* * * WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE * * *
Last issue (courtesy the flashback in this issue), Claw was waylaid by a band of mercenaries who stole his sword and glove. Without the glove, though, he turned berserker, killing a friend. In remorse, he chopped his demon hand off.
Meanwhile, on the Road to the Evil Guy's Place, Claw and Trysannda pass through some pretty nasty regions: the Slithering Hills, the Cavern of Clay Ghosts, the Ocean of Living Light, and the Glass Desert of Ma'iib. In the Glass Desert, which is like glass with a lot of bones and birds, Claw hears something coming, but before he can find out what, the glass starts to melt (it's not really glass). But the birds are like piranhas, and snack on Trys's horse. Trys casts a spell which frosts the birds' wings, and they escape.
Interlude: a tavern somewhere. A child-looking creature tells Prince Ghilkyn that Claw is hurt and looking for him, so the Prince accompanies him.
Back to Claw: we learn Trys's origin. She was born a noble, but sought a wizard to give her powers to save a village from arcane energies from the skies (one of them "unknown conflicts in an intersecting dimension; don'tcha hate that?). The wizard agrees... for a price. She saves the village, but now they're scared of her. So she gets tired of the price, and now wants to kill the wizard. That night, Claw's demon hand comes crawling back (literally) and while he sleeps reattaches itself. But now his curse returns, and he'll go apeshit if he doesn't get the glove back, so she casts a glamour to find the raiders. Sure enough, they're there, but they're (almost) all dead, Jim. The survivor tells Claw they took the glove to the Castle Ravenroost since it was magical; in return the sorcerer Dalivar the Unethical gives them gold that while they're asleep turns into slithering blood-sucking monsters (Well geez, they should have known, since they were dealing with Dalivar the Unethical!). And wouldn't you know it, Dalivar is the same guy who Trys wants to kill, too. They get to Ravenroost, but a big hill-monster blocks his path....
To be continued....
Letters page: 3 letters. First is from M. Twarowski of Chicago, who's glad that Claw returned from hiatus. Second is from Marty Greenberg of Jericho NY, with some suggestions on the future of the book; Marty, it's pointed out, was the first publisher (from Gnome Press) of Robert Howard's Conan books in hardcover as well as the first to print Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series. Third letter is from Kimberly Arber of Brooklyn NY, who is glad there's not a lot of sexism and violence in this series, unlike some other S&S series.
All the issues up to this one were written by creator David Michelinie; art for the first half-dozen issues was Ernie Chan (Chua), then Keith Giffen took over for a few (I believe issue 6 in March/April 1976 was his first pro work).
All back issues are probably available in the quarter bins; Overstreet lists them all in Mint at between $1.20 and $2.00.
* * * WHAT HAS GONE BEFORE * * *
But then the hill creature does something real stupid. Claw asks "I cannot believe you are truly invincible", and then Hilly tells him that the Shadow-Gods constantly renew his strength as long as his feet stand on solid ground. Hmmm, guess what's coming.... So Claw runs for the nearest convenient body of water, and Hilly runs after him and catches him just short. Claw jabs him in the eye with his claw, which pisses off Hilly. Claw then runs towards the water again; Hilly rejoins the chase, and grabs Claw... just as the two of them tumble into the water. Sayonara, Hilly, but Claw is trapped in the mud. While Trys waits on the shore for Claw, the bat-creatures come and take her away. Oh, actually they're not bat-creatures but rather "the dreaded goblin warriors from the stygian depths of chaos". Claw climbs out of the muck too late to save her.
Meanwhile, in Mac-fenzee, the land of the lyrical trolls, Claw's friend Prince Ghilkyn is captured by some lizard-creatures, led there by the troll from last issue. Also meanwhile, Claw pulls himself up the towers of Ravenroost, and garrotes one stupid rat creature and shoots another with an arrow, but a third escapes to warn the others. Soon there's a battle royale between Claw and dozens of stupid rat creatures, who say he fights like a "demon cat". But numbers drag him down, and he's taken to Validarr the Unethical (who keeps referring to himself this way). Claw wants the girl; Validarr offers him his magical glove, instead. Val wants to know the properties of the glove, and Claw surprises everyone by leaping for the glove, only to be thrown back by a magical force field.
Meanwhile again, the Shadow-Gods have found a pawn to replace King Occulus (who died in issue 11): Ghilkyn. More on his fate next issue (well, not really, but that's what it says). Now Claw's in the dungeon, and uses the strength of his hand to break the chains. Elsewhere, Validarr is ready to sacrifice Trys to Sha-Gasa the Merciless, a slimy Cthulu-ish monster. Does Claw "seek his own salvation and the crimson gauntlet" or rescue Trys? She screams ("EEEEE... EEEEEEEEEEEE") and he's off to rescue her. "Damn! Chivalry's a curse!" Claw bursts into the rec room (it's really a rec room: Validarr says "Wait! You're not permitted here! This is a private entertainment!"), and takes off after Shaggy, his demon hand turning him into a berserker. He gets in one good lick, finally, and Shaggy dies. Validarr is pissed, so Claw and Trys flee down the tunnel where Shaggy came from. "Claw, I thought you dead! I..." "Not now, wench! Our lives are still in grave danger!" (Hey, if Joanna can work in the word "wench", so can I). Hours pass as they race downward, ever downward into the cool stygian depths...
...Until they run into the Lair of Lunacy, run by this hunchback thing with a crown, and lots of other beasties all around. "Welcome to the Lair of Lunacy-- from which you'll never leave alive!"
To my knowledge, that's the last time the character appeared (with the exception of the Who's Who entry). What relation the character named Claw, most recently seen as a member of Primal Force, has to the original version remains to be seen; however, the characters share a similar history (as well as hand). Perhaps this is the post-Crisis version. Thanks to Ray L. Juers for the Primal Force notation.
Copies of this or any other CCC story are available for a mere $5.00 each (that covers copies and P&H). Give me a holler!
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