Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Warlord Wednesday: Dragon of Ice

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...

"Dragon of Ice"
Warlord (vol. 1) #48 (August 1981)

Written and Illustrated by Mike Grell; inked by Bob Smith

Synopsis: In Shamballah, Aton reports to Queen Tara. He gives her a progress report on the search for Jennifer Morgan, and tells her that Travis Morgan has again entered the shadow land of the Terminator. Tara laments that Morgan’s destiny seems locked in that land. Until he has burned away the bitter memories of what happened there, he’s doomed to wander--and as his bride, she’s doomed too.

After their audience, Aton is surprised when Tara comes riding up to him with a fresh horse in tow. She tells him they ride to find her husband, to see if if they can end his torment, and win him back from the violence he loves so well. They ride out for the Terminator.

Meanwhile, in that twilight land, Morgan and Shakira are making their way along the mist-shrouded coast, following what Morgan believes to be his daughter’s most likely path. When they spy a village ahead, Morgan thinks they should look there. Shakira belives otherwise, expressing her usual disdain for the habitations of man. To prove her argument she points toward what transpires on the outskirts of town: a beauteous girl, posed like a model, is apparently about to be sacrificed:

Morgan, per usual, gets fired up to save the girl from the “bloody savages.” Shakira tells him not to interfere, these things have gone on forever, after all—and they're too far away for him to make a shot, anyway.

Morgan isn’t sure about that. He braces himself, and aims carefully, taking his time. When he fires, he takes the high priest right through the chest. Very pleased with himself, Morgan jumps astride his horse and rushes into battle, ignoring Shakira’s pleas for him to wait.

Morgan fights his way through the crowd to the stone sacrificial table. He cuts the girl free, all the while speechifying heroically, while Shakira looks on and provides commentary:

Felled by the girl he meant to rescue, Morgan can only listen, stunned, as she accuses him of blasphemy, and berates him for interrupting their ritual and putting their people at risk from the Ice Dragon. She commands the mob of cultists to take him. Soon, Morgan finds himself being tied on the stone table, being prepared to take the girl’s place as a sacrifice.

The girl raises the blade above his chest. No one notices the black cat that’s slinked up to Morgan’s gear. Everyone is caught by surprise when the cat transforms into a woman, who snatches up Morgan’s pistol, and leaps across the table to shoot the girl. With a cry of “eat lead!” Shakira puts bullets in several more cultists.

When they’ve been cowed, she twirls the gun on her finger, and tells an incredulous Morgan that using the gun isn’t nearly so hard as he makes out. She cuts Morgan free just as one of the cultists cries out that the Ice Dragon comes!

The cultists run away, and our heroes prepare to do the same—but Morgan wonders if it’s a real dragon. As they see a looming shape emerging from the mists, Morgan thinks Shakira’s right and they ought to make their retreat. Then, he sees something familiar about the emerging dragon.

A viking ship, frozen in a winter storm with all hands aboard, then dragged by currents into Skartaris, and past this point again and again on an endless circuit. In frustration at the senseless death, Morgan throws the stone table into the ocean. They watch the ship go, and Shakira reminds him that it won’t change things.

Elsewhere, Jennifer Morgan's guide (who she now know’s as Faaldren) has brought her to the house of his master. Jennifer (who’s learned some Skartarian now) is eager to meet him. Faaldren promises she'll so soon enough, but first he suggests she take advantage of the luxuries of the house. He sets his mysterious box down and goes to prepare their meal.

Jennifer undresses and settles into the bath, unaware that she's not alone. The box opens, and something inside is watching her. Perhaps sensing something, Jennifer turns to look behind her…

Things to Notice:
  • For the second time, Shakira saves Morgan's life through the use of a gun of some sort.
  • Morgan never seems to learn not to rush in.
Where It Comes From:
This issue repeats the cargo cult element previously seen in issue #3.  It also has Morgan completely misjudging a situation like we saw last issue, and more significantly in issue #23.


netherwerks said...

The twist of having the 'ice dragon' turn out to be a viking ship all frozen in ice and not a living, breathing dragon is a very nice touch. The whole experience is a bit nihilistic, but that really fits Morgan to a tee.

Never occurred to Morgan to destroy the ship and end the cult once and for all...but then that's about par for this guy. He rushes in and lays many warriors and soldiers low with his sword and pistol, but does he ever stick around to pick up the pieces afterwards? Nope.

Trey said...

Yeah, though it feels short, this a good issue. I think maybe we're meant to take Morgan as considering destroying the ship, only stymied by it moving away with the current--but he doesn't say that, and he didn't make any effort to stop it. But yeah, that's Morgan all ideals and bold action, but poor on follow through.

Pierce said...

The frozen viking ship thing is really cool. That could be a short adventure module right there. The party arrives in a strange coastal village and get involved somehow with the sacrificial ritual. As soon as the cultists are dealt with the ship arrives. The party ventures out to the ship to destroy it (and loot it of course). I really like the idea of the eternally drifting viking ghost ship.

Trey said...

Definitely. I worked in a sort of reference to this story in my write-up for Borea in the Strange New World.