THE WARLORD #74

“Home Again Home Again”
Writer: Cary Burkett
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Morgan and Krystovar are making their way in a stolen boat after escaping from New Atlantis. The two decide to go to Shamballah so Morgan can be reunited with Tara. So they sell the boat for provisions and trek off to Shamballah. A mysterious black crow starts a fire that almost engulfs them but they manage to escape. So they get to Shamballah and find out that Tara has banned Morgan. Luckily he has friends in the city guards and he sneaks him in. Morgan confronts Tara and she is still angry at Morgan for leaving but Morgan’s charm gets him a reprieve from banishment.

“A Quiet Night”
Writer: Gary Cohn
Artist: Ron Randall

Jinal is enjoying a quiet night contemplating the stars. She is joined by Barasha and the two talk. Jinal has not had time to mourn the loss of her friends and lover from the expedition. She tells Barasha of the war with the Qlov and her doubts of the future. Barasha convinces her that she has accomplished great things and the future is looking bright.

So in this issue Morgan returns to Shamballah and gets a lukewarm reception. I was happy that the new writer understands the relationship between Morgan and Tara. It felt just as Mike Grell would have wrote it. So a quiet story with the hint of something big that will happen. We still have the mystery of the US Air Force markings on the cassette and the advanced weapons in the hidden cavern. There is also the mysterious black crow that started the fire and is still stalking Morgan. Warlord seems to have a new energy and direction that I approve of.

The Barren Earth was also a quiet introspection story. Interesting how that turned out. I wonder if it was planned or just kismet. Jinal gets to have time to morn the loss of her lover and friends. She also contemplates the future and Barasha helps her. This also ends with a feeling of something new and big in the future. Two great stories that set up the new direction that this title is taking.

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THE WARLORD ANNUAL #2

“The Prophecy”
Writer: Cary Burkett
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Morgan is riding through a forest when he comes on a man being attacked by a pack of lizard dogs. He saves the man who turns out to be a scholar named Krystovar. Krystovar heals Morgan’s wounded shoulder and tells him about the history of his helmet. Back in ancient Atlantis the helmet was worn by the Knights of the Sea Eagle. These knights protected Atlantis. Over time the kingdom became decadent and its ruler turned to the dark arts. He also used a device to turn men into beasts. One Sea Eagle named Lord Norrad was disgusted with what became of his nation so with his followers head out to find a new land.

They come to a land that is located in a hollow between the surface and Skartaris. Here they build a prosperous settlement named New Atlantis. One day survivors from Atlantis come and are reluctantly allowed to stay. They soon continue to practice the dark arts under Ar-Diamphos. Soon assassins come to kill Norrad but he survives though gravely wounded. He states a prophecy that a man will come wearing his helmet and end the evil reign.

Well the two are later captured by the Brood Brothers men changed into beast-men. Morgan manages to escape and finds a cavern filled with high tech weaponry. He loads up with a bag of grenades and takes a rocket sled equipped with a laser. Morgan goes to New Atlantis and frees Krystovar from being turned into a beast-man. The current king is killed. The two then steal a boat and make their way back to Skartaris. Morgan at the end finds out a cassette he took from the cavern has the insignia of the US Air Force and someones name, rank and serial number. Krystover hints that the prophecy of Norrad has more about the man who wears his helmet.

The second annual was absolutely awesome. Now I am finally getting a good feel for the direction of this title since Grell left. We are introduced to a new people in the New Atlanteans. A new enemy in the Brood Brothers the poor unfortunates that have their heads turned into animals. A new companion for Morgan in Krystovar a warrior scholar. I loved it all. And we get a story behind Morgan’s helmet. Plus it sets up several mysteries. A cavern full of high-tech weapons. Somehow the US Air Force is linked to ancient Atlantis. Things are looking good for the Warlord.

