Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Classics - The Warlord #21

   Since the success of the comic book version of Conan, there have been hordes of sword-and-sorcery, blade-wielding heroes of all shapes and sizes - but the best (and perhaps most unique) entry in the race was Mike Grell's Warlord.

   Created in the late '70s, the series featured Travis Morgan, a pilot flying a secret mission who crash-lands in the Arctic, passing through a hole into a strange tropical land inside the Earth. There he finds Skartaris, a land of dinosaurs, swords and magic.

    The inside of the Earth, it turns out, is hollow, like Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pellucidar.

   He has one lucky break - he has with him a large gun (a .44 AutoMag) and lots of ammunition. He quickly learns how to fight with a sword, leads a revolt of slaves and meets and falls in love with a princess named Tara.

   The stories in the series are an impressive collection of mostly single-issue adventures, with some sub-plots continuing over several issues.  Grell's writing combines adventure, humor and places it all in imaginative settings. His artwork seals the deal, working in a realistic style reminiscent of Neal Adams. With powerful layouts, great character designs and wild menaces, it was a terrific series.

   The Warlord's main opponent was the evil wizard / scientist Deimos, who kidnapped Travis and Tara's infant son and used arcane skills to age the child to manhood - but he was just a mindless killer. So Morgan is forced to fight his own son - to the death!

   It's a gripping story with several twists that actually had ramifications into the future as it set up a storyline that was finally resolved just a few years ago in the last Warlord series (to date).

   Grell managed to bring together all the elements of great sword-and-sorcery stories - lots of action, bizarre menaces, beautiful (and powerful) women, heroic men, great villains, exotic locales, mystery and intrigue - and package it up in a fantastic series that was always entertaining.

   Highly recommended!

Grade: A



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