The Chronicles of King Conan Volume 3: The Haunter of the Cenotaph and Other Stories (Conan the Barbarian) Paperback – 25 Sep 2012
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About the Author
Marc Silvestri, a major twenty-year comic book veteran, has been involved with content development since his start at Marvel Comics. In a short amount of time he established himself as a dynamic force in the world of comic books, bringing a new vitality to the industry. As an artist, Silvestri was instrumental in the success of such popular Marvel comic book properties as Uncanny X-Men and Wolverine, and went on to build a fan following unmatched by few other creators.
Silvestri's success in the publishing world has expanded into new areas of entertainment, including animation, action figures, live action television, features, interactive media, and international licensing.
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While one might think becoming the ruler of a mighty land like Aquilonia would mean rest and relaxation for our middle-aged Cimmerian hero, such is not the case. There's a spider-lady with a couple of pumas and a 200-ton Micronaut at her command, a horned beast with an army of green slinky things that live under a cemetery, and a trio of diabolical wizards, all of whom crave Aquilonia because as it turns out there's this giant hollow volcano somewhere in the country where another horned beast feeds souls to a lava beast and creates some reservoir of magic power.
Makes you wonder how Aquilonia managed to survive before Conan got to be its king.
That's the first four of Vol. 3's five issues, originally published in 1982-83. It's all very complicated, and not very Conan. Writer Doug Moench is well-regarded as a writer of superhero comics. Likewise, Mark Silvestri, the most famous name among the many illustrators who stepped in for the absent Buscema, would go on to be one of the main artists for Marvel's "Uncanny X-Men." Reading through these stories, with their endless succession of over-the-top images and situations, one misses the believability that Conan used to enjoy in comic form. Sure, it was fantastically surreal at times, but never like this!
The monsters and magic tangent gets labored quickly, as does the sex. The spider-lady has a tryst with King C, as do a bevy of underdressed maidens sent by a female wizard who's a hottie in her own right. No wonder Queen Zenobia decides to accompany her man on one expedition, dressed in a bikini so skimpy she looks like Lady Godiva on her horse. Turns out she is quite the fighter in her own right, an expert in archery and hand-to-hand combat. She explains it to her husband like this: "I was daughter to a soldier. My father always wanted a boy." Why she tells him now, after all the battles he fought without her help, is a mystery Moench leaves unexplored.
The last of the five stories, "The Looters Of R'Shann," is the one good story in this collection. It's inventive and shows what Moench might have done with King Conan had he laid off the superheroics and kept matters more down to earth. Traveling in disguise so as not to be recognized by his subjects, Conan falls in with a young thief for whom Conan is something of an idol, "perhaps the greatest thief who ever slipped through shadow." For his part, Conan misses his younger days as a carefree cutpurse, and sets out to relive them - until matters of state come calling in an unexpected way. Yes, it also ends with monsters, Abominable Snowmen from the look of them, but at least this time there's something earnest and enjoyable to the struggle.
This would be the last issue Moench would write for "King Conan;" the title would go off in yet another direction for a while. "Vol. 3" has its moments, but on the whole won't leave Conan readers missing Moench the way they did Roy Thomas.
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