THE WARLORD #73

“Cry Plague”
Writers: Cary Burkett & Jennifer Reinhold
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Morgan is tied up in the vines of the dead man-eating plant as Scarhart comes to kill him. Before that happens he is attacked by flying bat creatures. Morgan manages to free himself and join the fight saving Scarhart from one of the creatures. This act seems to have make a friend of the silent warrior. So the two head off continuing to track the unicorn. They run into the Kaash’ban who agree to help by using their animals to search the land. They find that the unicorn has went into a bog. When they get there it is being pulled under. Morgan tries to save it but Scarhart killed it with an arrow. Now it seems that there will be no cure to save Morgan, Jennifer and Shakira from the plague. Then it dawns on Morgan that Scarhart seems to be immune. A member of the Kaash’ban can telepathically communicate with Scarhart and finds that it was a spring in his own world. So back to castle Deimos and Jennifer opens the mirror to Scarhart’s world. Morgan and Scarhart bring back the water and everyone is cured. Scarhart and Shakira decide to remain with the Kaash’ban so Morgan is on his own.

“Rescue!”
Writer: Gary Cohn
Artist: Ron Randall

Renna saves Skinner by shooting the high priest but now the group faces hundreds of pissed off Mulge. Good thing they have automatic weapons which are no match for the Mulge’s primitive ones. They are able to burn off the spoors from Skinner’s chest and bring him back to the main encampment were Skinner can get proper treatment.

The second non-Grell issue and we wrap up the unicorn saga. It was an entertaining story and good to see the new writer wasn’t going to drag it out. It also sets up Morgan to go off alone as Shakira decides to stay with the Kaash’ban. They also keep around Scarhart for future appearances. I was still a little apprehensive about this title’s future. A competent story but I still wasn’t getting what direction it was going. Fortunately the annual next week put all doubts to rest.

The Barren Earth came to a conclusion with the Mulge epic. A good solid ending. Skinner is saved and in great spirits since he believes that the two most beautiful warriors on the planet are in love with him. They deny it but he may have a point.

THE WARLORD #72

“Curse of the Unicorn”
Writer: Cary Burkett
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Morgan and Shakira are back in Castle Deimos. They don’t have much time to celebrate because a black unicorn comes through the mirror. It manages to scratch Shakira with its horn and run off. Then a large dark skinned warrior comes through and gets into a fight with Morgan. Jennifer knocks him out with her magic then probes his mind to find out where he comes from.

Thus we find out the story of Wayhan Hunnuh. A mighty warrior who manages to capture the black unicorn. As a reward he gets the chief’s daughter as his bride. So he goes off to hunt another trophy for the event and comes back to find his entire tribe dead from a plague. The unicorn brought it so now he changes his name to Scarhart and vows to kill the unicorn. He chases it through a waterfall and ends up in our world.

Just then Shakira collapses and it looks like she has the same plague. So Morgan goes off to capture the unicorn. Scarhart knocks Jennifer out and goes after both Morgan and the unicorn. Morgan tracks it into the dark lands and finds it being attacked by a carnivorous plant. He saves it but the fight knocks him out. At the end Scarhart finds the prostrate Morgan.

“The Garden of the Mulge!”
Writer: Gary Cohen
Artist: Ron Randall

Renna mounds an expedition to save Skinner from the Mulge. Jinal insists on coming along in spite of Renna’s hostility toward her. So they follow the tunnel and come to a vast underground garden. The Garden of the Mulge. It is filled with deadly carnivorous plants and they fight their way through. They come on the Mulge just as a priest starts to pour its mushroom fungus on Skinner in one of their religious ceremonies. Renna shoots the priest and now the group faces the hostile Mulge.

So the big news for this issue is that Mike Grell is no longer with the series. So how did his replacement do. Ok I guess. The story was good and interesting but just seemed a little ho-hum. The Scarhart character looked a lot like Arak and he just didn’t really interest me. There was some funny moments with one of the castle guards who is always complaining how weird it is to work at this castle and maybe he should get a new job. I always wondered where Jennifer hired her staff. The castle is out in the middle of nowhere even for Skartaris. So I remember being a little apprehensive about the future for this title with what seems to be not the greatest start to the Grell-less future.

