THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN Vol. 2 collects fourteen stories from Marvel’s b&w Conan magazine of the 1970s. As such, it suffers from the same problem I always have when Marvel condenses magazine-sized pages down to conventional comics size—the captions are almost unreadable, and there’s a lot of captioning. That said, this was well worth reading, mostly due to John Buscema’s absolutely awesome art. Seriously, who needs to read words when he and inker Alfredo Alcala have so many gorgeous pictures of aging cities, sinister citadels and ominous jungles to gawk at? The stories (adaptations by Roy Thomas) are a mixed bag. Some such as “Devil in Iron” and “People of the Black Circle” adapt Howard’s a-list work to great effect, while others adapt unpublished or non-Conan material much less effectively. “Horror From the Red Tower,” for instance, is a very awkward story—the mid-story course change feels like two different tales mashed up together. And like a couple of others in the book, it has the scheming and intrigues between largely uninteresting political factions that detract from the story rather than add to it.Overall, a winner, though the art in “Red Tower and “Shadows in Zamboula” makes it very obvious how heavily Howard played on Scary Black People tropes (you’ve been warned).