Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Curse of the Unicorn

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...

"Curse of the Unicorn"
Warlord (vol. 1) #72 (August 1983)
Written by Cary Burkett; Penciled by Dan Jurgens; Inked by Dan Adkins

Synopsis:  Morgan and Shakira arrive in the real Castle Deimos in the after passing through Jennifer’s magic mirror portal.  She’s glad keeping it open all this time paid off and allowed two to get home.

Morgan plans to tell her about the somewhat grim future they visited, but first he just wants to rest.  Fate has other plans however, as something comes through the still-open portal:

Trying to stay out of its way, Shakira is scratched by the unicorn’s horn. The creature bolts down a hallway.  Morgan, laughing at the absurdity it all, doesn’t notice another visitor following behind.  Morgan fights with the tall stranger while he yells at Jennifer to close the damn portal.

Morgan gets the upper hand, but the stranger isn’t giving up.  Finally, Jennifer puts him to sleep with a spell. 

They’d like to send him back to his own world, so Jennifer plans to enter his mind like she did with Rostov to find out where he came from.  While she’s preparing, Shakira in cat-form (miffed at being laughed at) scratches Morgan on the leg.

Ignoring them, Jennifer enters the strangers mind and gets his story:

The gifts even included the hand of the chief's daughter, Lianthe.

Unfortunately, Wynah Hunnuh's happiness didn’t last long.  He returned from a hunting trip to find everyone in his village dead.  The old chief lingered long enough to tell him that the unicorn he captured brought a plague.

Waynah Hunnuh built a pyre for his people.  He vowed to avenge them by hunting and slaying the animal responsible for their deaths.  He surrendered his old name and becomes Scarhart, the name without a tribe.

The hunt wasn’t easy.  He tracked the beast deep into the enchanted forest of Vulnicarn, and ultimately through a strange waterfall—which Jennifer surmises is a portal just like her mirror.

Suddenly, Shakira falls ill and collapses.  The unicorn’s contagion was passed to her when it scratched her!  Luckily, Jennifer has a plan that might save her:

Morgan rushes out to track the unicorn and bring it back alive.  Reading its tracks, he finds the beast is heading back to the Terminator, the band of darkness at the border of Skartaris.

Meanwhile, Jennifer is so intent on tending Shakira, she doesn’t notice Scarhart awaken.  He knocks her unconscious and makes his escape.  He has a quest to fulfill and plans to let no one stop him from killing the unicorn.  Like Morgan, he quickly picks up the animal's trail into darkness.

A distance ahead, Morgan follows the animal into a grove of weird plants.  He wonders how they grow here without sunlight.  Then, he finds out when he sees the unicorn struggling in their tendrils: They're carnivorous!

Morgan frees the unicorn, but now he’s in the plant’s grasp.  He manages to mortally wound it, but he’s still held in its death grip and blacks out out from the struggle. 

From a ridge above, Scarhart clutches his tomahawk and watches the battle…

Things to Notice:
  • This is the first issue written by someone whose last name isn't Grell.
  • The Terminator is so dark here Morgan needs a torch.  Previously, its generally been portrayed as a land of eternal twilight.
Where It Comes From:
This first non-Grell penned issue of Warlord features a Grell staple: the unicorn.  Unicorns have played a role in issue #3 and issue #12.

In a bit of irony (perhaps intentional), the story has a plague coming from world with pseudo-Native American culture to world with a pseudo-European feel, reversing history.


The Angry Lurker said...

Good as per usual, unicorns have always been portrayed as creatures of evil in gaming?

Trey said...

I would say no. Unicorns in gaming (just like legend) tend to be creatures of good (I guess). They seem to be drawn to virtue, at least, even when they're just animals. Grell used them mostly to symbolize the idolized primeval side of Skartaris, contrasting it with its savagery. Burkett takes a different tack here.