Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: The Pit

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 Pit"
Warlord (vol. 1) #40 (January 1981)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Bob Smith

Synopsis: Last issue, a visit to Kaambuka and his friend Aram al Ashir, thief turned king, has embroiled Morgan and Shakira in a web of intrigues and assassination plots.

More surprises await when Morgan watches, stunned, as King Ashir's betrothed enters the city--and its his own mate, Tara! An already strange situation takes a grim turn, as Morgan notices two more purpled hooded, flamboyantly dressed assassins in the crowd of on-lookers, and they're headed for Tara.

Morgan vaults from the balcony, and lays into the would-be assassins with his hellfire sword. He grabs one of them and demands to know who sent them, but he’s forced to use the hapless man as a human shield when a rooftop bowman takes a shot at him. Morgan fires back--with his magnum--and he doesn't miss.

The danger over, Morgan’s and Tara’s eyes meet for a moment. It’s fleeting. Then, Tara begins to act as if she doesn’t know him. Ashir runs up and introduces himself, and Morgan. Tara says she's heard of “the Warlord,” and she takes a jab at Morgan and Shakira:

Introductions aside, Tara retires to her quarters to bathe. Ashir is pleased--a beauty like her makes his crown feel less heavy! Morgan is focused on finding out who’s behind the assassination. He stalks off leaving his friends Shakira and Ashir puzzled, as they have no idea why his mood has darkened.

As soon as Morgan’s out of sight of others, he sneaks over to Tara’s room. He wants to find out why she didn’t acknowledge him. Despite his care, as he climbs to the balcony, he’s observed.

Meanwhile, Shakira has ditched Ashir to hunt a mouse in cat-form. She happens to walk by a partially opened door where the conspirators are talking. Their robed leader, a man known as Harrarh, listens to the report of the spy who saw Morgan go to Tara’s room. Harrarh sees this as an opportunity to let Ashir’s friend undo him by breaking the alliance. He calls for the guards loyal to him to be summoned. Shakira tranforms to human form to run away quickly with this new knowledge.

Morgan surprises Tara, who’s been crying in her room. The two long separated lovers embrace. Tara explains that Shamballah’s council of elders forced this marriage to Ashir upon her. They feel an alliance with Kaambuka is vital with the Theran army on the march against them. She hopes she can convince Ashir to abandon the idea of marriage, but still accept the alliance.

Morgan isn’t happy with any of this. If Ashir won’t free Tara from the contract, he says he’ll kill him. Tara points out that would mean certain war, but Morgan says he’s been to war, and never for better reason.

Their conversation is cut short, as Harrarh and a group of guardsman break in to seize the two of them for betraying the king under his own roof. Morgan knows these guards are from the same group as the assassins, and he and Tara  slash into them with their blades.

The guardsmen fall before the pair, and they turn their attention to Harrarh. He fires a magical blast at Morgan, but the Hellfire sword protects its bearer from magic, and Morgan is unharmed. Harrarh throws down a glass globe filled with the a mixture derived from the black lotus. The gas incapacitates our heroes.

When they awaken, they're tied and hanging over Harrarh’s pit. He explains to the assembled lords of Kaambuka that he plans to execute these traitors, and end the rule of a pretender so foolish as to be gulled by them. He exhorts the lords to join him in rebellion.

Morgan threatens to tell the nobles what Harrarh’s been up to, but Harrarh plans to drop him into the pit first.

Both are interrupted by the sudden appearance of Shakira and Ashir with a bow, drawn and aimed at Harrarh. Ashir reveals Harrarh’s plots and assassination attempts, and commands the lords to apprehend him. Harrarh threatens to drop his friends to their doom if he doesn’t stand down. Ashir responds by putting an arrow through his eye. Harrarh’s body topples backwards into the pit, and into the maw of an amorphous, orange, creature.

After Morgan and Tara are freed. Ashir says that after hearing Harrarh, he knows that Tara is Morgan’s mate. He would never dream of separating his friend from his woman. “Take her,” he says. “She’s yours.” Morgan thanks him.

Tara, incensed at being treated like an possession, knocks Morgan flat. When Ashir tries to placate her by kneeling and kissing her hand, she knees him in the jaw. She tells Morgan there was a time when she gave herself to him, but now he must win her.

Then she rides away in a huff.

Morgan changes clothes quickly. Ashir asks what he’s going to do now.

Morgan replies: “What else? I’m going to win her.”

Things to Notice:
  • Assassins in Kaambuka don't seem to believe in being inconspicuous.  They tend to dress like circus performers.
  • Theran is consistently misspelled "Theron" is this issue.
Where It Comes From:
Pits, particularly with amorphous monstrosities, are a sword and sorcery genre staple, though this may be more common in sword and sorcery comics than prose.

Black lotus is the source of a deadly poison in stories by Robert E. Howard, among them "Tower of the Elephant."

Harrarh may have been inspired by Harrar, an important ancient city in Ethiopia.


The Angry Lurker said...

Good post, takes me back to my old days.

Trey said...

Thanks! Glad to share the nostalgia.

Pierce said...

Hey Trey,
Should amorphous monstrosities have stats or would it be pretty much curtains if a hero failed their balance check and fell into the pit?

I never read any of these comics but the series is very interesting.

Trey said...

Based on the picture, I'd say it would be instant death. I think the beastie here is more of a tentacled plot device.