Sunday, January 13, 2013

Conan: The Ravagers Out of Time

   Conan: The Ravagers Out of Time was a Marvel Comics Graphic Novel that appeared in 1992, during the time that I was no longer reading fantasy fiction. (I've told the tale of my not quite two decade lay off from fantasy before so I won't go into it here.) It was written by Roy Thomas who had recently returned to Marvel after his own decade long absence from Conan and who was writing both the color Conan comic and the Black and White Savage Sword of Conan magazine. He also found time to pen this sword & sorcery extravaganza which teamed the big Cimmerian with Robert E. Howard's other black-maned barbarian, Kull, as well as with Red Sonja, the she -devil with a sword.
   Perhaps it's because Roy Thomas's version of Conan was the first one I encountered, but Roy remains my favorite writer of Conan comic books. Thus it was fun to have what was, for me, a brand new Roy Thomas Conan story. And it is very much an old school sword & sorcery tale with a tower, a monster, and an honest to gosh sorcerer as the bad guy.
   It's also a sequel to an earlier Thomas tale, The Curse of the Golden Skull, from Conan the Barbarian issue #37. In that issue Conan runs afoul of a resurrected ancient Lemurian sorcerer named Rotath who had been slain by Kull in the distant past. This character was actually created by Robert E. Howard in a Kull fragment. As he often did, Thomas adapted and expanded the unfinished story, bringing Rotath into Conan's time. In that story, Rotath met a messy end in the innards of a gigantic slug.
   Flash forward ten years and Conan is now leading a band of bandits in Turan. He and his men attack a caravan, only to find it contains a wagon loaded with gold and a strange prisoner, an elderly Pict who seems oddly familiar to Conan. The barbarian gets another surprise when he learns that the captain of the caravan guards is his old friend and sparring partner, Red Sonja. Sonja recognizes the Pict as the spitting image of Gonar, the Pictish shaman who advised King Kull. She and Conan had met Gonar in another adventure where Gonar and Kull crossed time to the Hyborian Age.
   Conan notices that the he's not far from the gold mine where his run-in with Rotath occurred and he realizes that's where the gold in the caravan came from. He and his men set out to claim more gold, but they are attacked by the giant slug that consumed Rotath. However it turns out that over time Rotath's will was able to actually take control of the slug's body. Now he wants revenge on Conan, Kull, and anyone else who's unlucky enough to be close by. Rotath uses his sorcery to hurl himself, Conan and Sonja back into the days of King Kull where the mad sorcerer plans to transfer his mind into Kull's body and then conquer the world as he had originally intended.
  In the end it will take steel, blood, and Pictish magic to halt Rotath's schemes and get Conan and Sonja back to their own time.
   All and all, a rousing adventure. The art is by Michael Docherty and Alfredo Alcala, and if not quite as impressive as John Buscema, it's still in the classic Marvel Conan mode. If I've any complaint about the artwork it's the coloring, which seems a bit washed out. A brighter palatte might have improved things. But that's a small quibble. I had a lot of fun reading this 21 year old Graphic Novel. It's not hard to come by on Ebay if you're interested.

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