Savage Avengers Annual #1
After defeating the Marrow God, trekking across a frozen wasteland, and forging new alliances on the battlefield, Conan the Barbarian makes his way to Porto Alegre and finds himself in a brothel run by the local cartel. Upset that the women he paid for refused to touch him, he demands his money back from the owner of the brothel, who rebuffs him. Conan proceeds to kill the man and his soldiers before complaining about this new world he finds himself in. He equates the alcohol to piss and the declares guns to be the weapons of cowards. After he’s done grousing, the women of the brothel ask Conan to kill the rest of the cartel, as they kidnap women and sell them into slavery. As payment, they present Conan with a bag of diamonds that they’ve been stealing from their captors. Conan takes the gems and admits that, though he prefers to get paid for it, he would’ve killed the slavers for fun, before sleeping with one of the newly freed women.
Meanwhile, Natasha Romanoff, the super spy known as the Black Widow, investigates the deaths of women forced into the sex trade, all of whom had tattoos or brands in the shape of a sickle. After receiving a tip that the cartel sells their slaves in Porto Alegre, she heads there to dole out her own brand of justice. Meanwhile (again), one of the women forced into slavery, named Esme, swears she'd sell her soul to Satan if he’d send the slavers to Hell. Satan does not here her prayer, but his son does. Damion Hellstom, the Son of Satan, arrives in Porto Alegre to burn the souls of the wicked and save the women they’ve enslaved. All three warriors converge on Esme’s location, proceeding to slaughter the cartel soldiers, rescuing her and the other women. Widow notices the cartel members all have a sickle brand, and Conan makes the connection that they must be servants of the evil wizard Kulan Gath.
Esme leads the trio to the cartel’s base of operations, where Conan eschews Widow’s plan of a stealthy approach by simply riding Hellstorm’s flaming horse into the camp and butchering the slavers with a machete. After the three antiheroes kill most of the cartel, Widow allows one to run off into the jungle, so as to capture and interrogate him. Hellstorm takes a hand from on of the dead soldiers and reveals that the sickle tattoo has “foul blood” mixed with the ink. He takes the hand back to Hell in order to discern exactly how much of a threat Kulan Gath is. Widow leaves to find the soldier she allowed to escape, while Conan pledges to lead the freed women north to safety. Widow fails in her attempt, as the Priest of Sickles kills the cartel soldier, pledging to seed the cartel’s cocaine with Gath’s sinister influence in a bid to subjugate the planet. Conan retires to a bar in northern Brazil, where he would normally celebrate a day full of killing slavers and meeting an enchanting femme fatale with crimson hair. But this night all he could do was reflect on how this strange world was poisoned by magic, sending him into one of his great melancholies.
Savage Avengers #7-#11
While Conan was liberating slaves and killing slavers, Doctor Voodoo was busy tracking Kulan Gath, only to find him in Egypt. Voodoo voluntarily drinks poison to figure out exactly what Gath is planning. In the realm of the dead, Voodoo sees a future where Gath uses the power of the other-worldly demon Shuma-Gorath to destroy Earth. Concurrently, Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange confirmed with Elektra that Kulan Gath had indeed returned and was putting Voodoo in terrible danger. Elektra informed Strange that Gath was in possession of Agamotto’s Third Eye until Conan stole it, putting Strange on a quest to find the Cimmerian.
The Cimmerian in question had led the freed women to safety before finding his way to a backwater bar in Brazil. After a brief brawl with his fellow patrons, Conan found himself drugged and shanghaied to Doomstadt, capital city of Latveria, Kingdom of Doctor Doom. Initially attempting to kill Doom’s soldiers for kidnapping him, the sorcerer-dictator calmed Conan by enticing him with a meal fit for a king (roast geese and turkey, borscht, and endless kegs of beer). Conan feasts while Doom observes, who's silence insults the barbarian. Conan gets Doom to remove his mask and join him by calling out Doom’s vanity, but they’re quickly interrupted by Doctor Strange’s sudden appearance at Doom’s gates.
After discerning the threat they face, the three men travel between dimensions in an attempt to catch Gath off-guard and dispatch him swiftly. Arriving in Gath’s Egyptian tomb, Strange reveals to Doom that the last time he faced Gath, he had the help of both the Avengers and the X-Men, and yet they still just barely defeated him. Unable to find Gath, Strange and Conan attempt to set a trap for the wizard, but Doom betrays them. He incapacitates both of them and steals the Third Eye, intending to claim its power for himself. The amulet reveals itself to be cursed and kills Doom, as planned by Gath to take “the world’s most dangerous sorcerer” off the board.
Almost immediately, however, it’s revealed that Doom had sent an android Doombot in his stead (as he’s been known to do for time to time), and attack’s Gath with Strange and Conan. Gath retreats and sends an army of dead Egyptian warriors to delay his attackers. Strange find’s Voodoo’s body in a sarcophagus and endeavors to save his friend, but not before Gath reappears and poisons him. With his last, labored breath Strange casts a spell to ignite Gath’s head in flames, allowing Doom to bathe Gath in acid and Conan to cleave his head in two. Gath, however, proves much harder to kill. As he’s about to deliver the final blow to Strange, Doom deploys his armor from his time as the Infamous Iron Man (but that’s a story for another time). The armor encases itself around Strange and works to save his life, while he works to slay Gath, becoming the Iron Mage.
The three are then able to find Voodoo, who is being controlled by a piece of Shuma-Gorath’s flesh. After a bit of surgery, Conan grows impatient and brutally rips the demon flesh from Voodoo’s face, giving Strange time to send Voodoo to the Swamps of Ogun, the home of Kalfu, of whom Voodoo is a priest. Kalfu agrees to let Voodoo heal in his swamps, but sends Strange away before Voodoo could relay important information to him. Eventually the three men are able to defeat Gath by locking him inside the Iron Mage armor and subjecting him to his own cursed amulet. Gath's disembodied head claims that his plans are not foiled, just delayed, and disappears with his tomb. Believing Conan to no longer be useful to their crusade, the two magicians teleport Conan back to Brazil before teleporting themselves back to Greenwich Village. The barbarian screams to the wind in frustration as Doom and Strange collapse on the floor of the Sanctum Sanctorum, questioning whether or not they can actually beat Gath this time.
Not long after, Elektra pays Strange a visit, revealing to the reader that the two have engaged in a romantic relationship. During this visit, Strange reveals that the first Sorcerer Supreme, Agamotto, did indeed have three eyes, but the Third Eye in the possession of Gath was fake. A fact Strange knew because his Eye of Agamotto was the true Third Eye. With the First Eye in the possession of an Asgardian dragon, and the Second Eye lost to time, the Third Eye is their best defense against Gath. Strange also makes Elektra promise to kill him if his body (and therefore his power) should fall under Gath’s control before preforming a séance. He uses Gath’s blood to send his astral form back twelve millennia into the past to witness the evil sorcerer’s journey.
He sees of the torture and cruelty and humiliation young Gath suffered, and becomes shocked and disgusted when he learns that Gath would cannibalize his fellow magicians to unlock their power. Gath eventually overpowers and consumes the Sorcerer Supreme of his time, who sends a message to Strange as he dies, telling him to recruit the only man who's ever killed Kulan Gath: Conan. Upon receiving this message, Strange voices his regrets at dismissing Conan, and tells Elektra to summon the Cimmerian along with the other Savage Avengers, as they’re going to war with Kulan Gath.