SPOILERS!

The cover to my copy of Conan the Barbarian Movie Special #2

Issue #2 picks up with Conan, Valeria, and Subotai escape Thulsa Doom’s tower by leaping into a pool. Within the city they celebrate their thievery, with Hyrkanian marksman planning to by himself some “Sleek girls, with shiny skin and round hips.” When Subotai asks Conan if he will do the same the Cimmerian remarks that he need not buy what he already has, as Valeria snuggles up to him.

Their celebration is short lived, however, as a group of guards round them up and bring them to King Osric. Initially fearful that the king wishes to punish them for riling up the cult, Osric reveals he is actually impressed by them! Even his own guards cower at the power Thulsa Doom claims to wield. Because of this King Osric hires the trio to retrieve his enthralled daughter and bring her back to him.

Although the troop agrees Conan leaves on his own the next morning, unwilling to let them become involved in his quest for vengeance. As Conan tracks down the lair of Thulsa Doom he comes across the sorcerer Akiro, who tends to the graves of a battlefield that was long ago fought between kings and Doom. Akiro’s hut is not far from the cult’s mountain temple and Conan leaves his horse with the old man.

The barbarian steals a priest’s robe a thinks he has successfully infiltrated Doom’s temple, but the bestial guards realize the totem he wears is from the plundered tower and Thulsa Doom captures him. The cult leader asks why a man would steal his things – and worse yet, kill his beloved snake – and Conan explains that Doom was the man who lead a troop that killed his parents and village.

Amused by this Thulsa Doom explains that such an event happened when he was younger and misguided, that he had once search for the Riddle of Steel and had found the answer; steel is week, it is the flesh that wields it which is much stronger. Doom counters Conan’s curses of anger by saying that if it wasn’t for him the barbarian would not have grown up to be the raging strong man he is – and then has him crucified on the Tree of Woe.

Abandoned in the desert, slowly dying as only vultures watch over him, Conan almost doesn’t believe his eyes when he sees Subotai approaching. He is rescued by the Hyrkanian, Valeria, and Akiro, but he is near death. The Queen of Thieves demands the sorcerer contact the gods and have Conan spared. Akiro says that such a request would have a price, and Valeria claims she is willing to pay it. Akiro does as asked, but as an otherworldly power descends on the barbarian the wizards runs off in fear, while Subotai is frozen in terror. Valeria fights off the spirits, claiming she would “return from the very pit of Hell to fight at [Conan’s] side” and the spirits are driven off. Conan rises renewed, and his three companions celebrate the Cimmerian’s return.

The next morning Valeria and Subotai plan for the rescue mission, and explain to Conan that good thieves will survive rescuing the princess; vengeful ones will not. The barbarian silently nods in agreement. While storming Doom’s temple the three discover that the cult’s guards are actually beast men, who feed on the flesh of some of the followers. They also watch as Doom himself transforms into the “very image of Set, the Serpent God.”

This doesn’t turn out to be very useful to Doom, however, as the three invaders manage to set fire to the lair and escape with the kicking and screaming princess. Once outside the group has nearly escaped, swimming to shore, but Doom (returned to human form) sets straight a viper and fires it from a bow. It strikes Valeria, killing her and repaying her debt to the gods. Conan and Subotai manage to escape with the princess and Valeria’s body.

Back at Akiro’s hut Conan burns his love’s body, and the Hyrkanian cries on his behalf. The princess gloats that Thulsa Doom will see the fire’s smoke and come for her. The remaining three men prepare the grounds for invasion.

Doom and his men do indeed come, and are slowly picked apart by the barbarian and his allies. As the battle nears a close Conan is almost killed by Doom’s right hand man, Rexor, but the spirit of Valeria appears and blinds him. This allows the barbarian to exact the first part of his revenge, as Rexor was the man to kill his father.

Meanwhile, Doom has found the chained princess and despite her pleas for rescue readies another straightened serpent so that he might sacrifice her. As the airborne snake nears the helpless woman Subotai jumps between them, deflecting the projectile with his shield. This allows Conan his chance to approach Doom.

The barbarian and the cult leader trade lines for a bit, as Thulsa Doom explains that he didn’t kill Conan’s father; it is Doom who is the barbarian’s true father. It was he who gave Conan the will to endure, his purpose in life, his definaition in the-

Then Conan stabs him and cuts off his head.

In the last few panels the barbarian releases the princess who will willingly accompany him back to her father. Subotai and Conan part ways, agreeing that someday they “will meet again at the gate of Hell!”

FIN.

DIFFERENCES FROM THE MOVIE: For the most part the comic plays out like a condensed version of the last two-thirds of the film. The movie shows more of Conan and Valeria’s time together before being found by the king, as well as expanding on Conan’s infiltration of the cult camp and his resurrection. The film also shows Akiro actually battling (briefly) Doom’s men in the final stand. Major differences include the lack of beast men in the film, that Valeria’s fatefully escape was on horseback and not while swimming, and that Conan’s final stand with Thulsa Doom is a separate scene from the battle atop his temple.

THE FINAL VERDICT: Even a die-hard Conan film buff could find enjoyment in the comic.

Because of the contraction of events the comic ends on a seemingly rushed note. But that doesn’t make the rest of the two issues any less enjoyable.

The difference between the comic’s narrator (Conan) versus the film’s (Akiro) means that anyone more interested in the Cimmerian’s inner-thoughts will get more out of the comic. I think it is a fascinating adaptation of the tale told in the film, especially since one of the major sources of Conan’s return to popularity (and reason for a film) was his Marvel series.

Modern audiences may also find some of the 1982 film’s landscapes and pacing a little slow, which of course is not an issue in the comic – as long as you don’t mind reading all the yellow text boxes. And any material in the film not used in the comic is made up for by additional scenes and lines held exclusively within the comic’s pages. This added material is certainly worth enjoying – but whether or not you add Mr. Schwarzenegger’s accent to your reading is entirely up to you.