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Conan the Barbarian #12 (2023) review

Conan the Barbarian: Bound in Black Stone wins this year's Robert E. Howard Foundation "The Costigan Literary Achievement" and "The Rankin Artistic Achievement" awards at Howard Days!

Brule's life was just about to be extinguished by a freshly revived Thulsa Doom... it is finally time for:

Jim Zub's The Age Unconquered part 4: Terror Undreamed Of!

Thulsa announces a "New Age of Doom" and that the Spear-Slayer is out of time.

We get a flashback: A meteorite strikes the earth. Only Kathulos (the sorcerer, magician and scientist from the novella Skull-Face) is brave enough to touch the Black Stone from outer space.

The Black Stone uploads DARK knowledge and DARK magic into Kathulos's brain.

Kathulos is now able to control the deceased. He builds himself an army of the undead and renames himself Thulsa Doom.

Thulsa enjoys being a successful tyrant for some time, we even get another Renato Casaro Conan the Barbarian 1982 movie poster homage from Roberto De la Torre.

He orders his followers to make him a sarcophagus out of the Black Stone.

Doom feels threaten by Kull's lineage, so from the grave, his soul trapped in his coffin, Thulsa starts messing with the Conqueror's mind. 

Flashback over! Conan attacks Doom, he calls him "Skull-Face" (get it?).

Since Doom is not a mortal and has no past connection to our favourite barbarian, he cannot see Conan. 

Conan breaks Brule's Pict blade on Doom's Atlantean sword (a scene straight from the 1982 movie).

Conan shoves his broken blade into Doom's eye socket to no effect.

Brule distracts Doom and Conan grabs the Atlantean sword.

Touching the Atlantean sword creates an interrelation between Thulsa and the Cimmerian. Conan becomes visible to Doom.

Thulsa picks up Kull's sword and zaps Conan with DEATH magic.
Conan cuts Thulsa's hand, like Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) did to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.

But, what is this? Kull is actually not dead, it was just a flesh wound, the Valusian king is just winded apparently.

Thulsa Doom proclaims once again that the Black Stone is his with its power and secrets.

Doom's mind merges with the Black Stone. He sees the genesis of the Stone, it's a tiny part of a terrible globe full of life, a terror soon to reawaken.

Conan beheads Doom (another scene straight from the 1982 movie), Doom explodes (just like the witch in the 1982 movie), the walls of the burial chamber crack open, water from an underground river flows in, Conan is teleported back to his time and the monarch of Valusia and Brule are washed away to safety.

Conan tumbles forward in time with Yag-Kosha's enigmatic words echoing in his mind.

We are back at the end of issue 8, now with a clear mind, Conan stops himself from taking his own life, he drops everything and rides out of Shadizar on a stolen horse (last seen on the cover to Conan the Barbarian FCBD 2023).

Back to Kull's time, the Pictish coast. A fisherman discovers among his freshly caught pollock... Doom's recently lost Atlantean sword (Yes, still straight from the 1982 movie).

What I did like:

The skulls on Jeffrey Alan Love's cover look ultra creepy.

Archaeologist Jeffrey Shanks talks about Professor Kirowan and John Conrad, mentions the Unaussprechliche Kulte (Nameless Cults) book from "The Children of the Night" and "The Black Stone".

You 'member the Conan the Barbarian 1982 film directed by John Milius? Yeah, sure, I remember. 

What I did not like:

We waited forever for Thulsa Doom to arrive and he's already gone. 

No serpent-men appear.

Thulsa is not a serpent-man. He is one in the 1982 movie.

Cthulhu is not mentioned.

The 1982 John Buscema model sheet for Doom from Marvel Comics Super Special #21 is ignored.

Why is Doom getting buried alive? He needs to be surrounded by Black Stone to stay alive? Wouldn't leaving his coffin kill him?

The sarcophagus is made of Black Stone? Part of it, all of it? How big was this meteorite? Who cares? But Conan made the Black Stone statue explode in issue 9. It doesn't make much sense. 

Who carved the Black Stone statue that exploded?

Why is Doom so worried about lineage? Kull has no interest in marrying or having children.

Thulsa has been sleeping in Black Stone for quite a while and he finally decides to mind meld with the Stone during a melee?

Is the Black Stone becoming Conan's kryptonite? Zub is always comparing Superman to Conan. 

NO strong female characters appear. Only a doxy addresses Conan. Shameful.

NO women appear on any of the variant covers. Lame.

An interminable Skeletor vs He-Man fight peppered with recap pages.

We get to know practically nothing new about Thulsa and the Black Stone.

We get to know NOTHING about the Neanderthals/Shadow-dwellers/Subterranean Horde.

The unknown divine forces that sent Conan back in time remain UNKNOWN.

Kull should be dead. He really should. This is insulting to the reader.

Doom blasts Conan with DEATH magic, but the barbarian doesn't die.

Yag-Kosha is still not coloured green. Embarrassing.

No advert for The Heroic Legends Short Fiction Program.

Where did the letters page go?

Kull never receives his Marvel face scar.

I give it a 6/10. A very unsatisfying finale. No astonishing revelations. Still so many questions left unanswered. Is the Black Stone actually from the savage planet of Almuric? It would be a cool connection... but for the moment Zub remains mum.

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