The Barren Earth continues on in its excellence. Renna finally brings it out in the open that she is jealous of Jinal over Skinner. It seems many others think Jinal is also in love with Skinner although she denies it. Still there is a clear love triangle forming. The Mulge garden was a cool idea. It seems this issue is heavy on carnivorous plants. This also ends in a cliffhanger that you can’t wait to find out its resolved next issue.

THE WARLORD #71

“The Journey Back”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Morgan and Shakira are heading to the settlement they heard about from the settlers. When they get there they find a huge bridge stretching off into the distance. During the great migration bridges were built to Skartaris so they don’t have to worry about getting a boat. But Morgan’s attire is a bit suspicious to the locals. When he tries to buy a ticket to Skartaris and pay in Skartarian gold coins this gets the local shop keeper to put in a call to the authorities. So Morgan and Shakira just take off and enter the bridge.

Of course the authorities are notified and a patrol craft catches Morgan and forces him to surrender. But Shakira was able to change into a cat. When the two patrolmen come to arrest Morgan, Shakira gets the drop on them. So Morgan and Shakira take off in the stolen patrol craft. Morgan is still a skilled pilot who evades other craft and the heavy AA fire. He still can’t avoid it forever and the craft is hit and goes down.

Shakira manages to drag Morgan away and find shelter in an apartment. The owner is one who still speaks Skartaran so Shakira can communicate. He is also an army medic and patches up Morgan. He thinks the two are part of one of the warring factions in Skartaris. When he overhears them wanting to go to Castle Deimos he agrees to take them. Only the Castle Deimos is the hottest bar in town. Morgan decides to get a drink and while in the bar a newscast comes on showing his picture. The whole bar is out to get him when Shakira notices the mirror on the wall is from the original Castle Deimos. So they jump in and finds themselves back home.

So this is the final issue that Grell will write for this incarnation of the series. It was a strong story that came to a satisfying conclusion. That is what I love about Grell in that he moves the story along. This three issue storyline was fast paced and ties up neatly. It was sad that Grell would no longer be part of the character he created but after 71 issues, an annual and first special issue I guess he wanted to move on to other things.

THE WARLORD #70

“The Outback”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Morgan and Shakira have come upon an outpost of civilization in this futuristic post-apocalypse Australia. One the of inhabitants of this outpost has got the drop on them but Shakira once again uses her unique ability to distract. Morgan then convinces the woman that they aren’t a threat and get invited inside. He finds out that a young married couple occupy the compound. Morgan then gets them to tell him the history of the world since the Vietnam War.

So basically it is about two hundred years into the future and the world has been destroyed by pollution and overpopulation. But back in 1973 the U.S. discovered Skartaris. They made plans for the destruction of the ecosystem and in 2089 presented them to the U.N. So a great migration began to Skartaris. But now there is overpopulation in Skartaris and the government is starting to settle the surface world. Thus the young couple looking for a new life. Morgan trades the .45 and ammo they picked up in Sydney for a horse and continue on to the coast.

“The Mulge!”
Writer: Gary Cohn
Artist: Ron Randall

Jinal has succeeded in a truce with the human settlement and the Harahashan. But there is still resentment between the two people. They are building a pipeline to bring the water from the underground ocean to the surface. Just then the Mulge a fungus type people raid the pipeline and take captives. One of the captives is Skinner.

So in this issue it is mostly exposition on this future world. It was very informative. A future ecology destroyed is a realistic possibility. We find out that Skartaris is settled by the surface world and Morgan is a legend. Kind of a scary world in which those not chosen for resettlement were offered euthanasia or if wealthy enough cryogenics. It was a surprising development that Skartaris in the future has been taken over by the surface but a unique twist instead of the expected nuclear war scenario. Sets up an interesting homecoming for Morgan and Shakira next issue.

The Barren Earth is advancing along nicely. Jinal is showing herself to be a real leader in uniting these two warring peoples. In the beginning you wouldn’t have expected her character to be the one to survive. And we get introduced to the Mulge which seem to be a sinister opponent. It ends with them realizing that Skinner has been taken prisoner and we will see the exciting rescue next issue.

