Monday, March 2, 2015

Savage Sword of Conan Volume Eight

The Savage Sword of Conan Volume Eight brings further adventures of Conan's time at Marvel as a magazine back into print thanks to the efforts of Dark Horse Comics.

The physical version clocks in at 500 pages. Yeah, it's a lot of barbarian in black and white for the money. We get art from many of the classic masters of the time including Gil Kane, John Buscema, and Ernie Chan among others.

Speaking of Ernie:

Ernie captures Conan quite well and I wish he'd been able to do more work in the main body of work itself. Still, I'm not going to look down on John or the others for their fantastic efforts.

This volume has a little something extra to it for me. On one hand, it's Conan. You know that it's going to have a lot of the standard features:

1. Conan is going to get sucker punched and knocked out at least once.

2. Conan is going to get captured and escape, at least once.

3. Conan is going to have many amorous companions.

But push past all that, and we actually have a thing rare for Conan. Enemies who survive more than one encounter with the barbarian.

This volume introduces us to the Devourer of Souls. This is one character that Marvel thought so impressive, that they brought a major storyline around him in the regular comic. He's also one of the few people to simply beat Conan down.

The bad news here? Is Conan is saved by outside agency. This to me defeats the purpose of Conan being overwhelmed by his foe because he is not responsible for saving himself. He doesn't have a trick. He doesn't have a plot. He doesn't use brain or strategy. Instead he essentially gets lucky.

It's like if the Game Master was like, "Man, I've rolled a lot of 20's here... The villain decides to move on and finish you off later!"

This is quite the contrast to Conan's encounter with Darius. With Conan's assistance, Darius finds three magical items, Gauntlets, Armor, and a Bow. All are vastly powerful. With them, Darius turns on Conan and almost kills the barbarian. In the rematch, Conan does use wit and maneuvering to finish off Darius. That's a nice change of pace.

Another new foe introduced, who we will see again, is Konar. The 'flip' to Konar is that he's Conan, or at least, a Conan or another world. The 'real' Conan finds himself dragged through the multiverse through a gap and when he arrives in his new world, much like one of the old Planetary Romances, is under a world with different suns. The country this Konar rules? Aquiloria. Sound familiar?

Conan fits in well but his counter eventually returns and the two battle. Conan sees no profit in fighting Konar to the death and retreats.

It's another case where the authors use outside influence to make things easier for the barbarian. I can see the player's and GM going, "Is this getting lame or is it just me? Alright, let's get back to the standard setting."

Surprisingly another villain returns. THis time it's Captain Bor'aqh Sharaq, a barachian corsair. Last seen being dragged into hell. He manages to escape and bring with him a powerful weapon but this being the Savage Sword of Conan not the Savage Sword of Sharaq, while it proves useful, it does not grant him that victory. Still, it was nice to see a foe make a series of returns. It gives a little more sense of continuity to the series.

One of the things I enjoy about this mammoth volumes, is that they often have a lot of ideas that would make for great adventurers.

The Gamesmen of Asgalun: Two 'brothers' are addicted to gambling and set the barbarian off on a wild goose chase to see if he'll succeed or die on their bet. Much like Trading Places in its simplicity.

Isle of the Hunter: Conan is taken to an isle guarded by a monstrous defender and is then hunted by the lord of that island for sport. Another commonly used theme seen in such as The Most Dangerous Game. This adaptation is made more complicated by those who hunt Conan from the mainland in addition to twins. Nothing is ever easy for the barbarian.