Friday, April 11, 2014

"Dragon Skinner" isn't a metaphor for anything. That I know of...

Even though this issue features a nice Mike Grell cover, the debut of new regular series artist Ron Randall, and the always-welcome return of Shakira; there's a few problems, too. From 1986, Warlord #104, "Dragon Skinner" Written by Mike Fleisher, art by Ron Randall.

1. This was four issues into the "Morgan's Quest" storyline: in the final battle against the invading new Atlantean army, as Travis faced the wizard-king Cykroth, his daughter Jennifer used her magic to shield her dad from the wizard's "death-bolts." Travis was able to kill Cykroth, but the wizard had been able to take revenge on Jennifer, turning her into a withered old crone. (That one hurt: that should've been a triumphant moment, instead completely undercut. But it does make a good excuse to get Travis on the road, rather than rebuilding Skartaran society or leading an army.)

Travis gets a consult with another wizard--and instead of going with the grey-bearded Gandalf type, they went with a different stereotype; a lisping, scheming, effete fat ponce; that was a little offensive back in 1985. But he gets the location of the mystical MacGuffin that could cure Jennifer, and takes off after it. #102 featured a quick stop at Travis's crashed SR-71 to pick up more ammo (he says it's his last box there, but always seems to have more!) and has an adventure with an Amazon queen. #103 features a mad scientist whose experiments turn his niece into a tiger, complete with spiky collar like Shakira. (If that had anything to do with her mysterious origins, she won't say!)

The quest is in theory a race against time, since Jennifer is so old she could croak at any moment. In actual fact, it would go on for over another year, until #116! Some of the quest issues are perfectly fun adventures, slightly undermined by the fact that Travis should be moving along a little faster. I want to say several issues end with Travis thinking "Hold on, Jennifer!"

2. Shakira takes offense to a band of dinosaur poachers, who kill a mother allosaurus so they can skin the babies, for use as scroll-sheathes or something. I dunno, less giant terrifying meat-eating monsters roaming around seems like a win to me; but maybe she's just against waste. After Travis chases them off by demonstrating his .44 Automag, the lead skinner gets the bright idea to ambush them later and steal the gun. As a bonus, the skinners catch Shakira, force her into her cat form, and cage her; before shooting Travis in the head.

Even though he wasn't wearing his traditional helmet at the time, Travis is still fine, the bullet having merely creased his skull. It occurs to me he could've saved himself a lot of trouble by just putting the safety on, the skinner would've never figured that out...

3. Three pages of this issue are subplot, and one that would run about as long as the quest: Travis's friends Machiste and Mariah are nearly killed in a coup attempt, and are working their way back to Machiste's throne of Kiro. They go about as roundabout as Travis does on his quest. Although, Machiste has the added impediment of traitors eager to kill him and cash in with the usurpers.

Oddly, the usurpers were white, and so is everyone else in this issue except Machiste: I don't think Kiro was ever depicted as the traditional "black kingdom." It does make him a little conspicuous, since he was a big black guy with a mace for a hand, trying to disguise himself as a monk this issue. (Yeah, I don't think it works!) Meanwhile, said usurpers pay off their assassin (who assumed Machiste and Mariah were dead, but didn't see the bodies since they got away, and subbed in a different corpse) with a bag full of coins and a complimentary free snake! I wasn't sure they gave him any coins, but the wiggling and hissing should've been a clue...

4. Since the poachers stole his gun and his sword, when Travis wakes up he decides he needs a weapon, and pulls the barbed spear out of the dead allosaurus. Just in time for the daddy allosaurus to show up! It stops to check on the kids (which allosauruses may or may not do, who knows) but then tracks Travis quite a ways. Which is easy, when you're carrying a spear covered with the blood of its mate. Travis does not seem to be on his A-game today. Catching up with the poacher, Travis smacks him around and takes back his gun when the allosaurus arrives again. By this point, he's ready to just shoot the thing, but the normally reliable Automag jams. The allosaurus eats the poacher and lets Travis and Shakira go, even though he thinks it's a big stupid lizard, Shakira thinks it understands.

Not the best issue, but not unreadable either. For good measure, the ever popular postal statement of ownership, management, and circulation. Number of copies sold closest to the filing date: 88,462.

2 comments:

Dale Bagwell said...

Really? A whole year? You sure it wasn't published yesterday? I gotta' say I'm surprised they played out a storyline that long, specially for back then. Crazy.

Cute rebuttal by the cat chick. Didn't they eventually hook up, Warlord and her?

googum said...

For a long time, I didn't think so, since he was married.

I may be naive...