THE WARLORD #69

“Back Out”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Dan Jurgens

So its time for Morgan, Jennifer and Shakira to head back to their time and they go through the mirror. Only Jennifer arrives safely back at Castle Deimos. Morgan and Shakira find themselves just outside Sidney, Australia. So they go into the city and find it deserted except for three people that look like refugees from a Duran Duran music video. Shakira turning into a cat and clawing the leaders face startles them enough for Morgan to get the drop on them with his pistol. Shoots one and has the other two take off after leaving their pistols and ammo.

So they decide to leave the city and head to the coast to find a boat and get back to Skartaris. Morgan speculates that there was a nuclear war and the fallout probably killed most of the people in Australia. So they journey through the Outback and witness some weird stuff. They come upon a settlement and are confronted by a man with a rifle.

“Into the Lizard Camp”
Writer: Gary Cohn
Artist: Ron Randall

Jinal and Skinner are sneaking into the Harahashan camp to kidnap their chief. Unfortunately they are discovered and captured. The leader is surprised that Jinal managed to survive the desert but wonders why she is sneaking into camp. Jinal is very blunt in that they were going to kidnap him to convince him and the human councilor to stop the war. The chief is intrigued and agrees to accompany Jinal with Skinner as a hostage. So she brings him to the cave where they have Councilor Mangle tied up. She takes them both farther into the cave and shows them an underground ocean.

So we have now transported Morgan and Shakira to the surface. Right away the huge two page drawing of them in front of the Sydney Opera House and I knew we were in for a fun ride. I just love how eighties the punks looked. Does date it a bit. Anyway this post-apocalyptic world has so much possibilities I couldn’t wait for the next issue.

The Barren Earth is continuing to grow with a storyline that continues to amaze. So we find out what amazed Jinal and Skinner a few issues back and its an underground ocean. This ocean has the potential to end the war since water is what the two sides are fighting over. There is obvious hatred between the two sides so it should be interesting in how Jinal manages this possible truce.

THE WARLORD #68

“Spirit of the Wolf”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Mariah finds Rostov outside and tells him that Jennifer is ready for him. Thus we get a moment between the former lovers and shown their past. Rostov was Mariah’s fencing instructor when she was just fifteen. She grew into an Olympic gold medal winner. They fell in love but one night while Mariah was in Athens the change came over Rostov. He went to his grandmother and found out the truth of why he has this condition. When Mariah came back he drove her away because he knew that he was a danger to her and didn’t want to pass on the condition to future generations. He then traveled the world looking for a cure and found Mariah’s old colleague in Vienna Dr. Lakely. He tells Rostov of the fantastic world of Skartaris and then Rostov’s arduous trek to reach it.

Machiste comes and tell him it is time. So Jennifer uses her magic to separate the wolf from Rostov. A black wolf is pulled out of him and now will obey Rostov. Overjoyed that he is free from the curse he makes a move for Mariah but Machiste will have none of that. Mariah objects to being fought over and will fight Rostov instead. So they fight and Mariah wins by cheating. This gets Rostov angry and his wolf attacks Mariah. He stops him in time and comes to the conclusion he is not yet free of the wolf and leaves with the wolf to wander.

“Siege”
Writer: Garry Cohn
Artist: Ron Randall

Jinal is now in the city besieged by the Harahashan. She finds it a pointless war and goes to the council to advocate that they give her a chance to negotiate a peace. The council has no interest so later that night Jinal and Skinner come disguised as Harahashan and kidnap the chairman. Unfortunately they are discovered but mange to escape the city with their captive.

So Rostov is finally cured of his werewolf curse. This was a slow issue but had its moments. Obviously Mariah wanted Machiste. I mean you don’t fight the guy that you want to end up with. Rostov had some problems with taking no for an answer. Still Rostov was an interesting character. Grell and his successors though decided to never use him again so we are left to wonder what became of Rostov and his new pet wolf. It also marks the end of the Wizard World adventure.

The Barren Earth just keeps getting better and better. Jinal is attempting to broker a peace and goes to extreme measures to do it. She gets Skinner to help. Skinner is a kind of happy go lucky type of fellow. I really like the guy. There is also a rivalry developing between Jinal and Renna who clearly has a thing for Skinner and feels threatened by the blonde newcomer. This story is just awesome.

