Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: The Feast of Agravar

For the last time in 2010, 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...

"The Feast of Agravar"
Warlord (vol. 1) #39 (November 1980)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Travis Morgan bids faithful Aton farewell. He says that he may have fallen short of the dream who gave his former army, but Aton has done well. As Morgan departs on the back of his winged horse, Firewing, Aton tells him that he hopes he finds what he’s looking for.

Once they're airborne, the black cat accompanying Morgan transforms back into Shakira. After meeting his daughter she had never heard of, Shakira wonders aloud what other secrets he’s hiding. Morgan retorts that he’ll spill his secret when she tells him hers.

Their banter is cut short as a flock of pink pteranodons attack!

Morgan and Firewing manage to out-maneuver the winged reptiles. As the companions continue on their way, a man watching them from the ground below talks to a mysterious wooden box bound in bronze. He calls it “Master” and agrees that--despite the pteranodon’s failure--they shall yet triumph over the Warlord.

Miles away, Morgan sights yet another ancient ruin and wants to explore. Shakira (predictably) is entirely incurious about the past. As Morgan prepares to enter the ruins,she notices talon scratches on Firewing's flanks. She scolds Morgan, telling him he should treat the horse better, that he should stop treating him like a possession. Morgan asserts that Firewing does belong to him. He enters the ruins, leaving Shakira to tend the animal.

Even in the darkness inside, Morgan can make out Atlantean machinery. He hears a hum, and knows some of it must still be active. He inadvertently trips a sensor, and the lights come on, and the facility comes to life.

Shakira joins him inside.  She asks what this place is. Morgan explains what he knows of the history of the Atlanteans in Skartaris: how they civilized war to the point of it being as easy as pushing a button--and how that was their undoing.

The two enter a living area and are suprised to come face to face with a robot, who greets them. The robot bows, and introduces himself as “Bogg.”

Bogg says his function is to serve. He was built by the Atlanteans, but over the years he has had the oppurtunity to serve the representatives of the many cultures who have passed through since the Atlanteans destroyed themselves.

Bogg offers the two drinks. Shakira laps at hers like a cat. As Morgan sips his, he asks if Bogg gets many other visitors. Bogg says "no," as the locals fear and shun this place. He was beginning to get concerned; the Feast of Agravar is at hand, and its been a long time since there have been celebrants.

Before Morgan can ask what the robot means, he notices Shakira is out cold. The wine is drugged! Morgan moves to attack Bogg barehanded, but succumbs to the drug’s effect himself.

Bogg drags our unconscious heroes from the room, and the robotic housekeeping unit tidies up behind them, removing all signs of what has transpired.

Morgan and Shakira wake up bound to a stone table in front of a pit. Bogg explains why he brought them here. The Atlanteans built their complex over the lair of Agravar. Long after their passing, Agravar was able to break free from his prison. The Feast of Agravar was a rite observed by the primitive tribe who took refugee in the complex. They saw Agravar as a god.

Morgan can’t believe that Bogg buys that primitive superstition. Bogg replies that he does not, but periodic feasts do seem to keep Agravar from wrecking more of the complex. In this way, Bogg fulfills his primary function--that of custodian.

Shakira doesn’t want to participate in any feast. She turns back into a cat, slips her bonds, and bounds away. Bogg goes after her.

At that moment, Agravar emerges from the pit:

Meanwhile, Bogg searches the complex for Shakira..and finds her, as she (now back in human form) blasts him with an Atlantean weapon she and Morgan saw earlier.

Back in the feast chamber, Morgan bursts his bonds to fight for his life. He hurls a piece of machinery at Agravar, but the device is destroyed by contact. Morgan realizes its body must be made of a “molecular acid”--which also explains how it burrows through solid rock. Knowing he can’t fight it, Morgan makes a hasty retreat.

Agravar is faster, and is almost upon him. Luckily, Shakira comes to the rescue with the blaster. She shoots Agravar through the head, killing it. The two leave the facility, as automated housekeeper goes about cleaning up the monster’s body.

Outside, they find Firewing’s saddle, but no Firewing. Shakira tells Morgan she set him free. Morgan couldn’t own him, he could only enslave him. She returned him to the skies. He has more important things to do, she says--and somewhere in the skies we see Firewing flying close to a winged mare...

Elsewhere, Aton is worried as he comes upon the grounded and damaged Lady J--the ship that carried Jennifer Morgan--on some Skartarian shore...

Things to Notice:
  • There's an almost literal "Chekhov's gun" in this issue.
  • The housekeeping robots in the complex are almost Jetson-like in their comic efficiency.
Where It Comes From:
This issue seems to combine elements of two previous issues.  We've got the ancient robot gone bad from "The City in the Sky" (issue 8)--the names of the two robots (Bogg and Tragg) are even similar--and the sacrifice to a snake creature in ancient ruins from "War Gods of Skartaris" (issue 3).

Bogg is even closer than Tragg to their likely inspiration: the robot Box from the film Logan's Run (1976).  Box is a former servant (his job was to freeze sea food and store it) whose interpretation of his programming has drifted a bit list like Bogg.  Box also has an expansive and gregarious personality like Bogg.

Not long after his appearance in the story, Bogg says his function is "to serve man."  This wordplay on the duplicitous robot's part is a reference to the 1962 Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man," based on a short-story by Damon Knight.  The story's famous twist is based on the same play on the meaning of "serve" as Bogg's comment.

Agravar is a Spanish verb meaning "to make worse."


Xyanthon said...

Trey, thanks for the recap. I used to love Warlord, Arion and Arak Son of Thunder as a kid. I did subscribe to the new Warlord although I haven't had a chance to read any of them yet (my to read pile is ginormous).

Trey said...

You should check it out. Since Grell wrote it, it was a worth sucessor to the original run, and presents the "end" of Travis Morgan's story.