To my delight, I’m getting the chance to relive some of the Conan graphic tales of the 80’s – a time when the Cimmerian was less concerned with where his next meal was coming from and more interested in taking his shtick on the road in search of treasure. I’ll try to post something on each of these tales once I’ve read them if for no better reason than to share with you my utmost glee in seeing the barbarian’s unique form of justice delivered upon whatever land he visits.
Today’s story: “The Horned God” from July, 1989.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Our tale opens in the court of King Milrathus, a disinterested monarch more interested in watching captured insects do battle than he is in producing an heir. Or could it be that his inability to produce a male child has forced him to pursue more trivial and mundane interests? Whatever the case, Milrathus is not interested in siring one of his maidens today, and this forces those who would serve him to begin to question the future of their kingdom. They know that should he not produce an heir that their lands will be taken from them upon his death and distributed amongst the remaining royal family; this more than anything else convinces them that they have to find some means with which to continue their majesty’s bloodline.
In the lands to the north, Conan has taken a position turning men into warriors when Lord Otradades and his aide royal aide Mengus realize they could use the warrior’s cunning on their quest. They meet with the barbarian and explain that they are seeking ‘the horned god’ – more commonly known as a unicorn – in hopes that the powder made from its marrow will magically revitalize King Milrathus’s sexual prominence. Joining them on this mission is the king’s sister, Princess Corialla, whom Conan believes will be a liability; as a young and voluptuous woman, she’s going to catch the eye of any wild thing they encounter. Of course, she reminds the Cimmerian of his station, and the fellowship is set for their adventure.
They enter the realm of Hyborea and almost immediately find themselves prey for the local natives. As Conan predicted, Corialla is about to become property of some manly beast when the barbarian instead puts his blade to better use. The woman swoons to Conan’s side, and – later in the evening – she comes to the man and gives herself freely to him.
The next day, the search party nearly becomes victims to another advancing horde, but, as they spirit away, they finally sight ‘the horned god’ on a nearby mountaintop. Thus, the race to capture the beast begins … but as is often the case in adventures of this sort success remains as elusive as possible!
“The Horned God” is the perfect Conan adventure. Sure, it’s all about the quest at one point, but there’s so much more at play in the narrative. There’s the business of royalty and the shenanigan of those allied to power trying to keep it; in the final pages, there’s even an attempt by others to usurp the throne for their own evil deeds. There’s plenty of action, needless to say, and there’s the mythical beast – the unicorn – which serves as an inspiration for those seeking its magic for their own ends. Add to that the prospect of romance for the barbarian and a princess, and I’m honestly not sure what more one could want from a tale of adventure.
THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN (#162) was originally published in July, 1989 by Marvel Comics; for those looking for a more recent version, one can be found as part of Dark Horse Comics stellar reprints, THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN – VOLUME 16. The story is written by Charles Dixon; the art is by Jorge Zaffino; the lettering is by Diana Albers; with a cover done by Dorian.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. So very much of “The Horned God” actually feels like a terrific theatrical outing for the singular Cimmerian. It’s a tale you can almost see playing out on the big or small screen, one that pits out hero on not so much an epic quest as it would be a relatively routine adventure for a man of his time, place, and stature. Throw in the prospect for a little barbarian romance, and what more could you possibly need?
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN (#162) by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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