Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: Return of the Gladiator

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...

"Return of the Gladiator" and "Hound from Hell"
Warlord (vol. 1) #29 (January 1980)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta (first story)

Synopsis: Travis Morgan spots a Theran outpost set ablaze. Entering the fortification, he’s amazed at the amount of slaughter he finds. Suddenly, a woman with dagger jumps at him, knocking him from his horse.

Morgan is only surprised for a moment. He punches the woman, knocking her aside. The woman doesn’t believe his assurances that he means no harm. She's seen the insignia of his shield, and she says that the raiders who attacked her village carried a banner with that same sign.

“So its come down to this,” Morgan says. He remembers when he and the other escaped gladiators raised that banner in the name of freedom. Now, they’ve forgotten the dream, or squandered it.

He picks up his helm and prepares to go. He tells the questioning girl he has unfinished business to attend to.

Morgan tracks the rogue army into difficult terrain. He out-foxes a sentry, and finds that its a former comrade, Daedelus. Gun drawn, he tells the warrior to take him to the camp.

Morgan is surprised by how few of his old band are left. Daedelus tells him times have been hard, but now they have a new leader--whose appearance interrupts there conversation. Morgan recognizes him.

The leader is Ghedron, former soldier of Kiro. He still bears the cursed axe he had been tasked by Machiste, his king, with destroying. Morgan warns him that the curse of the axe won’t allow him to put it down, but Ghedron demonstrates that he can--because he chooses to pick it up again.

He tells Morgan he now leads the Warlord’s former army, and there’s nothing he can do about it. Morgan replies there’s one thing--and challenges Ghedron to one on one combat, gladiator-style.

The two square off in an arena improvised in a volcano’s caldera. Morgan avoids Ghedrons blows, then lands one of this own, only to find Ghedron has cheated by wearing armor. He delivers a savage kick that sprawls Morgan out. Ghedron swings his axe to deliver the coup de grace, but Morgan slices upward with his sword, removing Ghedron’s axe-hand at the wrist.

The hand and axe tumble into the still open part of the volcano. Ghedron, screaming, stumbles back into the volcano himself, just as there is a brief eruption of fire. The demon which had inhabited the weapon is visible for a moment in its death throes.

Daedelus asks Morgan to lead them again, but he declines. He tells them that they must start taking responsibility for their own actions. That’s what freedoms about.

“Hound from Hell”
In Wizard World, Mungo Ironhand has summoned the three-headed dog he wanted, but now he, Mariah, and Machiste are menaced by the creature.

Machiste tells him to send the dog back, but Mungo hasn’t gotten to that chapter in his magic scrolls yet, as doesn't know how. As the dog leaps at Mariah, Machiste must take matters into his own hands. He grapples the beast, riding it around the room until it manages to buck him off.

Machiste’s helpless as the dog leaps. Mungo’s managed to think of a spell that might help. He casts it, and what lands on Machiste is not a three-headed dog, but a three-headed bunny!

The danger over, Mariah and Machiste demand that Mungo send them home. The sorcerer agrees, but “forty’leven” hours later, he still hasn’t managed to cast a spell that will do so. Mungo suggests that Wralf the Wretched, the head wizard around there, might be able to help them--but Wralf’s a “nasty fellow,” and the price may be steep.

The three mount up on diatrymas (horse’s not having evolved yet) and head off to seek Wralf.

Things to Notice:
  • The seventies super-heroine, technicolor racoon-eye make-up sported previous amongst Skartarian women appears again
  • Ghedron wears more clothes than the usual Skartarian, but does garb himself in purple, the traditional color of comic book villainy.
  • forty-'leven?
Where It Comes From:
This story is a sequel to Warlord #7, which showed Ghedron not disposing of the axe as instructed.

The title of this issue's main story likely comes from the 1971 Italian sword and sandals film of the same name.

Diatryma (now called gastornis) was a large, flightless bird living in the Eocene (56-34 million years ago).  It did overlap with eohippus the horse relative (once thought to be a horse ancestor) also mentioned by Mungo in this issue.

1 comment:

Dick McGee said...

I rather like the idea of a cursed demonic axe that's willing to be reasonable about things if its wielder is sufficiently enthusiastic about slaughtering the innocent. Imagine having to go about your day with a battle axe in your hand at all times. Very inconvenient. Evokes wonderful if anachronistic images of the poor guy struggling open a jar of pickles...