Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: The Sword of the Sorcerer

Wednesday again.  Time to 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...

"Sword of the Sorcerer"
Warlord (vol. 1) #34 (June 1980)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: The mayor of the dwarves declares Morgan a hero for his actions last issue. As such, he feels Morgan is worthy of treasure: a gleaming sword from the Age of Wizard Kings called “Hellfire.” Morgan notices an opening in the blade near its hilt. The mayor says that legend holds there was once a gemstone there, but it was shattered, then stolen, long ago. Recognition dawning, Morgan pulls out the pieces of the hellfire gem and fits it into the blade. The sword “seems to shimmer with new life.”

In the ancient past of the Age of Wizard Kings, Machiste, Mariah, and Mungo Ironhand ignore the posted warnings and enter the castle of Wralf the Wretched. They hope he can return Machiste and Mariah to the present of Skartaris.

Wralf appears before them and is unsympathetic to their plight. He tells them he can’t help them, but when challenged on this by Mariah, he amends that to say he won’t.

At that moment, energy leaps from the hellfire sword. Spacetime is split open, and Morgan is transported to the Age of Wizard Kings and in the middle of his friends’ encounter with Wralf.

Wralf doesn’t give the reunited companions time for pleasantries. He demands Morgan surrender the sword. When Morgan declines, Wralf presses opens up two trapdoors--one which Morgan falls through, and one that swallows the other three.

The trapdoor drops Morgan onto a slide. He manages to stop himself from a precipitous drop, by wedging his sword between the walls. He climbs up a distance, then goes looking for his friends.

Meanwhile, another slide has dropped his friends on to a pathway. Mungo casts a light spell and begins to lead them out of the darkness. Unfortunately, they encounter a furred monster with scythe-like hands.

Mungo’s response is to run, but Machiste grabs his cape and pulls him back. They need the light to fight by. Machiste and Mariah battle the monster--unaware they’re actually fighting Morgan disguised by Wralf’s magic!

Morgan tries to hold his friends off while not hurting them. Mungo realizes there’s magic at work. He casts a spell himself, which dispels Wralf’s illusion.

Mariah remarks that Wralf must have changed Morgan into a monster, but Mungo corrects her. The spell was on them; the hellfire sword makes its bearer immune to magic. Mungo adds that Morgan has the same sword Wralf wears.

The three explain to Morgan that only Wralf is able to return them to Skartaris. Obviously, he’s being uncooperative.

As if on cue, Wralf appears among them. He's is tired of toying with them, and wants the sword. Morgan replies he’ll have it over his dead body. Wralf replies “that can be arranged,” and pulls his sword. He also magicks a glass dome over the other three so they can’t interfere.

Morgan and Wralf fight, their twin swords giving off magical energy as they do. Finally, Morgan delivers a mighty blow right on the gem in Wralf’s sword--and splits it, knocking it from the blade! Morgan realizes (at last) that Wralf’s blade is the one he now wields, but in the past.

That sword now seems to move of its on accord, and thrusts into Wralf’s heart. Morgan is confused. 

With Wralf dead the other three are freed.  Mungo says he should have told Morgan about that characteristic of the sword before--once the hellfire sword is drawn it must always draw blood. This is the price one pays for the immunity to enchantment the blade confers.

Morgan’s eager to show Deimos that power, but with Wralf dead, how can they return to Skartaris? Mungo clarifies: the sword grants Morgan the power to return, it’s only Mariah and Machiste that can’t. If he sheathes the blade, it will return him whence he came.

Mariah and Machiste urge him to return. They say they’ll find a way back somehow--and until then, they have each other.

Morgan sheathes the sword, and bids his friends farewell, promising he’ll see them again.

Things to Notice:
  • There's a hook horror beneath Wralf's castle (sort of).
  • Mungo Ironhand is implied to be the ancestor of the dwarves of Skartaris.
Where It Comes From:
The title of this issue is the same as a 1976 Sword & Sorcery novel by Gardner Fox.  The whole sword "cursed to have to draw blood" is reminiscent of the folklore around the swords of Japanese swordsmith, Muramasa Sengo.

Again, the comedic elements, and some of the design elements, of The Age of the Wizard Kings seem reminiscent of Ralph Bakshi's 1977 animated feature, Wizards.


Jimmy Simpson said...

This is one of my favorite issues. I have the original artwork for the cover of this issue.

LoneIslander said...

Looks pretty cool

netherwerks said...

Love the yellow terror-bird mounts they're riding, nothing says badass quite like riding into town on the back of a killer chicken...

Trey said...

Hey NethersWerks, I think in a situation like that you just have to own it.

@Jimmy - Cool. It's a nice peice, for sure.

Clovis Cithog said...

If you are a fan of that
other Warlord (of Mars)
dynamite comics has started a new series

Trey said...

I was aware that was out, but I haven't checked it out yet. Is it any good?