Monday, July 30, 2012

That is the weirdest prisoner transport I've ever seen.

...and I don't know about those waist-mounted rockets, either. From 1996, Uncanny Origins #4, "Forged in Fire!" Written by James Felder, pencils by Dave Hoover, inks by Bill Anderson. This was a ninety-nine cent series, and this issue retells the origin of Firelord. Actually, I'm not sure a lot of his story was ever told in one place, before or since.

The world Xandar, home of the Nova Corps, seat of the mighty Xandarian Empire, and blown up like four times since it was introduced. It's also home of the Xandarian Space Academy, where young cadet Pyreus Kril is one of their finest students. An orphan, Pyreus worked his way up from the gutter, because he believed in the Empire's ideals of "loyalty, friendship, and courage," and he idolized the aging hero, Commander Gabriel Lan. Lan, disillusioned and tired, meets Pyreus to see the enthusiasum and idealism he's long since lost; but the two become friends. (Imagine if you could meet Captain Kirk, and become his best pal, and join his crew: Pyreus is living the dream.)

Having his fill of war, Gabriel takes the commission of the Way-Opener; the oldest, smallest ship in the fleet. But, it's an exploratory mission, and he wants the chance to see something new. His four-man crew are burnouts, injured, a cadet that decked the Admiral, and Pyreus, who insists on joining his commander.

In the waning days of the Xandarian Empire, the crew of the Way-Opener explore new worlds and fight Kree, Skrulls, and Tharks; becoming a beacon of inspiration. (Pyreus also hooks up with the cute navigator, which almost seems like an editorial addition: he always seemed really devoted to his commander. Not that there's anything wrong with that...) Still, after three years, Gabriel is still tired of serving the empire, and feels like there must be something more for him.

Then, the Way-Opener encounters a colossal starship, which teleports Gabriel away. Taking command, Pyreus gives chase, realizing his commander's abductor was Galactus; a fact not lost on the Xandarian High Council, who order Pyreus to stand down and not antagonize him. Refusing to abandon Gabriel, Pyreus and the crew give chase, following Galactus by the trail of drained and lifeless planets left in his wake. A burned survivor tells of "an angel of death...the Air-Walker."

Finally reaching their quarry, the Way-Opener is outclassed, and almost immediately destroyed. The crew escapes in a rescue skiff, but Pyreus is teleported to Galactus himself; who offers him a deal: become his new herald, and he will tell him what happened to Gabriel. Pyreus agrees, and is transformed into Firelord; just as Gabriel had become the Air-Walker. Gabriel had served Galactus, until his death; then his soul was put in a robot, which also died. Galactus points out Gabriel killed billions leading him to new planets to consume, and wonders what Firelord now thinks of his friend.

Pyreus refuses to think any less of his friend, calling Galactus a monster that could never understand friendship or loyalty. He may have a point, since Galactus then mind-wipes him a bit (something he did to the Silver Surfer as well, and may or may not have done to Gabriel) to make him a more tractable herald. Firelord would serve as herald for many years--maybe, that doesn't really track since it wasn't that long from when the Surfer broke free. Still, eventually Firelord wanted to be free himself, and after meeting Thor, Galactus agreed to take the Destroyer as herald instead.

Some time later, on a Christmas morning, Thor fought and destroyed a rebuilt Air-Walker robot, just in time for Firelord to miss reuniting with his lost friend. Enraged, he fought Thor, until Thor explained he felled the robot unknowingly. Forgiving Thor, Firelord buries his friend, and takes again to space, the last legacy of the Xandarian Empire. (At the time, anyway.)

Although he had never been a character I really liked, there is nothing about this issue I don't love. Ninety-nine cents, an origin rarely seen, a great animated-style that I wish Marvel would've dabbled in a bit more. Of course, this wasn't even my favorite issue of Uncanny, not the Cyclops one. For good measure, you could also find a lot of this series for $1.99 an issue, but with Kurt Busiek's great Untold Tales of Spider-Man!


Dale Bagwell said...

You're right, I don't think any single issue ever re-capped Firelord's complete origin before. I mean I'm sure there's been little bits here ans there, but this one tell you everything you need to know.

Well almost everything. It seems the writer of this issue, forgot to mention that Air-Walker was brought back to "life" during the Herald Ordeal storyline in Silver Surfer, around 1992. So there:)

Do I get a no-prize now?

Sleestak said...

That issue seems full of homages. One in particular is first panel depicting the personal and prisoner transports using jump belts. That panel is a direct reference to "Jump High, Jump Fast", a one page text story that appeared in Magnus, Robot Fighter back in August 1968.