Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: Terminator

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) #21 (May 1979)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Despite their best efforts, Tara, Machiste and Mariah have been unable to find their way into Deimos’s fortress. They realize their hopes for the rescue of Tara’s son Joshua depend solely on his father, Travis Morgan. And the three have more to worry about as they're set upon by demons.

Meanwhile, inside the fortress, Morgan looks on in disbelief at Deimos’s champion--apparently his own son grown at accelerated rate to adulthood by Atlantean science. In actuality, Deimos has spirited the real Joshua away and replaced him with a clone. Despite the clone's adult form, his mind is still like that of an infant, not a warrior. Deimos uses his power to fill that mind, and change him into an instrument of vengeance.

Outside, our other three heroes (and Tara’s dog Shadow) battle the demons. They spot a cave entrance and run inside. With the demons close behind, Machiste causes a cave in to close the entrance. They might have been lost in darkness, but for the illumination of the hellfire gem Tara carries. Mariah asks why she Tara didn’t use the gem before, to help Morgan. Tara tells her the gem seems to be getting weaker with each use, and she and Morgan had agreed to hold its strange power in reserve for one purpose--to save their son.  Using the light, they search for a way into the castle.

Meanwhile, Morgan refuses to fight his son, but the clone-Joshua has no such qualms and attacks at Deimos’s command. Blow after blow lands rains down, and Morgan’s shield is whittled away and his helm knocked from his head. Finally, self-preservation leads Morgan to fight back, if half-heartedly.

A half-hearted defense proves not to be enough. Morgan takes a blow to his shoulder and drops his own blade. He falls to floor, clutching at his bleeding wound. Deimos laughs with the pleasure of vengeance close at hand. He gleefully orders clone-Joshua to kill Morgan.

Morgan says, “For God’s sake, Josh...I’m your father.” Deimos’s influence over the clone is too strong. He raises his blade to strike...

And Morgan shoots him.

Morgan cradles the body of his dying “son.” Deimos laughs with triumph. He taunts Morgan that he has destroyed him, as surely as if his champion had killed him. Seething with hate, Morgan snatches up his sword and stalks toward Deimos. Fearful, Deimos warns Morgan away as he begins to work some magic.

Machiste, Tara, Mariah, and Shadow burst into the room to find Morgan combating a winged, serpentine dragon, the transformed Deimos. Tara sees the fallen Joshua-clone, and recognizes her son. In her grief, Mariah has to remind her to use the hellfire gem to save Morgan. When the two halves are put together, a green light shoots out an strikes Deimos, transforming him back into a human form. Deimos begins to utter some new threat against Morgan, when Shadow lunges at him--the loyal hunting dog taking down his mistress’s quarry. The two tumble from a balcony to their apparent deaths.

Morgan tells Tara that he was forced to kill their son. He wants to use Deimos’s mask of life to restore him. Tara has heard of the curse of the mask--of how those resurrected by it continue to decay. She shows him the goblet from which Deimos has been drinking blood, to sustain his unnatural existence. She asks if Morgan would condemn their son to that. Morgan is unsure, but Tara isn’t, and she destroys the mask with her sword.

Morgan rails against his fate, complaining that he only wanted a little freedom, a little adventure--he never wanted to be a savior for this world. Mariah reminds him that that’s what he made himself, whether he intended to or not.

Morgan says he needs to go somewhere to get away, to think. He asks if any of the others want to go. Numbed, and saddened, the others refuse, so Morgan rides out alone, haunted by Deimos’s mocking laughter.

A thousand leagues to the south, Ashiya delivers the real baby Joshua into the hands of a farm family and makes them promise to keep the child’s existence a secret. A child, with a wrist-watch worn around his upper arm.

Things to Notice:
  • Faithful Shadow makes her last appearance.
Where It Comes From:
The title of this issue ("Terminator") references the land of shadow Deimos's Fortress occupies, but more thematically again reaches back to the Latin root terminus to evoke endings.  This is the end of Morgan and Tara's quest, and the end of the "third book" or story arc of the series, but also the end of Morgan as leader of men and inspiration (at least for a while).

Joshua becomes the archetypical "hidden monarch" found in so much fantasy fiction.  The revelation of his identity, and his reconciliation with his family, is the ulimtate ending that would seem to be need in the Warlord's tale--and ending that doesn't come in this series, at least.


Aaron E. Steele said...

Good stuff!

Do you think they have published a Warlord Anthology?

I can't find any mention of it in my interweb wanderings.

Trey said...

Do you mean like the Sandman anthology--essay and stories by various hands?

No, they haven't done one of thse of those sort of things for Warlord, as far as I know.

If you mean a Warlord collection, there's just the Showcase Presents: Warlord currently in print.

slegge said...

FYI, Mike Grell had a german shepherd named "Shadow".

Trey said...

Another piece of the puzzle! Thanks, Slegge.