Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: Visions in a Crimson Eye

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 Quest, Part 1: Visions in a Crimson Eye"
Warlord (vol. 1) #16 (December 1978)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: In the Royal Palace of Shamballah, Travis Morgan sits alone, lost in wine and melancholy. His dark reverie is broken by a guards who demand he answer Princess Tara's summons. They soon discover why goading a drunken Warlord is not a good idea. Morgan only stops delivering the lesson with his fists when Tara yells at him to do so.

Morgan admits the purposelessness of his actions, but wonders if anything has a point? After all, he killed Deimos already, but now he's back, and stolen their son. Tara reminds him that that "fairness" doesn't enter into it, and tells him she is going to find their son whether he accompanies her or not. Morgan, chastened, agrees to go with her. The two set out with Tara's trained hunting dog, Shadow.

Next, we find our heroes riding through the forest approaching a strange hut. Tara says that here they will find someone who may be able to help them. As if summoned, a large black bird swoops down from overhead. It transforms before there eyes into a crone with a staff. She greets Tara and asks what brings them to the abode of Saaba.

Saaba tells them her services come at a price. Morgan rashly tells her to name it. She requires they bring her the Eye of Shakakhan, god of the Tree People. In advance. With little choice, Morgan and Tara head off into the depths of the forest, where the canopy produces a foreboding gloom.

Without warning, the primitive Tree People attack from the branches above. While Morgan brawls with them, Tara is lassoed. Shadow fights for her mistress, but is herself netted. Morgan is last to fall, but is finally knocked senseless, and the attackers make good their abduction of Tara.

When Morgan awakens, he frees Shadow from the net. The two pursue the primitives, through the trees, running along the thick branches. Shadow tracks them easily to the entrance to a subterranean chamber in the bole of a giant tree.

Inside, they find Tara tied to an altar about to be sacrificed in the rites of the Tree People to a giant wooden statue of a cyclops--Shakakhan, the forest god. Morgan puts a bullet through torso of the high priest, then he and Shadow fall upon the Tree People worshippers in a battle frenzy. Morgan cuts Tara free with the comment: "Find yourself a weapon, girl! There's killing to be done here!" She snatches up the ceremonial dagger and goes to it. Soon, the Tree People are driven off.

Morgan climbs up to take the statue's red-jewelled eye. When removes he removes it from the socket, he doesn't notice that some of his blood from a small wound fall on to the idol. Suddenly, the statue comes to violent life! Blinded, the statue lashes out and hits Morgan with a glancing blow that still knocks him senseless. It gropes around sightlessly for Morgan, so Tara stabs it with the dagger to distract it. While it moves to take the dagger from its leg, Tara snatches up a nearby brazier and throws its contents at the wooden giant. Shakakhan catches fire, and Morgan and Tara make their escape.

Returning to Saaba's hut, the two present her with the eye. Saying an incantation over it, she conjures within an image of Deimos in a fortress at the end of the world, in a place of half-shadow and half-light. Deimos holds Joshua overhead exults in anticipation of his vengeance. He plans to raise Joshua to despise his father and ultimately pit him against Morgan.

The image fades from the jewel. Saaba gives them one last cryptic pronouncement: "The fate of the son is the fate of the father… and the fate of the father is the fate of Skartaris! They are intertwined, inseparable!"

Saaba commands the two leave her. She gloats that the eye makes her second in power to Deimos--and if Morgan should slay him...

Morgan says there's enough evil in the world, without adding to it. He shatters the eye with a shot from his pistol.
Things to Notice:
  • This is the first chapter of the specifically labelled "Quest" storyline.
  • This is not the last we'll see of Saaba in the Warlord saga.
  • The Tree People are pretty much generic Skartarian primitives
Where It Comes From:
"Saaba" is town in Burkina Faso, though it is unclear if that's Grell's source for the witch's name here. With her gypsy-ish head-scarf, I wonder if Grell had in mind the old gypsy woman of the Wolf Man (1941), but perhaps it was just the stereotypical "gypsy fortune-teller" look, in general.

"Shakakhan" may have been derived from Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stevens) the singer-songwriter, had been with the group Rufus previously, and had a 1978 hit song "I'm Every Woman" off her first solo album, who presumably arrived at her name by combining the name of the famour Zulu leader, Shaka, with the Altaic language family title, "khan."

The statue of the god itself seems like it may be inspired at least in part by the appearance of the golem in the German silent film Der Golem--at least his hair does.


netherwerks said...

Morgan, like many of his fellow Sword & Sorcery protagonists, seems a bit Manic Depressive. Exulting in mayhem, unable to cope with day-to-day stuff. They can kill tree-gods but can't raise a kid or pay the mortgage.

If there really was enough evil in the world, then Morgan should ahve shot Saaba in the head and found a way to use the eye of Shakakhan against Deimos. He was trained in the military and that would have been good strategy. Especially for a guy so P.O.ed that he punches out his own guards...I'm just saying...

Trey said...

Maybe it by "enough" he meant "the right amount." He's just trying to maintain--not decrease. ;)

One of the odd things I've noticed reviewing these issue is in moments like the guard whuppin' here, Morgan starts talking all Conan-like, whereas most of the rest of the time he's fairly modern colloquial.

netherwerks said...

Perhaps he's just adjusting to his surroundings, like how some folks can pickup an accent?

Trey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trey said...

You may have a point. He's gone native.