THE WARLORD #67

“The Mark”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Jennifer is using her magic to find a cure for Rostov and his lycanthropy. The first thing she has to do is go back and examine Rostov’s past. So using a magic crystal she shows the group how his condition started. It is 1899 Russia and a young Cossack named Mikhail Ivanovich Rostov is visiting a Gypsy camp. Here he falls madly in love with a beautiful Gypsy woman named Gitana. He fight her man for possession and wins. Later while riding he is ambushed and shot in the back. After killing his assailant he makes it back to Gitana barely alive. She uses her Gypsy magic which includes rituals with wolf’s blood to bring him back. So the two get married and she is expecting twins. The twins are born one cold winter night and one is a wolf child. Rostov takes it outside and jumps over a cliff with it. The normal girl grows up and marries. She eventually has a son and passes the defective genes to. That son is Rostov.

“The City in the Sands”
Writer: Gary Cohn
Artist: Ron Randall

Jinal and Skinner are heading to his city with the captured vehicle when they are ambushed by a giant badger. The two escape and hide out in some nearby caves where they find something incredible but not shared with the readers. So the two make it to Skinner’s city and Jinal is not happy. The garrison has total regressed and is no longer a functional base. She is taken to meet the council and already seems to have made an enemy of the hot brunette who is on it. The meeting is interrupted by a catapult blast to the tower by a large army of lizard-men.

So this issue we explore Mikhail Rostov and his werewolf condition. We get the story behind it and its a fascinating tale of love and tragedy. This is Rostov’s story and it is a good interlude after all the action with the Evil One. Sort of a leisurely rest and yet continues to tell a very good story. Also shows how adept Jennifer has become with magic.

The Barren Earth continues and we get to see an actual human settlement. As expected its fallen to disrepair and the humans no longer even remember the war with the Qlov or that a civilization exists beyond the stars. This is also a sort of break from the action to give the reader time to catch his breath but still give us a very interesting story. In this case it also introduces a possible conflict that Jinal will have with the brunette chick. There is a hint of some mysterious wonder and ends on a cliffhanger with a large lizard-man army attacking the city.

THE WARLORD #66

“Wizardwar”
Writer: Mike Grell
Artist: Dan Jurgens

Morgan and Jennifer arrive through the mirror just in time to save Rostov from getting his brains smashed out by Machiste. After things settle down the group gets down to the serious business of defeating the Evil One. Jennifer has a plan that requires the help of all the surviving wizards. So later the Evil One is gloating over his treasure and notices that the wizards have put all their gold in a pyramid. He’s elated since the gold is now in one place but it turns to horror when he realizes the power of the spell. He quickly transports there and finds out even his power can’t break through the magic barrier.

So with the Evil One out the group transports to his lair in the Great Fire Mountain volcano. They find the Book of the Dead but the Evil One returns before they can seize it. The Evil One imprisons them all in bubbles of force and implants the thought of dying in our heroes. When they think they die then in real life they will. Only Rostov changes to a werewolf and being a brainless animal breaks free and attacks the Evil One. This is enough of a distraction for Jennifer to break free and attack the Evil One. While distracted Morgan with the help of Mongo Ironhand knock the book into the volcano. The Evil One loses his power and turns back to the harmless little toad guy he originally was. The group escapes as the volcano blows.

So we get the big confrontation with the Evil One and its a fun story. The backup story is sacrificed for this extra long special story. It moves fast and has all sort of humor. Mongo is a great comic relief. Rostov and Mariah finally reunite and he finds out that she has moved on with Machiste. Rostov doesn’t seem to take the news well and the tension between him and Machiste is handled well. Definitely an unresolved issue for the future.

The big part of this story is the introduction of Jennifer and her powers. We get to see that she has in a short time become very adept at magic and holds her own against such a powerful being as the Evil One. We also get to see the origin of the pyramid and its curse from an issue years ago. Grell is great at keeping such events and integrating them into the story at a much later date. Indeed the whole Evil One character comes to a final end after hinted at much earlier in this series. All in all a great issue.