Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: Warpath

It's Wednesday, so 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) #30 (February 1980)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Morgan is riding to Shamballah through the borderlands between it and Thera, when he hears sounds suggestive of soldiers on the march. Knowing well the enmity between Thera and his wife’s city, he climbs into a tall tree to get a look. What he sees must be nearly the entire Theran garrison on the march--with their only possible destination Shamballah.

That’s when Morgan notices a more immediate danger--a jaguar on the branch next to him, ready to pounce. Morgan draws his knife and lunges first! He and the jaguar battle until they fall from the tree, with the cat getting the worst of it.

Morgan’s got to beat the army to Shamballah, but his horse has run off. He runs, hoping to cut across a swamp to save five miles. He dives into the water...right on top of a big aquatic reptile. He fights the creature, and almost escapes, but then it swallows him whole!

The Warlord’s not an easy meal. He cuts his way out of the creature with his sword. He looks back from the shore to see piranha devouring the corpse. He made it out just in time.

Morgan's not done with the derring-do yet. He starts racing along tree branches and swinging by vines, Tarzan-style. Ahead are the outlying settlements of Shamballah. Morgan has to warn them so they can mount someresistance to the coming attack.

His vine-swinging comes to a halt when the tree in front of him falls. He looks down to see a woodsman with an axe wondering what it is he’s doing. Morgan tells him about the approaching army. He says they have to raise an alarm among the outpost settlements.

The woodsman’s first thought is to warn his family, but Morgan says there isn’t time. The Therans won’t bother with one cottage. He promises to go back to his home with the woodsman once they’ve warned the outposts. The two split up, the woodsman going east and Morgan west. The man reminds Morgan that if anything happens to him, Morgan must warn his family.

After they warn the settlements, the two meet at the bridge across the great gorge, beyond which is the woodsman’s cottage--and the Theran army is upon them. Morgan tells the woodsman to go to his family, but leave him the axe. The woodsman says that Morgan’s either “a great fool or a great hero” as he leaves him to hold the bridge alone.

What Morgan can’t know is that family the woodsman is saving includes a little boy who is actually Joshua--Morgan’s own lost son, taken away by Deimos. Morgan unknowingly saves his own child as he fights an apparently doomed battle against an army.

His family safe, the woodsman releases logs into the river hoping to help Morgan. The logs tumble over the falls. Morgan leaps to safety as they smash the bridge, and take many of the Therans into the gorge.

They’ve beaten the Therans for now, but Morgan knows they’ll soon regroup. He has to get to the garrison at Shamballah to prepare them for total war.

Things to Notice:
  • Morgan goes full on Tarzan, in what's possibly the most dangerous 5 miles his ever crossed.
  • The peasant family raising Joshua hasn't sold the one-of-a-kind artifact (a wrist watch) the baby sports as an ornament.
Where It Comes From:
The first portion of this issue seems to be an homage to Tarzan.  Morgan engages in a lot of stereotypical Tarzan-esque activities: he fights a big cat with only a knife, fights a crocodile stand-in underwater, and swings on vines.  Morgan even references Johnny Weissmuller, probably the man most associated with the film version of Tarzan. 

The set piece of the issue, Morgan's stand on a narrow bridge armed with an axe was no doubt inspired by an event legend holds occurred at the Battle of Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066.  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that a giant Norse axemen held the narrow bridge for a time against the entire Saxon army.  He's said to have killed 40 Englishmen single-handed before he was brought down.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I totally forgot that I used to read the Warlord comics. Thanks for bringing that memory back to me!

Trey said...

You're welcome! Glad to know its appreciated.

Flynn said...

For someone interested in getting into the Warlord comics, is there a tradeback or something you would recommend?

With Regards,

Trey said...

Hey, Flynn. There's a DC Showcase Presents: The Warlord which should be stillavailable.