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The Chronicles of Conan: Riders of the River-Dragons and Other Stories, Vol. 9 Paperback – 24 Feb 2006

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"One of the most impressive pieces of art I have seen in ages. Breathtaking." - sci-fi-online"

About the Author

Roy Thomas wrote classic runs of The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Doctor Strange, Avengers, Captain Britain and, of course, various Conan titles. John Buscema is one of the great names in comics art, having drawn, amongst others, Spider-Man, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Tarzan and Wolverine.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Tim Janson - Published on
Format: Paperback
First off, let me say one of the greatest things to happen to Conan in recent years was Dark Horse getting the rights to reprint the Conan the Barbarian comic originally published by Marvel Comics. The character had begun to languish at Marvel and thankfully Dark Horse stepped up to the plate to take him over. Volume 9 of the series "Riders of the River Dragon and Other Stories" reprints issues 60 - 63, 65, and 69 - 71 of the original comic series with all new re-mastered coloring on slick paper. While some have been critical of the re-mastered color, I think it looks fantastic. People seem to forget just how dull looking those comics looked under the old printing process and on newsprint. Just pick up and issue and compare it.

I'm showing my age but I read and used to own all the comics in this most recent volume. Thirty years later I'm amazed at how the memories flooded back as I first recalled reading these as a kid. Credit for this goes first to Roy Thomas, probably the finest Conan writer outside of Robert E. Howard himself. More than any other modern day writer, Thomas understood the character so well. Roy knew that Conan need not face some all-powerful wizard in every issue or some demonic monster. Some of Howard's best Conan Stories were those that involved very little if any magic in them such as "Beyond the Black River" which is a wilderness adventure story at it's finest. Roy has demonstrated this in Volume 9 as Conan and Belit, the she-pirate, travel with her corsairs throughout the southern jungle lands of the Hyborian lands, REH's version of Africa.

The first multi-part story finds Conan and Belit entering a village who normally pays tribute to Belit and her crew with gifts of ivory but on this occasion they have none to give, as its been plundered by the dreaded Dragon-Riders, warriors who ride upon large alligators as mounts. Belit is soon kidnapped as she sleeps off the effects of a drug, and taken by the Dragon-Riders to be the mate of their master Amra, Lord of the Lions. In Amra, we get Roy's influence by Edgar Rice Burroughs in creating a red-haired version of Tarzan. Thomas provides a lengthy essay at the books conclusion as he explains his love for ERB and the creation of Amra. Conan gathers the rest of the crew and gets on the trail of the Dragon-Riders, climaxing in a battle to the death between Conan and Amra.

Robert E. Howard was perhaps the most pragmatic pulp writer that ever lived. If Howard had a Kull Story rejected, he would often turn around and re-write the story as a Conan adventure. Similarly he would re-use Conan stories in other genres. The story "The Black Stranger" was rewritten into a pirate story for his character Black Vulmea. Roy Thomas often employed the same strategy in the comics. He would adapt other Howard stories and turn them into Conan yarns. There are a couple of examples of this in volume 9. In "Demon out of the Deep" Conan relates a story to Belit from his youth. He was captured by a tribe of Vanir and taken to their village along the Western Sea. Soon several members of the tribe turn up dead and Conan has to confront the horrid thing behind the killings. In the final story, Thomas adapts the Howard story "Marchers of Valhalla", a historical adventure, into a Conan story called "City in the Storm" that finds Conan, Belit, and their crew locating a mysterious island city.

Of course the other person who deserves credit for these great Conan Stories is penciller John Buscema. Because of the hundreds of Conan stories that he did on the regular Conan Comic, King Conan, and the black & white Savage Sword of Conan magazine, perhaps no artist, other than maybe Frank Frazetta, is more associated with Conan than Big John. As always, John's pencils were embellished by his long-time inking partner Ernie Chan. Val Mayerik does the pencils on one issue and fills-in magnificently.

I always loved these Conan tales taking place in those dark jungle kingdoms as it was a nice change of pace the other Conan stories. Excellent work as always from Dark Horse.

