Monday, May 06, 2013

Today, Conan vs. speculation.

I had this issue as a kid, and was absolutely convinced it was going to be a collector's item. I have no idea why I thought that, or why I felt compelled to tell people it was sure to be valuable later, but I know I did. From 1981, Conan the Barbarian #126, "The Blood Red Eye of Truth!" Written by J.M. DeMatteis, pencils by John Buscema, embellishment by Bob McLeod.

Trapped deep in Stygia, Conan is feeling up a creek; but the little wizard Liirix claims he can send Conan back--if Conan would do him a solid, and steal a gem called the Eye of the Unknowable One from some cultists. Since Stygia kind of blows, Conan agrees; and tracks down some of the cultists, who already know Liirix's plot and attack on sight. Still, Conan is more than a match for them even outnumbered four-to-one; but one remains: an old woman, Shikar. She had been on her way to the Unnameable City, to see the Unknowable One before she died; and convinces Conan to take her there. "The only way to become one with truth is to be consumed by it," she tells Conan, who obliges her.

After a brief fight with an ogre-like monster, Conan and Shikar arrive at the altar of the Unknowable One; which is a big stone worm-snake with a ruby-gem eye. Shikar wishes Conan would give up on the idea of looting her temple, but knows he has a good heart. Shikar dies, and while Conan wonders if she's found the truth she devoted her life to, the Unknowable One comes to life and eats Shikar's body. Appalled, offended, or possibly just grossed out; Conan tries to gut the worm, but it's a little more durable than he'd expected. Finally, Conan crushes it with a giant slab of stone.

Conan gets the ruby-gem, but later seems to see faces in it, including Shikar's, seemingly trapped after the death of her god. Still, Conan had made a deal, and gets the gem to Liirix; who promptly poisons Conan with a face full of powder. (What kind, I wonder?) As Liirix boasts, Conan recovers, but isn't sure why until he realizes it was the gem. Conan smashes the gem, releasing Shikar and the others within, who then turn Liirix into a ruby glass goblin.

As a bonus, Shikar also gets Conan back to a civilized city, well out of Stygia; as well as sets him up with food, drink, and a bag of gold. A fun little issue, but certainly not the collector's item I thought it was going to be. For some reason...really, I'm still not sure what I was thinking.

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