In an age of derivative Barbarians, I think it's fair to say that Claw The Unconquered was probably the most derivative sword and sorcery hero out there. When your first issue is illustrated by Ernie Chan, the man only just behind John Buscema & Alfredo Alcala as artist with most Conan stories under his belt, you're really inviting kids to pick the book up by mistake, thinking they're getting the Cimmerian.
Claw is the rightful king of yadda yadda and instead of a right hand is cursed with a Demon blah blah, is being hunted by a sorcerer because of something something and spends his first 11 issues stealing magic jewels, fighting slimy monsters, rescuing wenches and generally doing everything that Conan does every month.
It's all perfectly acceptable stuff, and everyone involved does a solid, professional job ( scribe David Michelinie, for instance, admirably coping with what must've been a difficult premise ) but there's no energy to any of it, and you sort of sense no one's hearts are really in it. Until the last issue.
Don't get me wrong, Claw #12 is no lost masterpiece, but here Michelinie takes the gloves ( and gauntlet ) off and goes for broke.
Sure, the honourable bad guy is an old cliche, but it's one that I always like, and there is a genuine, brooding sense of futility about the world depicted in this story.
Claw is a doomed man, fighting an irrelevant war, basically because he has nothing else to do with his time, and for the first time, you feel it.
Keith Giffen also takes the opportunity with both hands, and the art fair drips with blood red passion, matching the script stroke for sword stroke...