Reviewed by Tim Janson
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The Missing Story Arc from this Volume: 19 May 2007
By N. Franklin - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Just to clarify what is missing from Chronicles of Conan Volume 9: As Roy Thomas points out in his notes at the end of the book, Conan #66-68 were left out of the Dark Horse book apparently because Dynamite Publishing had secured the rights to the Red Sonja character who appears in the story. For anyone interesting in tracking down the missing part of the story, it should be pointed out that Conan #67 was actually continued not in Conan #68 but in in Marvel Feature (Presenting Red Sonja) #7, which then leads into Conan #68. Marvel Feature #7 is reprinted in the recent trade paperback "The Adventures of Red Sonja Volume 1" published by Dynamite Publishing. If you didn't know anything was missing you probably wouldn't even notice it, as it is only alluded to very briefly. The story with Red Sonja sort of went off on a tangent not really necessary for understanding anything that happens before or after it.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The early adventures of Conan and Belit on the Black Coast 15 Aug. 2006
By Lawrance Bernabo - Published on
Format: Paperback
At some point Roy Thomas must have figured out there was a finite number of Robert E. Howard stories to adapt for the "Conan the Barbarian" comic book. Thomas was using most of Howard's original Conan stories for the slightly larger and longer venue of the black & white "Savage Tales"/"Savage Tales of Conan" and taking pretty much anything Howard wrote about other characters and turning them into Conan stories. But when Thomas got ready to adapt "Queen of the Black Coast," the Conan story about the she-devil Belit, he had a masterstroke and decided to create a comic book epic. Belit was introduced in "Conan the Barbarian" #58 and did not meet her death until #100. The breakdown of "The Chronicles of Conan" reprinting these Marvel comics written by Thomas and drawn (with one exception) by John Buscema means that with Volume 9, "Riders of the River-Dragons and Other Stories" we have just missed the introduction of Belit. But we do have the first multi-part Conan and Belit adventure and clear evidence that we have entered the pirate stage in the history of Howard's barbarian warrior:

In "Riders of the River-Dragons" (#60) the pirate ship "Tigress" travels up the river Zarkheba to take her rightful tribute from men who ride on the back of huge crocodiles. When the riders take Belit, Conan agrees to lead the local tribe, the Watambis and the Black Corsairs to get her back. "On the Track of the She-Pirate" (#61) includes a two-page splash panel of the women Conan has loved as he pursues Belit through the jungle, but the pirate queen is now dealing with a giant killer moth. "Lord of the Lions" (#62) is Amra, the Tarzan like figure who was shipwrecked as a boy and was raised by a pride of lions, the companion of Sholo, a cub whose fur was dark as the shrouding jungle night. Amra wants to make the goddess Belit his queen, which does not make Makeda, mistress of the Lair of the Lions, happy. In "Death Among the Ruins" (#63), Conan finally catches up with Belit and Amra as they are fighting a horde of the unbound ones. At that point, we have the fight to the death between Conan and Amra. This four-part story is a good indication of how Thomas and Buscema were taking their time telling stories because Conan and Belit are separated for over two issues and it works just fine.

"Fiends of the Feathered Serpent" (#65), freely adapted from Howard's "The Thunder Rider," again has the "Tigress" stopping for supplies and discovering the seven-foot giant Ahmaan the Merciless, pygmies wearing brightly dyed feathers, and Tezcatipoca the self-proclaimed Mist-Lord. Val Mayerik is the illustrator (along with The Tribe) on "The Demon Out of the Deep" (#69), adapted from Howard's "Out of the Deep," which is actually a flashback story the Conan tells Belit about making his way back to Cimmeria after the events in "Conan" #2, when he was captured by a Vanir war party. "The City in the Storm" (#70), based on Howard's "Marchers of Valhalla," welcomes back Ernie Chan (formerly Chua) as embellisher-in-residence. The storm swept "Tigress" comes upon the great-towering city of Kelka. Although Conan and his comrades defend the city from Argossean pirates, they are betrayed the priest Akkheba, to be sacrificed to the great goddess Ashtoreth. "The Secret of Ashtoreth" (#71) is discovered by Conan and Belit, who meet the "goddess" face to face. What is nice about this one is that for once the sorcery part of the equation is pretty much gone and it is just the sword part.

