Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: The Shape of Things Gone By

Let's re-enter the lost world with another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"The Shape of Things Gone By"
Warlord (vol. 1) #38 (October 1980)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Travis Morgan and Shakira and flying long on their new winged steed, whom Morgan has decided to name “Firewing.” Morgan points out to her the Terminator--the point where the inner world of Skartaris folds back onto the outer world. There looking for the coast so they can follow it down to Shamballah, but Shakira spots something else on the sea below.

Men on board a ship--the Lady J--from the outer world, are in a battle with a aquatic reptile. Despite their guns, they seem to losing.

Never one to be overly cautious, Morgan leaps from his mount, sword in hand. He lands on the back of its neck, and drives the Hellfire sword into its skull. Its brain destroyed, the “loathsome leviathan” slips beneath the waves with Morgan in tow. The Hellfire sword seems to be stuck. Finally, Morgan pulls it free and rises to the surface, a trail of blood following him.

Climbing on board the ship, he asks after the injured man. The other man (surprised Morgan speaks English) gives his name as Pat Chambers, and says the injured man is the captain, Harry Grimes. At that point, Chambers is in for a further surprise, as Shakira flies down on Firewing. Morgan introduces the beautiful woman as “his cat,” but offers: “it’s a long story.”

Morgan asks how they got here. A voice behind him responds: “Through the North Pole opening...”

Morgan looks around--and now he’s the one in for a surprise:

It’s Jennifer, his daughter! She confronts him for abandoning her. Morgan’s explanation is that she was eight years-old when her mother was killed. The Air Force was no place for a little girl--then Vietnam happened. He sent her to live with her Aunt Marie, who he thought could better give her “the kind of things a girl should have.”

“Everything,” Jennifer replies, angrily, “but a father.”

Jennifer explains what happened after he left:

And now she finds him running around in a loincloth like some savage--(she gestures to Shakira): “and God knows what else!”

Perhaps eager to change the subject, Morgan asks how they found him. Chambers tells him it was because of Stryker. In his obsession with revenge against Morgan, he had tracked down Professor Lakely to force him to give up Morgan's location. Lakely heard how the press had hounded Jennifer, and came to her to tell her that her father was still alive, and in Skartaris. Chambers helped Jennifer organize the expedition.

Morgan has Shakira and Firewing go aloft and guide the ship to shore. Afterwards, Shakira flies oof, bored by their English conversation. Jennifer asks how a place like Skartaris can exist, but Morgan doesn’t really have any answers for her. He instead wants to know why just three of them came on the expedition. Jennifer says there were more, but the others died. Chambers reports their numbers are even fewer now: Captain Grimes is dead.

The three bury him, and Jennifer places flowers on his grave. No sooner are they done, than a group of armed men attack. Morgan tells Chambers to take Jennifer and run for the boat as he holds them off. Morgan drives off their first assault, but he suspects they’ll get reinforcements and come back.

In moments, his predictions are right. They return in greater numbers, and Morgan hears one cry: “Death to the Barachian raiders!” Morgan realizes the men think they’re pirates!

He begins to explain when a spear carrying a familiar banner flies in between the combatants. Morgan recognizes the banner as his own! The man on horseback that threw it is unfamiliar to him, though. The man replies that he’s Morgan’s herald. Morgan realizes it is young Aton, now grown to adulthood.

Aton tells his men that Morgan is the one he’s been telling them about. The Warlord who leads a fight for freedom. The men cheer. Jennifer can’t understand their words, but she senses they see her father as some sort of hero, and wonders if she’s misjudged him. Morgan replies, “No, I think you had me pegged about right.”

He suggests they talk and get to know each other better. He tells her the story of his time in Skartaris, of his companions and family, his successes and failures. In the end, Jennifer says he’s given her a lot to think about. Morgan tells her to take her time. He’ll have Aton look after her a minute while he takes care of something.

Back on the Lady J, Morgan confronts Chambers who holds an uzi. “I gather that’s for me.” Morgan says.

Chambers realizes Morgan knew all along. Morgan tells him it wasn’t hard. When he saw him shoot the sea creature with an uzi...well, he knew only the Israeli army and the secret service have those. Which is Chambers?

Chambers replies that Stryker was his friend. He blames Morgan for what happened to him. He was the one that proposed the idea of the expedition to Jennifer--all for a chance at revenge.

But he throws down the uzi. The one thing he didn’t count on was falling in love with Morgan’s daughter!

Morgan tells him not to take it so hard. He wouldn’t have killed him anyway. Chambers is confused until he looks behind himself--and sees Shakira poised to throw a spear in his back!

After repairing the Lady J, Chambers and Jennifer are ready to return to the outer world. They plan to keep the secret of the inner world--no point in Skartaris dying like the outer world is. Morgan asks if she thinks she can help that world. She responds she’s going to try.

They set sail, and Morgan bids farewell to his last link to outer Earth. Shakira complains she couldn’t understand a word they said, so she doesn’t know what happened. Morgan says he’ll tell her about it...sometime.

Things to Notice:
  • This is the first appearance of Jennifer Morgan who, based on the dates given in the story, is 21 years-old at the time of this issues publication (and since Warlord seems to occur in pretty close to "real time," at the time of the story).
  • Again the odd flow of time in Skartaris is reinforced as we're reintroduced to Aton as a grown man.
  • Morgan assumes nothing has changed about the availability of uzis in the outer earth since he's been away. 
Where It Comes From:
The title of this issue is likely a play on The Shape of Things to Come--which is the title of a 1933 novel by H.G. Wells, among other things (including one song extant at the time of this issue was written).

"Barachians" probably comes from Baracha, a pirate haven in Robert E. Howard's Conan stories, but it could have been suggested by Barrachina, a Province of Spain--and also a restaurant in San Juan Viejo which opened in 1963.

The Uzi is a submachine gun officially adopted by the Israel Defense Force in 1951.  The U.S. Secret Service did indeed use the Uzi as their standard submachine gun from 1960s to the early 1990s.

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