Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Berserk

It's Wednesday, and another installment of my issue by issue examination of DC Comic's Warlord, the earlier installments of which can be found here...

"Berserk"
Warlord (vol. 1) #43 (March 1981)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell, Inked by Bob Smith

Synopsis: Morgan has fought his way into a Shamballah beseiged by the Theran army, only to find Tara has been captured by the enemy. The enemy, however, is unaware they have Shamballah’s queen in their hands, taking her for some common wench.

Within Shamballah’s walls, Morgan has surmised this, based on the fact the Therans have yet to ask for their surrender. With Morgan’s laser rifle, the Shamballan Elder thinks they should issue an ultimatum--but the rifle is almost out of charge. It will only be useful in a bluff, Morgan thinks, but maybe he can use it to leverage a deal. The Council of Elders balks at talk of deal-making, but Morgan doesn’t want to hear it:

Morgan’s got a plan. He leads the elder to the subterranean complex beneath the city. It’s been flooded, but Morgan wants volunteers to swim through, outflank the Therans and take them by surprise.

Shortly, Morgan leads a small contingent into the Theran camp, where he’s greeted by the commander, Kaatar Shang. Morgan reminds him he’s seen what the laser weapon can do. Why not save further bloodshed by a single combat? If Morgan wins, the Therans leave and release their captives. If Kaatar Shang wins, then the city is his.

After hearing that Morgan won’t use his laser rifle, Kaatar Shang agrees. Laughing, he calls forth the Theran champion, Brador:

Brador attacks, landing blow after savage blow. Tara watches, not knowing why her mate allows himself to be battered without fighting back. At the same time, beneath Skartaris, the Shamballan volunteers make the swim. Soon, they emerge at a point behind Theran lines.

In the Theran camp, Brador’s blow collapses Morgan’s already bent shield, knocking him to the ground. Kaatar Shang tells Brador to finish him.

As Brador raises his weapon, Morgan sees a flaming arrow flash across the sky behind him. It’s the signal he’s been waiting for! His hellfire sword cuts down Brador in one stroke.

The Shamballans emerge from the forest for a surprise attack, and the rest of their army pours forth from the city gates. Hearing their battle cries, Kaatar Shang realizes who his captive is. He grabs the laser pistol and holds Tara at gunpoint.

Morgan only smiles, and reaches for his pistol. Kaatar tries to fire--finds the gun is useless. Morgan shoots him in the face. He frees Tara, who takes up a sword, and the two join the battle.

As soldiers fall before them, the hellfire sword drinks deep of their blood. It’s influence creeps into Morgan’s soul, causing him to exult in the slaughter. He almost beheads a surrendering Theran, but Tara stays his hand.

That breaks the sword’s spell over him. He realizes it's dark influence, and rejects it. Impulsively, he tosses the sword into a nearby lake, from which a glowing hand rises to grasp it, and draw it below.

After the battle, Tara and Morgan share a kiss while standing on a parapet receiving the adulation of Shamballah’s people. Aton rides in on horse back, carrying Morgan’s banner, and calls out to the Warlord. Morgan angrily tells him he doesn’t want to hear it now.

Later, Tara awakens to find Morgan not in bed beside her, and knows what is to come. She peers through the door left ajar, and sees Morgan talking with Aton. He gives Morgan a piece of the wreckage from the Lady J, Jennifer Morgan's ship. Morgan says he has no choice--he has to find his daughter. He turns to see Tara watching. She smiles sadly, and shuts the door. Morgan lowers his head with tears in his eyes.

Soon, he and Aton are galloping out of the city.

Things to Notice:
  • Morgan wears a slightly different outfit to go to war.
  • Where did four-armed Brador come from?
  • The Shamballan underground complex makes a return appearance.
Where It Comes From:
Kaatar Shang's name may have been inspired by Matai Shang, a villainous Thern, in Edgar Rice Burroughs' tales of Barsoom.  Brador's four-armed form somewhat resembles the Green Martians from the same series.

Morgan's casting of the hellfire sword into a body of water echoes events at the end of Le Morte d'Arthur, where Sir Bedivere, at Arthur's command, tosses Excalibur into a lake where it's caught by the Lady of the Lake.

6 comments:

NetherWerks said...

An excellent issue. Again, much like an RPG session, in a good way, but with Mike Grell's incredible art. He never does get a break, though, does he?

Pierce said...

Third nostril. lol.what a bargain.

Trey said...

@NetherWerks - It does. It's sort of like the rpg thing of "there's a big seige going on, but let's find a way to make the whole thing hinge on the actions of the players." And no, Morgan doesn't get a break--or maybe, it does allow himself one.

@Pierce - Diplomacy isn't Morgan's best skill. ;)

Harald said...

At first opportunity I think I will snag myself a copy of Warlord. It's not marketed here, so I'll have to wait til I cross the pond next time.

Trey said...

The Warlord series I've been chronicling here ended with issue 133 in 1988. Back issues are pretty cheap,though. Also, there's a DC Showcase: Warlord collection of the first 20 issues or so,

NetherWerks said...

Going to have to stat-up a goblinoid or ancient Atlantean 'nostilizer' weapon based on this...