Warlord #31 (March, 1980)
“Wings Over Shamballah”
Writer/Artist – Mike Grell
Inker – Vince Colletta
Colorist – Adrienne Roy
Letterer – Ben Oda
Editor – Jack C. Harris
Cover Price: $0.40
Hello Friends! Today’s discussion is going to be a special one… one in which we discuss a particular issue of Warlord.
A bit of background, I “discovered” Warlord a bit late in the game… like, 2010-late. That’s kinda weird when I consider that my comics fandom started with ElfQuest. Anyhoo, after coming across most of the Warlord run in a wildly generous quarter-bin, it became one of my favorite “nightstand reads” ever.
While we’re going to be discussing Warlord #31 today, for our purposes, we’re going to start by looking at the last panel of Warlord #30. The blurb tells us that the next issue will go on sale December 27th.
|From Warlord #30 (February, 1980)|
That stuck out to me because… well, that’s my birthday. Then I thought on it a bit more, realized that these comics were coming out in 1979… and further realized that Warlord #31 was going to come out not just on my birthday… but the actual day of my birth!
Did this book actually come out December 27, 1979? Well, I couldn’t say for sure… but, for the purposes of this discussion… yeah, it sure did! So, enjoy!
We open with Travis Morgan still on the road to Shamballah. For now, he is seated at the ruins of Shaban D’aba… surrounded by half-a-hundred broken and bloodied bodies of attacking wild dogs… no, not that Wild Dog. He thinks back to how he wound up here…
These dogs have attacked him three times already, earlier having been driven into the rushing currents of a stream by the pack. Morgan found himself carried for several miles before pulling himself out. Unfortunately for him, however, these dogs are rather persistent.
It finally comes down to the last few dogs… and Morgan manages to take them out. The struggle has taken a lot out of him… and so he leans up against the ruins, which triggers a trapdoor sending our man down into the belly of the pyramidal structure… right into a treasure chamber?! Morgan digs through the loot considering all the good it could do for the world… but stops when he senses eyes on him. Turning around, he spies a pair of trolls… who appear to be, I dunno, “deactivated”.
Travis sees some writing scrawled on the walls and heads over to investigate. It’s written in a language similar to Ashtari, which he has some familiarity with. He is able to decipher much of it… and deduces that it was written by Mongo Ironhand. It mentions “The Evil One” and speaks of spells being broken by bloodshed.
Morgan continues checking out his surroundings, and posits that the blood of the wild dogs must have broken whatever spell was keeping this chamber locked up. He decides to leave the “goblins gold” behind, however, spies a shield adorned with a black bird that he feels might be of some use to him in his travels. He grabs it… which somehow stirs those trolls from their slumber.
A battle rages… and what a battle it is! Morgan stabs one right through its shoulder… and slices the other troll’s foot off at the ankle. Shockingly, this hardly even slows them down. So, we’re not just dealing with trolls… but zombie trolls?!
Realizing this isn’t a fair fight, Travis decides to pull out the heavy artillery, in the form of his .44 Magnum. This also doesn’t even phase the beasts.
Morgan stumbles back. As the trolls pursue, they step into a beam of sunlight coming through the trap door. This appears to hurt them… and so, Travis uses his newfound shield to reflect the intense light right at his attackers… reducing them to a smoldering pile of ash.
Using a spear, Morgan pulls himself out from the vault. This three-panel scene was, for some reason, so cool to see. I feel like we usually don’t get to see these, I dunno, “utilitarian” scenes in comics. Just check it out… three panels, which could’ve been skipped… but add so much with their presence.
Once outside, Morgan peers out into the distance… and can see the golden domes of Shamballah greeting him on the horizon. As he makes he way, something strange happens. That black bird on his new shield begins to stir… pulling itself free, it grabs Morgan in its talons!
The bird takes off with Morgan in its grip… and flies our man over and passed Shamballah!
Morgan stabs the bird several times, however, it works about as well as when he stabbed those trolls earlier. Which is to say, not at all. Suddenly, da boid is hit by a blinding bolt of lightning… and it drops our man.
We wrap up with Travis Morgan hitting the drink before washing up on shore… where he is greeted by a pair of rather large feet.
Well that was a good time. Makes me wish there were more hours in the day to enjoy this series again. It really takes me back to my early experiences with ElfQuest. This arc has Morgan heading to Shamballah to make good with Tara… this isn’t too dissimilar to the Wolfriders’ “original quest”. It’s a trek… a journey, where there will be unexpected obstacles to overcome. Loved it in ElfQuest, and I love it here.
Being on the fringes of the DC Universe affords Warlord so much freedom in how it operates. There are no worries of contradicting, or slowing down other stories/titles… so, the pacing here is not dependent on anything. That’s how we can get an issue like this to enjoy. For all but the last couple of pages, Morgan makes very little in the way of forward momentum in his journey to Shamballah.
Hanging out at the ruins made me feel like Grell was “world building” here. Giving us landmarks in Skartaris, really fleshing this place out. I appreciate things like that… these days, we can’t seem to decide on simple things like character costume designs and hair-length… so, giving Skartaris a sort of “physical heft” really adds to the lore… at least for me.
Ever since I started this little blog, I’ve familiarized myself with the way panels are laid out. Certain creators have their own tricks to laying out a page, and Grell most definitely has his. Very creative layouts… awesome to look at, rather a pain to photograph. Though, I’m guessing nobody was worried about some goofball trying to take pictures of these pages some 38 years later. Though, as I said… awesome to look at. Mike Grell does not mess around… this is a beautiful book.
Now, since we’re chatting up Warlord/Grell… I’d be remiss not to mention our great friends Ruth and Darrin Sutherland and their wonderful Warlord Worlds Podcast… who, as luck would have it… released their newest episode… TODAY! Happy Birthday to me! They discussed this issue about a year ago.
Overall… had a really good time with this. I’d definitely recommend checking this series out… even if you’re not necessarily a “swords and sorcery” sorta reader. I feel like this series kinda transcends that. If you’re still on the fence, definitely tune in to Warlord Worlds, where Ruth and Darrin can “hum a few bars” and hopefully get you interested!