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  • Greg O'Driscoll

Conan and the Valley of Iskander

Cover of Conan the Barbarian #79 from Marvel Comics. Art by John Buscema and Ernie Chan.

Following the fill-in issue of the previous month, the overarching story gets back on track. A handy recap on the title page catches everyone up on what they need to know. On their way to the capitol of Stygia, Conan, Belit, and the slavegirl Neftha have encountered all sorts of obstacles, including sea-dragons, riders astride giant hawks, and a Stygian warrior that was mutated into a giant by a magical meteorite.

Now, Conan has been chosen by the king of Harakht to retrieve the Eye of Set. Seemingly yet another side-quest, this is actually the beginning of the Conan version of REH's The Valley of Iskander. The hero of the original, F. X. Gordon also known as el Borak or "the Swift", a scimitar swinging, gun slinging Irish adventurer, is replaced by Conan the Cimmerian. In many ways they are not so different,especially when one considers Conan's time among the Kozaki tribesmen.

Interior art from CTB #79.

Hunyadi is replaced with Hun-ya-di, a Stygian priest recently elevated to the number two spot in the city of Harakht. He is angered when the king selects Conan to retrieve the Eye of Set or rather the one to match that eye-like orb already in the king's possession. Conan is waylaid on his journey to the mysterious village of Attalus, but dispatches the men sent by Hun-ya-di to assassinate him.

My favorite scene from this issue is the brutal landslide that only Conan escapes by hiding in the lee of a rock outcropping. Just as in the original story, the literal fallout from this landslide is how Conan meets Bardylis. But the stranger trapped by a fallen boulder that Conan rescues is quite different from the Bardylis that el Borak met. Of a necessity for any sword and sorcery comic but especially Conan the Barbarian, Bardylis is rendered as a beautiful, nearly-naked woman as opposed to the young man in a toga from the original.

"Like a landslide comin' down..."

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