Tuesday, June 19, 2018

This one didn't feel like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, it felt like going even more out of your way to lose than that. Like helping load defeat in your own car...From 1985, Warlord #100, "Skartaris Unchained" Written by Michael Fleisher, art by Adam Kubert.

The Skartarans' war with New Atlantis had been running since 1983's Warlord Annual #2 and Warlord #74, but this would be the first issue with new writer Michael Fleisher, so I have to wonder if there was some editorial mandate to change directions. Still, there were elements like the cyclops wizard-king "Cycroth" (previously Cykroth) from previous writer Cary Burkett, so perhaps this was a planned conclusion.

At various points during the war, Travis's forces had included a pirate captain, oversized horned horses, and futuristic weapons; none of which come into play today! Instead, while Travis and Krystovar try to infiltrate New Atlantis; Mariah, Machiste, and Shakira do the same in Shamballah. The former fight past a giant crab, while the latter gain entrance in disguise. Mariah is recognized as "one of the Warlord's wenches!" but they're still able to disable the New Atlanteans' laser cannons. Travis's plan is to face Cycroth directly, but the bard Graemore, Tara's childhood love, follows in an attempt to help and instead is discovered and alerts the guards. Travis and Krystovar are forced to fight through, with Krystovar sacrificing himself so Travis could make it. (Krystovar had been introduced in Warlord Annual #2 as well, so him getting got really feels like they were trying to draw a line under this and close it off...)

Back at the base camp, Travis's daughter Jennifer prepared to help him with a "sorcerous shield to protect him against Cycroth's evil magic!" She's at a disadvantage working from a distance, but her shield keeps Cycroth from being able to kill Travis immediately. As Tara leads her forces to retake their home, Cycroth is forced to draw power from his subjects, sucking their lifeforce into himself, leaving them aged and presumably decrepit, easy prey. Travis catches a mystic blast that knocks out Jennifer--and his shield! And he already emptied his .44 Automag! Luckily, the already mortally wounded Graemore takes a stand against Cycroth, and immediately gets incinerated, but gives Travis the opening to throw his sword through Cycroth's eye. Well, he seemed more concerned about that than it sticking out of the back of his head.

The New Atlanteans are aged to death--or, presumably, to the point where they are easily murdered by the Skartarans they intended to enslave or slaughter. The beast-man Sabretooth--whose design I like better than Marvel's Sabretooth--is the last to go, killed by Machiste. Who seems really proud of it, holding up his decapitated head. How he did it with a mace hand, I'm not sure. But what should be a major triumph is immediately undercut, as Travis rides to the base camp, which is now overgrown and aged--as is Jennifer, now a withered crone!

Which would set up "Morgan's Quest," for the next sixteen issues. They were a little episodic, and hit-or-miss at best; although I have a soft spot for "Bride of Yaug!" We'll see if we get to that one, at least. Reading this has really made me want to sit down and read Cary Burkett's run straight through, though: the sci-fi elements were a little stronger, the dialogue a bit less purple...


Dale Bagwell said...

Damn man, Adam Kubert's early work looks NOTHING at all like his work a few years later.
You can tell he's still using his dad's style here.

SallyP said...

I can't help being flabberghasted at the thought of Jennifer's Old Man swanning around in a loincloth.