Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: Trilogy

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...

Warlord (vol. 1) #12 (April-May 1978)

Written and Illustrated by Mike Grell

Synopsis: Mariah is journaling in the port city of Bakwele when Machiste finds her. The two go in search of Morgan (who said he was going to "scare up a martini"). They find him in the middle of a barroom brawl.

Machiste heartily approves, while Mariah (predictably) does not. She wonders aloud why she followed Morgan to Skartaris, but doesn't like it when Machiste intimates that it might be because he's a man--and she's a woman.

Mariah (changing the subject) asks why Machiste, a king, leaves his kingdom and follows Morgan. Machiste says his people are capable of ruling themselves, but tells a story to explain why Morgan commands his loyalty. After they escaped the gladiatorial school, Morgan united the undisciplined group into an army, forging them together with talk of liberty. On the day before a raid, a young boy, Aton, approached Morgan and asked to join the cause of freedom. Morgan is surprised to learn that the fame of his group and his message has spread. Morgan gently tells the boy that he's too young--there's time later to choose the bloody life of a warrior.

Aton hasn't gone far when he's attacked by a purple carnosaur. Morgan rushes to help, opening fire with his pistol. Enraged, the beast turns on him. Aton cuts its Achilles tendon, giving Machiste and Morgan time to kill it. Morgan, impressed, makes Aton his herald, outfitting him with a helmet, a banner, and a fine steed. He tells him to go out and proclaim the cause of liberty. Machiste arrives at the point of his story: Morgan is a dreamer.

Mariah wonders if she has misjudged Morgan because of their political differences. She relates her own story. Shortly after their arrival in Skartaris, she and Morgan happened upon a beautiful unicorn. Morgan tells her that the unicorn shows that Skartaris is a place where "all of men's dreams can come true." No sooner has he spoke, than primitives attack with arrows, and slay the unicorn to win the sacred power of its horn. Morgan is seized by rage. He attacks the hunting party, and kills them quickly. Then, Mariah watches as he kneels down beside the fallen unicorn and weeps.

Mariah suggests that he's a man of contrasts, beyond understanding. Machiste is about to reply, when they have to move to avoid a tavern brawler tossed in their direction. The fight finished, Morgan walks over to them. Mariah explains that they've been trying to figure him out.

Morgan, smiling, says they might as well stop trying. What makes a man give up his home and security for the life of a warrior and wanderer? Perhaps it's the thrill, he muses. He admits the life he's chosen is likely to be a short one, but it won't be dull.

Things to Notice:
  • The scene depicted on the cover don't occur in the issue.
  • The "Skartarian hieroglyphs" on the tavern's sign say "Crazy Earl's" in English.
  • This is the first appearance of Aton, who later becomes a semi-regular. His next appearance is in issue #38.
  • Is that Barney (or a close relative) that menaces Aton?

Where It Comes From:
The title "trilogy" refers to the three stories--and three insights into the man, Travis Morgan. Exploration of just who Travis Morgan is, particularly from the viewpoint of those around him, becomes one of Grell's primary concerns in the saga.  This is particularly apparent as he revisits the character and world the 1992 limited series, and in the new series, currently on-going.
Unicorns also make a several appearances in Grell-penned issues. They seem to represent the primeval beauty of Skartaris, and are often used,whether explicitly or implicitly, to contrast this aspect of Skartaris with its savagery--like in this issue.


Anonymous said...

I need to look into this, it is getting more interesting as it goes along.

Trey said...

It's good stuff. All the issues I've gone through so far are collected in SHOWCASE PRESENTS: WALORD vol. 1

netherwerks said...

I really, really am enjoying this series you are doing analyzing The Warlord. I used to ahve just about every issue in my collection back long ago and far away, but alas, my little brother stole them and sold them off to a 'friend' for drug-money. Sordid little turd. Oh well. You've managed to remind me of the good part in all that, and seeing Grell's cover art is always fun stuff. He really grokked the pulps. Keep the series going. It's a lot of fun.

Trey said...

Thanks. It's nice to know people are enjoying it. Revisiting the series in this way has actually raised my appreciation for the work.