|Conan Saga #23|
This week’s “Comic Book of the Week” is “Conan Saga” #23, which was published by Marvel Comics in March 1989. This issue’s creative team included Roy Thomas, writer and editor; Gil Kane and Tom Sutton, artists; John Costanza, letterer; Craig Anderson, editor; Sue Flaxman, assistant editor; Virginia Romita, traffic and production coordinator; Gleen Lord, technical advisor; and Tom DeFalco, editor-in-chief. Boris Vallejo was the cover artist, and the issue sold for $2 at newsstands.
“Conan Saga” #23 was a 64-page issue that contained the second part of an on-going series called “Conan the Conqueror,” and the issue was broken down into three chapters – “To Tarantia and the Tower,” “The Trial in the Temple” and “Swords of the South.” These “chapters” were originally printed in “Giant-Size Conan” #3 and “Giant-Size Conan” #4 and were “freely adapted” from the 1935 novel, “Hour of the Dragon” by Conan creator Robert E. Howard.
Chapter One opens with King Conan fleeing from Nemedia toward the border of Aquilonia, the kingdom the he recently ruled until he was unseated after his apparent death during a magic-induced landslide at the Battle of Valkia. While trying to figure out how to get his throne back, he rides upon four Nemedian soldiers harassing an old woman, one of Conan’s subjects. A few minutes later, all four soldiers lie dead at the woman’s feet thanks to Conan’s intervention, and the woman, who is actually a witch, rewards him with shelter and words of wisdom. After a mystic vision, this witch cryptically tells Conan that he must find “the heart” of his kingdom to win back his throne.
Chapter Two opens with a disguised Conan walking undetected through the gates of Tarantia, the capital of Aquilonia, where Valerius, a Nemedian, now rules in Conan’s place. Conan proceeds to sneak into the Iron Tower, where he saves Countess Albiona from the executioner’s axe. They escape with the help of some friends and are taken to the Temple of Asura, where they meet a priest of Asura named Hadrathus.
Hadrathus explains that Valerius is merely the puppet of a 3,000-year-old sorcerer named Xaltotun of Python, and that the key to his defeat is a magical jewel called “The Heart of Ahriman.” This caused Conan to remember the witch’s words about “the heart of his kingdom,” and he immediately sets out to find this jewel.
Chapter Three begins with Conan and Albiona traveling to Poitain, where they meet a company of soldiers led by Conan's old friend Count Trocero. Later, Conan sets out alone for the castle of Count Valbroso, where he finds the Heart of Ahriman. Before he can get his hands on it, he’s knocked unconscious by an unsavory character and then he has to track the jewel to the port city of Messantia. The chapter ends as Conan discovers that the jewel has been secreted aboard a Stygian galley that’s “racing out to sea and bearing with her the Heart of Ahriman.”
This comic (unless I’ve sold it) and others are available for purchase through Peacock’s Books on Amazon.com. If you’re interested in buying it, search for it there by title, issue number and date of publication.