadn't gotten a bit too mouthy and been gutted for it. Still, Conan ends up knocked out, and the mercenaries' new leaders discuss what to do with him: Conan's sole ally, Isparana, doesn't openly come to his aid, since she's carrying the child of the Devourer of Souls (!) but she leaves a knife so he can escape. Surprisingly, Conan's escape attempt fails, as he's knocked out again by a sling-stone. The leaders decide to have Conan dragged to death by a horse, since that way no single one of them has to take responsibility for it!

Conan is keel-hauled a good distance before he's able to get the horse stopped, but has lost a bit of blood. Still, he's helped by an old friend, mute Khitan Turgohl. Turgohl had been collecting weapons for the Kozaki raiders, who are amenable to Conan joining them but warn him not to step outside his station and usurp leadership. A few pages later, after the Kozaki village is attacked by fire demons and most of said leadership is killed, Conan is nominated for the job...They figure he had a good head on his shoulders and didn't panic during the attack. Moreover, Conan is unafraid to offer himself to meet with the enemy Turanians, who arrive under flag of truce: they didn't send the fire demons, but had some refugees from another Kozaki village and wanted to trade them in exchange for the Kozaki relocating more northward. Conan goes with the Turanians to confirm their refugees; reasoning the Kozaki weren't too attached to him yet, but his boldness could solidify his leadership.

Unluckily for the barbarian, the Turanians' leader is Yezdigerd, who remembered a prior run-in with Conan from Conan the Barbarian #20! Which was also written by Roy Thomas, who likes to tie in continuity like that: it's not really necessary, but that issue would have been reprinted fairly recently in Conan Saga #7. Yezdigerd has Conan taken prisoner and thrown in with the refugees, where Conan finds Turgohl's wife Tania, who might be responsible for this mess: she had tried to use the "Blood Jewel of Bel-Hissar" to summon the fire demons, but couldn't control them. Before Yezdigerd can have Conan beheaded, Tania creates enough of a distraction that Conan's able to turn into a fight to distract attention away from Tania, who gets the jewel again and summons more fire demons. Conan, Tania, and the refugees escape; although Conan doesn't have time to kill Yezdigerd.

Back with the Kozaki, Turgohl tries to take back the cursed Blood Jewel, but then can't throw it away. Conan stops him from killing himself, and takes the gem and its curse himself, to deal with later. Then, another Kozaki tribe asks for help, and Conan agrees, thinking the tribes could be united. But he wasn't expecting to take them against the Free Companions...!

This would be continued in Savage Sword of Conan #218, which I mistakenly thought was the last issue of that series: it's not, it would continue to #235. This also wasn't the end of Conan's color adventures at Marvel: there would be two short series (Conan the Adventurer and Conan) magazine-sized black-and-white Conan the Savage, and a smattering of limited series ending with Conan: the Flame and the Fiend in 2000.

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