The missing issues are a reprint in color of "The Secret of Skull River" from "Savage Tales" #5 and a cross-over story from "Red Sonja" (in which King Kull appears as well), which explains why the "Conan" issues are not reprinted here. There is nothing in these eight reprinted comic books that is a true Conan classic, but they are almost all above average, which is enough to justify rounding up on this volume. Besides, this was the point where the comic book was getting back to the level it was at in the Barry Windsor-Smith days. By this time I had really come to like the way Buscema was drawing Conan, especially when Chan came back as inker. Thomas and Buscema would spend over four years with Conan and Belit raiding ships and kingdoms up and down the Black Coast creating a true comic book epic.
Settling In Aboard The Tigress 15 April 2010
By Slokes - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Marvel "Conan The Barbarian" comic books had a markedly different take on the title character than did creator Robert E. Howard. Howard's Conan was savage, contemptuous of society and its niceties, and fairly belligerent in general. In the comics, Conan was more upright, not compromised by conventional morality but willing to make allowances.

This is especially so in the series of issues presented here, which ran from 1976 through early 1977 and centers around the start of his romance with Bêlit the pirate queen. Bêlit was more like Howard's Conan than Conan himself, impulsive, cold-blooded, and often in a rage. Seeing how they behave together and apart is a chief pleasure of Volume 9 of the Dark Horse Conan reprints.

Conan starts out this run having just been accepted by Bêlit and the crew of her ship, the Tigress. After a quick glance at the River Zarkheba (which features prominently in the climax of the one Howard story featuring Bêlit), it's off to collect tribute from a tribe living on the jungle coast who are being terrorized by a band of crocodile-riding warriors. They in turn are in the thrall of a red-haired jungle warrior, Amra, who captures Bêlit for his bed.

"You are Amra's now - and your mate will die if he tries to claim you," he tells a furiously struggling Bêlit, whose one redeeming virtue beyond her skimpy loincloth is her total devotion for Conan.

The four-issue Amra story is a high point of this collection, with ample twists and turns while Conan leads a jungle search to rescue his lover. Amra's resemblance to Tarzan is cleverly played up without distracting jabs at humor, and the lushness of the visuals is testament to a brief but fruitful collaboration between penciller John Buscema and embellisher Steve Gan.

Gan apparently had a meltdown after this. According to writer Roy Thomas in his Afterword, Gan vanished with Buscema's pencils while preparing the next story here, the one-issue "Fiends of the Feathered Serpent". Later returned, and embellished by other hands, "Serpent" covers a lot of ground and builds on the tropical visual flavor established by the Amra story. Making landfall on an island far off the Black Coast, Conan confronts an evil wizard, his primitive followers, and even some dissention among the Tigress crew that reappears later.

Some issues would have appeared in this volume except they feature Red Sonja, which Dark Horse didn't have license to reprint here. It's a tasty five-issue arc (including two issues of a "Red Sonja" companion mag) worth looking up.

The one clunker here, "The Demon Out of the Deep", is a flashback story casting Conan in the role of detective solving a series of murders. The art here by one-timer Val Mayerik recalls Barry Windsor-Smith's early Conan...without his eye for detail or depth. Even without that, Thomas's recasting of a way-out Howard seaside horror story for a Conan adventure proves misguided and rather weak.

A second isolated island, featuring the strangely friendly city of Kelka, figures in the last two-issue story arc. It's something of a rewrite of the more solidly constructed "Fiends", even if based on a different Howard story. You see the twists coming this time, though Thomas & Co. keep the action quick and the serving maidens beautiful.

The comic Conan often operates here as a relative conscience and check on Bêlit's wilder impulses. In the Kelka story, he even forebears to exact vengeance on a traitorous underling. That was a little too soft for me, but Conan's overall development is intriguing and his relationship with Bêlit makes this worth reading for more than savage thrills.
A Great Series 13 April 2009
By J. Dustin Broughton - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dark Horse and Roy Thomas have done a fine job in putting together all of the Conan the Barbarian's Comics. I really like the stories that Mr. Thomas writes in the end of the books to allow you a little background of the issues. The artwork was great and the coloring awesome. I always enjoyed Barry Smith's Conan more than anyones especially toward the end of his time with Conan(Red Nails). John though as made the Conan we know and to me has made the perfect older version of our hero. If anyone is a Conan fan then i suggest this and the other 16 volumes. If you have never heard of Conan and like graphic novels then this will be equally as exciting. Long Live Conan
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