Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: Birds of Prey

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...

"Birds of Prey"
Warlord (vol. 1) #33 (May 1980)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Morgan and Shakira are flying along on the disc they stole from the titans. Morgan broaches a subject with Shakira that’s been bothering him: is she a woman who turns into a cat, or a cat turns into woman? And how does she do it, anyway? Shakira refuses to answer the first question, only replying “I have to have some secrets.” She suggests that maybe her ability is “magic.”

Morgan has little faith in magic. He shows Shakira the burned-out remnant of the Hellfire Stone. Magic can’t bring back his son, and it can’t make him forget he caused his son's death. He keeps the stone as a reminder of magic’s limits.

The conversation is interrupted by the attack of winged, bald men Shakira identifies as “hawkmen.” Morgan and Shakira hold their own against the attackers until the hawkmen lasso Shakira and bear her off into the sky. Watching her abduction, Morgan lets his guard down for an instant and is hit from behind, knocking him from the disc.

Morgan’s quick reflexes allow him to save himself by grabbing the control cable, but supporting his wait shorts the controls. Morgan finds himself dangling in midair, being dragged behind a runaway flier. He travels that way for short distance, until the flier gives out, and plunges to the ground.

Morgan lies unconscious in the forest, where he's found by a group of dwarves. They debate what to do with him, worried he might be allied to the hawkmen.  Eventually they decide to take him to their village and let their mayor decide what to do.

In their quaint, tree village, they bring Morgan before the mayor. Before he can pass judgement, Morgan awakens, which causes all the dwarves to run away in fear. Morgan coaxes them out of hiding by convincing them he’s not with the hawkmen--in fact, he’s their enemy. The dwarves are pleased by this, as the hawkmen raid their village and steal their women. The mayor pronounces Morgan a friend and offers him a drink:

The strong dwarvish liquor brings tears to Morgan’s eyes and almost makes him fall over. The mayor opines that “it takes some getting used to.”

The mayor tells Morgan the hawkmen are away on a raid to the South. That gives Morgan the idea to prepare a surprise for them on their return. The mayor says Morgan will have to do it alone--the dwarves are too small to stand up to them. Besides, they’ve got know way to reach the hawkmen’s aerie. He shows it to Morgan, high atop a giant tree. There’s no way to climb up!

Morgan asks if they’ve ever tried, though he knows the answer.  He tells the mayor all he needs from the village is 100 feet of rope and goat-skin full of their dwarvish firewater.

Morgan begins climbing the tree. He’s surprised to find guards swooping down at him. After a precarious battle with Morgan swinging around the giant tree trunk on his rope, the hawkmen are defeated. He resumes his climb with more urgency. He has to reach the top before the rest of the hawkmen return.

Upon reaching the aerie, Morgan makes a grisly discovery. Scattered about are human (or dwarven) bones. No sooner has he found the fate of the hawkmen’s captives, than he sees them returning with Shakira. Morgan quickly spreads the liquor around their nest, then hides.

As soon as the raiders carrying Shakira are within the nest, Morgan attacks. He cuts Shakira free, then throws down a torch, igniting the liquor. Morgan grabs Shakira’s hand and says their only way out is to jump into the lake below.

Shakira balks with a feline dislike of water. She turns into a cat to run away, but Morgan snatches her up. He jumps from the tower with her cursing him.

Morgan and Shakira climb from the lake and look up at the aerie, now engulfed in flame. The mayor thanks Morgan for his help, and asks if he got his cat back. Morgan replies, “Yes..."

Things to Notice:
  • Where are the hawkwomen?
  • Shakira talks while in cat form.
  • Dwarven females are taller and less comical looking than the dwarf males.
Where It Comes From:
The hawkmen are likely inspired (and named) for the hawkmen of Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon comic strip, and related media.

The dwarves Morgan encounters seem to have a Munchikin-esque character, mode of dress, and appearance, though they live in tree homes more like the Keebler elves.  It's possible that The Wizard of Oz was the whole impetus for the story, with the dwarves inspired by the Munchikins and the hawkmen standing in for the evil flying monkeys.


Jim Shelley said...

This was actually my first issue of Warlord that I ever bought. I'm pretty sure the draw for me was the fact that he was holding a gun on the cover which peaked my curiousity as I knew nothing of the series and probably up until then wrote it off as a Conan knockoff.

Trey said...

You beat me to the series. My first issue (at least the first I bought) was #73.