Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Roy Thomas
Artwork: Alan Davis, Cam Smith
Colours: Chris Sotomayor
Lettering: VC’s Travis Lanham
Release Date: 13th November 2019
If Roy Thomas’ final instalment to his “Dark Cavern, Dark Crystal” storyline was truly the best tale Marvel could provide for the cult classic publication, it was probably abundantly clear – even to this series’ loyal 19,785 readers in November 2019 – just why Savage Sword Of Conan was on the cusp of being cancelled. True, the former editor-in-chief certainly packs his twenty-page narrative with plenty of pulse-pounding action, courtesy of the Cimmerian discovering that the legendary treasure which his employer seeks is guarded by a horde of giant, flesh-eating bats. But so arguably ludicrous are the circumstances leading up to the Barbarian’s untenable situation deep within the bowels of the Himelian Mountains, that it is hard to take anything away from this comic’s plot, except perhaps some relief when its finally over.
Foremost of this book’s faults, besides some startlingly lacklustre pencilling at times by Alan Davis, is the duplicity all this yarn’s cast show once they have reached their prize and gazed in terror at the Keepers of the Dark Crystal. The character of Zubair, with his smooth-talking tongue and egotistical belief in his fighting skills was clearly always earmarked to commit some treacherous act. Yet the hired swordsman’s sudden transformation from a helpless rope-bound prisoner into a formidably-powered sorcerer seems a little far-fetched, especially when the wizard verbalises the terrific lengths he has gone to in order to fool his companions and reach his goal, despite him always having the ability to simply ward off the crystal’s custodians with a magic shield.
Lady Serra’s betrayal is, however, even more disconcerting, after it’s unexpectedly revealed that the noblewoman conveniently has “a tiny shard” of the luminescent sphere residing “in that ring you wear.” Setting aside any thoughts of originality concerning purple-coloured dark crystals, a long-lost shard or the need for the giant gem to “be whole before it can fully function”, Thomas’ disclosure that the woman poisoned her own brother’s ale in order to procure Lord Fallo’s map (whilst at the same time having her stab the ignorant barbarian” in the ribs for costing her the magical power she craves), seems a little ill-advised to put it mildly, especially when the two are alone atop a snow-covered mountain facing a monstrous guardian; “I can’t save you from the bat-thing that was determined to reclaim the missing piece of their dark crystal!”
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]