Conqueror of the Barren Earth

So I am a mark for 1980s DC science fiction books, especially since they tend to be the oddballs in the company’s collection (alongside the licensed property books that aren’t Star Trek). I’ve grabbed a couple here and there, most notably an issue or two of Hex, Atari Force, and the Atari Force-related graphic novel Star Raiders. I came across all four issues of Conqueror of the Barren Earth for about a buck an issue while thumbing through my LCS’ back issue bins and decided to give it a shot.

The Barren Earth entry from Who’s Who.

The series, written by Gary Cohn (Blue Devil, Amethyst) and drawn by Ron Randall, is set in the far-flung future where the sun has cooled and expanded, becoming a red giant. As a result, the Earth is a barren wasteland with various factions fighting for control. A portion of humanity left the world eons ago and lives elsewhere in the galaxy, but as the series opens, they have turned their attention back to their world of origin and Jinal, the freedom fighter they’d left behind. What follows is a story where Jinal fights against a faction led by Zhengla Koraz, is taken captive, then becomes his lover and fights alongside him as he works to conquer the world. Ultimately, she has her own plans.

That’s a basic rundown of the series, which seems to be the culmination/conclusion of a backup story that was running through the Warlord series. I didn’t know this going in; in fact, the only other place I had heard about Conqueror of the Barren Earth was through an entry in Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe and probably a house ad or two. As far as stories go, it’s pretty entertaining. I’ve read some of Gary Cohn’s other stuff (and met him a number of years ago at a convention … he’s an incredibly nice person), and he does a decent job of catching his reader up to what this story is about, especially since you can’t depend on the average kid finding this on a newsstand in 1985 and knowing what was going on in Warlord. I suppose it looked a little bit like Star Wars and some of the other sci-fi/fantasy movies and cartoons, which would have been appealing enough.

And it was, at least when it came to being a cheap pickup. Ron Randall’s art is dynamic, and much like the issues he drew of Arak, fits very well in the fantasy genre. Unfortunately, the book is a victim of DC’s mid-1980s experiment with what I believe was Mondo paper and a flexographic printing process, so the coloring doesn’t particularly work (plus, Zhengla Koraz has either yellowish skin or green skin depending on the issue). That didn’t take too much away from it, though. What did, unfortunately, was spending two issues having our heroine go full Stockholm Syndrome, allowing herself to become the lover of the person who put her in bondage. I get that she was playing a long game that comes to its rightful conclusion in the series finale and might have been a trope of the genre, but it bugged me.

Overall, a decent read if you find it on the cheap, but nothing I’m going to hold onto.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?


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