Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Warlord Wednesday: Interlude

Another Wednesday in Skartaris.  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) #36 (August 1980)

Written and Pencilled by Mike Grell; Inked by Vince Colletta

Synopsis: Shakira and Morgan are walking through the bustling markets of Bandakhar. Shakira is offended by the stench of so much humanity. Morgan is no more fond of the city than her, but they’ve heard anything can be bought their, and they need horses.

Their shopping is interrupted when Morgan hears a girl scream and rushes to help, heedless of Shakira’s warning (and his own previous experiences in Skartaris!) not to get involved. Morgan starts cutting down the uniformly dressed, bald men who seem to be trying to take the comely girl captive. Soon, all but two have fallen before the hellfire sword--and those two beat a haste retreat.

Shakira quips that they’ve barely arrived in town and Morgan is already making enemies. Morgan ignores her, noting the distinct tattoos on the men’s chests. The girl says its the “mark of the bat--the sign of the demon.” She gives her name has Karelle, but refuses to reveal why the men were after her. When pressed, she runs off saying that to be involved with her further would only put Morgan in danger.

Despite the girl's protests, and further sarcasm from Shakira, Morgan follows after her, leaving Shakira to seek the company of a feline companion.

Morgan’s “jungle-honed” tracking skills put him on the girl’s trail. He catches a whiff of her haunting, lotus blossom perfume, and knows she’s near by. He sees her running into the gate of a building's courtyard--and sees her followed by a hulking, satyr-like figure. He pulls his sword.

Morgan charges into the courtyard. He finds the creature attempting to strangle Karelle. He attacks, but with amazing speed, the creature slashes him with its claws. Morgan falls back, his own reflexes the only thing saving him from disembowelment. Clutching his wounded chest, Morgan tosses his sword at the creature’s throat. It strikes home, and the beast dies.

Karelle is unharmed. As Morgan retrieves his sword he again asks who’s after her. She’s still reluctant to say, but when its obvious Morgan doesn’t intend to drop the issue, she tells him she has the attention of a powerful, and unwanted, suitor. When her father refused him, the man--an evil wizard--decided that if he couldn’t have her, he would kill her. Karelle agrees that death is preferrable to being with him.  She has a poisoned dagger to end her own life, before she would submit to the monster.

Morgan won't allow it to come to that. Karelle asks why he would help her. Morgan replies: “You’re the first beautiful and gentle thing that’s heppened to me in longer than I can remember.” Karelle senses that Morgan is a tortured man, but she also senses gentleness beneath his tough exterior. Morgan warns her not to get too close, but Karelle replies she’s not afraid, and impetuously kisses him.

At that moment, Morgan final succumbs to his wound and passes out.

Karelle tends him in his delirium, and Morgan is unaware. Instead, he's lost in the dark past; he recalls being forced to kill his son, his wife’s anguish, and the man responsible--the devil-priest, Deimos.

Morgan awakens from his nightmare to find Karelle absent. He hears her scream from the next room, and stumbles after her, sword in hand. There he finds Karelle, dangling from her tied wrists, being whipped by Deimos!

Seeing his hated nemesis, Morgan goes into a berserker fury. Deimos tries to drive him back with magic, but the hellfire sword repels his sorcery. Morgan dismembers him with the blade, shouting the names of those he cares for whom Deimos has harmed. Even when Deimos has fallen, Morgan doesn’t stop. He hacks the priest into pieces as a horrified Karelle looks on.

Morgan cuts her free, but she pushes him away:

Later, Shakira finds him sitting in the rain. She’s got horses and in ready to live the city. She asks how Morgan made out. Morgan isn’t sure. His life was briefly touched by something special, and for that he should feel lucky, but instead he feels empty. He realizes that he’s been blaming Deimos for destroying everything beautiful in his life, but that really he’s the destroyer.

Shakira replies: “That girl...She must have been very special.” Morgan agrees that she was.

He and Shakira ride away, while Karelle watches them go with tears in her eyes.

Things to Notice:
  • The seventies gives way to the eighties: Skartarian cutie Karelle has ditched the raccoon eye make-up of previous issues in favor of a fringed bikini top.
  • There's something a little suggestive about a panel with a caption "the great sword hellfire throbs with power" over a close-up of Karelle with her lips parted.
  • Deimos' third death is gruesome, but sort of anti-climatic.
Where It Comes From:
The mark of the bat chest tattoo sported by Deimos' cronies is clearly an homage to Batman's chest symbol.


netherwerks said...

Someone needs to design a Throwing Sword that combines the best features of African throwing irons, a pilum and a broadsword, so that burly warlord-types have a decent weapon meant to be thrown across the room...

...and NO, not that awful rocket-propelled thing from the bad Eighties S&S movie which shall remain nameless...

Harald said...

I really enjoyed this read. I will make sure I catch the following instalments of Warlord Wednesday. Having grown up in a kingdom far, far away, I've never heard of this comic until you started posting on it, but I must confess it's growing on me.

Trey said...

@NetherWerks - No doubt. It was certainly make these sorts of shennanigans more probable. And I won't mention the film...but i will say, Lee Horsley could of made a decent Travis Morgan if there had been a Warlord film in the 80s.

@Harald - Glad you liked it, though you should definitely check out previous installments as this is far from the best issue of the series.

Unknown said...

You're spot on Trey, Deimos' death is very anti-climatic. Heck, having him appear and be killed off in one issue feels totally wrong. I'm thinking Grell would've been better off having Morgan thwart Deimos and run him off, not "kill" him.

Great point about the 70s making way into the 80s. I knew something was different, but couldn't quit put my finger on it.

Trey said...

This issue was just really sort of odd. Not badly written, but it's hard to see why Grell wanted to use Deimos this way.