Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Warlord Wednesday: Sea King in Skartaris

Here's another installment of my examination of  the adventures DC Comics' Travis Morgan--The Warlord.  The earlier installments can be found here...

"To Enter the Lost World..."/ "Worlds Apart" / "Power Game"
Aquanman (vol. 3) #71-73 (September-November 2000) Written by Dan Jurgens, Penciled by Steve Epting, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Synopsis: Machiste, Mariah, and Mongo are on a desperate ride through the Skartarian jungle. They decide they have to split up. Mariah and Machiste will deal with the Ch'rin, while Mongo rides on to the Gate. Mongo makes it to the stone arch of the Gate of Infinity. There, he casts a spell that creates a vortex in the pool beyond the gate.

On Earth, in the Atlantean city of Poseidonis, Aqualad senses some mystical disturbance and rushes to tell his king, Aquaman, about it. Bored with affairs of state, Aquaman and his queen Mera go to check it out. They find a vortex that they are quickly sucked into it.

Arriving on the other side, the first thing they see is an elasmosaurus, suggesting there in the past. They're even more confused when they rise to the surface and are almost run over by what looks like a Viking longship. Believing them to be evil wizards, the seamen pour burning oil on to the water. Aquaman summons the marine reptile to destroy one of the ships. Then, a familiar figure dives (rashly) from one of the ships to confront the "wizards" head on:

Aquaman mistakes him for Oliver Queen and doesn't fight back. When Morgan realizes what's going on, he rises to the surface to talk. He explains who he is and invites them onboard his ship. He tells them that Skartaris is under a grave threat and so they were summoned by Mongo's spell. A short distance upriver into the jungle, and he shows them what they're facing:

The Ch'rin are the servitors of an evil sorcerer, Valgos. One of them smashes the lead ship with a gigantic fist. Morgan's bullets are useless against them, but Mera is able to use her power to knock one of them over. Aquaman start's giving orders to Morgan's men, which doesn't sit terribly well with the Warlord, but he takes it for now.

Morgan leads the two Atlanteans to Valgos's lair:

They infiltrate the skull fortress: Morgan repelling in from above, Aquaman and Mera swimming in from below. The Atlanteans are first to meet the wizard--and mind-controlled Machiste and Mariah as his protectors! The Atlanteans are winning, until Valgos takes control of Aquaman's shapechanging metal hand. When Morgan arrives on the scene:

Morgan and Mera are soon captured, though not before Mera discovers that the masked Valgos is really just another mind controlled pawn: Mongo. Valgos (controlling Aquaman through his hand, now spread over his whole body) puts Mera in a heating pool to boil her alive.

It turns out Valgos controls all the others with symbiotes that will kill them over time, because they resist his domination. Valgos sends Machiste to finish Mera and Morgan off. Meanwhile, a bit of the liquid metal from Aquaman's prosthetic hand left on Mera's cheek, grows to cover her and protect her from the heat. She realizes Valgos must not have full control over her husband's mind.

She breaks Morgan free. Machiste attacks, but Morgan lays him out with a punch.

Later, we see Machiste return to Valgos. To the evil sorcerer's surprise me moves to free Mariah: he's out of Valgos's control. Morgan starts to shoot Valgos, but Mera reminds him the wizard controls Aquaman's body. Or does he?

Our heroes make it out of the skull, but there's no sign of  Valgos--until the giant skull begins to rise out of the muck, attached to a whole giant body, with Valgos in the jewel on its forehead.

With the help of Mera's water powers, Aquaman jumps up and punches through the jewel, grabbing Valgos.

With the jewel destroyed, the giant body crumbles. It turns out Valgos is dead and appears to have been for some time. Aquaman theorizes the jewel must have acted like a battery, holding on to his life-force.

The wizard defeated, Aquaman and Mera want a way home. Mongo says that might be tough, but Aquaman reminds him of what happened to the last wizard that crossed him.

Things to Notice:
  • All the covers are by Michael Kaluta.
  • Morgan has heard of Aquaman and knows the Justice League used to have their base in a cave.
  • Unlike every other superhero visitor, Aquaman and Mera don't adopt Skartarian clothes. Maybe they just didn't have time?
  • For some reason, Aquaman's and Mera's super-strength isn't in evidence here.
Where it comes from: 
Again, Dan Jurgens pens a Warlord crossover that gets the characters and the world right, for the most part (though he makes Morgan rather atagonistic to Aquaman for no good reason, other than that's just the way things work in crossovers).

This is the first time we've seen Mongo Ironhand since issue #98 (1985). How he got from the Age of the Wizard Kings to the present of Skartaris isn't explained.


Timothy S. Brannan said...

Aquaman at around this time was kind of a dick anyway if I remember right.

Trey said...

That's true, from what I've heard as well. Maybe Warlord's greater antagonism here was in some way him "outdoing" the then-current version of Aquaman.

The Angry Lurker said...

That last picture looks like he had a dick?

Jim Shelley said...

Wow - several surprises in this article:

Didn't realize Warlord had any appearances around this time. I thought he was in limbo after the 90's JLA Task Forces issues up until Bruce Jones got a hold of the brand.

That Dan Jurgens artwork is incredible. It almost makes me want to go back and check out the rest of his run on the Aquaman series.

Can't believe that Aquaman series ran so long.

Trey said...

@Jim - Jurgens didn't draw this--it's Epting. There are also the Teen Titans crossovers I did last week a few years before.

garrisonjames said...

That shape-shifting metal hand-thing Aquaman has in this story kinda reminds me of Wetworks...