Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: A Horse of a Different Color

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...

"A Horse of a Different Color"
Warlord (vol. 1) #37 (September 1980)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Beneath the eternal sun of Skartaris, Travis Morgan and Shakira share a whispered conversation, as they crouch in the jungle. Their discussing a wild horse drinking from a pond, which Morgan intends to try and capture. Shakira thinks he’s going to get his neck broken.

Morgan’s determined. He sneaks up and leaps on the stallion's back. As it begins to buck, we now see that it's no ordinary horse, but a winged one!

Shakira tells Morgan to jump, but he ignores her, confident he has the situation in hand. The horse takes flight and Morgan has no choice but to hang on until it lands again. The horse takes Morgan toward a fanciful and futuristic-looking castle atop a spire of rock. There the beast lands at what Morgan takes to be its home.

Meanwhile, an exasperated Shakira runs along, trying to follow Morgan’s path. She’s brought to a halt when a lasso slips over her. Acting quickly, she cuts it with her spear. She finds herself facing an unnaturally tall, broadly smiling man she first takes for a Titan. She takes off running. When the man gives chase, emerging fully from the foliage, she realizes he's actually a centaur.

She trips her pursuer with her spear, then holds him helpless at spear’s point. The centaur protests he meant her no harm, but Shakira points out that’s exactly what he would say in this situation. The centaur tries to bargain for his life with some sort of service. At first, Shakira isn’t interested in his perhaps lewd suggestions, but then she thinks of something he can do for her:

Offered little choice by Shakira, the centaur, who introduces himself as Arvak Thunderhoof, agrees reluctantly to give her a ride to Morgan’s location.

In the castle on the spire, Morgan marvels at the decor--amazing life-like statues representing all the ages of man in Skartaris, from the Age of the Wizard Kings to the present. While he’s examing the art, a beautiful green-haired woman enters, and asks if he likes her collection. She asks Morgan to forgive her for not greeting him earlier--she wasn’t expecting him until much later.

Morgan asks me she means, but she doesn’t reply. She gives her name as Astarte, but says his other questions will wait, and makes her point with a smoldering stare and her arms around his neck...

On the ground below, Arvak points out the castle to Shakira, naming it Grimfang. Shakira intends to climb the spire. Arvak tells her it's impossible; no one could attempt that climb and live. Shakira attends to try, regardless--Morgan would do no less for her. She can’t figure out why that moves her--she’s never been particularly loyal to anyone--but it does. She transforms into a cat and bounds off.

She begins the climb. It’s difficult even in her cat form. It becomes more so when a hawk swoops down to make a meal of her. Shakira finds a wide enough perch, then transforms back into a human. The diving hawk gets a surprise--and a punch in the head.

In the castle above, Morgan still has questions, but Astarte puts him off by offering him wine. Morgan refuses, bu Astarte insists, and something about her eyes seems to compel him....

Then, a snarling, black house cat leaps between the two, and buries its claws in Astarte’s face.The glass she was offering Morgan spills. Morgan recognizes Shakira but doesn’t know what’s going on.

Astarte finally succeeds in casting Shakira away, but only after accidentally knocking over one of her statues. Morgan reaches down and dips his fingers in the red liquid from the goblet. He realizes it isn’t wine, and he knows how Astarte came by her “art collection.”

Morgan pulls his hellfire sword. Within the glow of the hellfire’s mystic gem, he sees Astarte’s true form--a green-feathered, harpy-like creature.

She says she would have made Morgan immortal in stone, but now she’ll send him to the halls of death. Morgan offers her some wine first--and throws the remaining liquid from the goblet into her face. Astarte turns to stone in mid-lunge, then crashes to the ground, and shatters.

Shakira asks if Morgan’s noticed how bad his luck’s been with woman lately. Morgan declines to discuss it.

Morgan and Shakira fly out of Grimfang on the back of the winged horse, while below, lonely Arvak watches them--Shakira, actually--go.

Things to Notice:
  • Grimfang is in sort of an isolated place to attract a lot of visitors, it seems.  The time it took to acquire her collection must matter less to someone apparently as long-lived as Astarte.
  • How does Morgan instantly know where Astarte's statues came from just from figuring out the liquid isn't wine?
Where It Comes From:
This issue is largely Greek mythology inspired.  It's got a winged horse (pegasus), a centaur, and a women who turns things to stone--though admittedly, not with her gaze like a gorgon.  Like Circe, Astarte offers refreshment which will transform the consumer.

Arvak Thunderhoof seems to have a bit of the classical centaur lecherousness, though he plays more like a seventies ladies' man than the would-be abductors of myth.

"Astarte" is the Greek name of a goddess of the Eastern Mediterranean of Semitic origin.  Her purview was fertility and war.


Jim Shelley said...

I remember being puzzled by this one too - with the mention that she wasn't expecting Morgan until later, perhaps Grimfang was some sort of poor man's vahalla or mythological purgatory and Morgan was meant to end their when he died?

Trey said...

My interpretation was that the pegasus was a lure, maybe. People followed it to Grimfang, where Astarte would get them. Morgan actually rode the horse, so he was quicker than expected.

Now given the difficulty of getting to the castle, I'm unclear on what happened once these victims to be arrived at the spire.

Aaron E. Steele said...

Those randy centaurs...

I'm enjoying reading the issues as you post your reviews. Good stuff.

Trey said...

So you got a run, eh? Cool.

Glad my reviews are enhancing your reading. :)

Unknown said...

Very unfortunate that this story ends so quickly. I would've liked to have learned more about Astarte's suggestion that she was expecting Morgan later...

These one and done issues are fun, but at this point in the series, it feels like a few cliffhangers and continued stories would help even things out.

(Not sure why my name continues to say Unknown despite logging in...)

Trey said...

Yeah, at this stage Grell wasn't doing the sort of extended stories with episodic bits embedded he would do later.