Warlord v1 #21

May 79

17 pages

Writer/Penciller: Mike Grell
Inker: Vince Colletta
Letterer: Ben Oda
Colourist: Adrienne Roy
Editor: Jack C. Harris
Cover: Mike Grell

Travis Morgan, Tara, Mariah, Machiste, Shadow, Deimos, Ashiya, Joshua

Tara, Mariah, Machiste and Shadow still have no way to get into Deimos’ fortress and are about to be set upon by the sorcerer scientist’s demonic creatures.

Inside, Morgan looks upon the his fully-grown son, whom Morgan does not realise is a clone. Deimos infuses Joshua’s doppelgänger with energy that turns his vacant mind into that of a focussed warrior.

Fighting off the creatures, Tara’s group dashes into a cave beneath the fortress. Machiste causes a cave-in so Deimos’ minions cannot follow them. Tara uses half of the Hellfire Stone to light the way as Shadow leads them further into the tunnels. Mariah challenges Tara on why the stone was not used to fight off the bat creatures last issue. They discuss the stone’s strange powers, and the fact that it is unpredictable and becoming weaker with each use. The stone is being held in reserve to save Joshua. Tara does not appreciate Mariah’s possessive attitude and Tara says quite firmly that she is Morgan’s mate and is willing to fight to prove it. Machiste gets between the two women and they continue on.

Deimos commands the false Joshua to fight. Now, with sword in hand, the clone strikes savagely. Morgan refuses to strike back, his shield whittled away by Joshua’s blows. The helmet goes next, and finally Morgan is forced to fight because in his heart he is a warrior and he loves life. Still, it is a half-hearted effort and Morgan takes a wound to his shoulder and falls. As Deimos gloats, he orders Joshua to slay Morgan. Morgan begs his ‘son’ to not do it, but the vacant-minded thing moves in for the kill, and Morgan is forced to shoot Joshua, killing him. Deimos laughs in triumph.

It is one insult too many, even for someone as foul as Deimos, and Morgan rises, seething with hatred. Fear fills Deimos as he conjures a defence, backing up onto a balcony. Just then Tara and the others enter running. Morgan is fighting off Deimos who has turned himself into a red dragon. Tara sees her son lying dead on the floor. Mariah says to use the Hellfire Stone to defeat the dragon. Crying, Tara pulls out the two halves and joins them. The stone shoots an energy beam at Deimos who turns green and begins to transform back to his human form. Deimos starts to curse at Morgan, but Shadow jumps ahead going for the villain’s throat. The momentum carries them backward and over the balcony railing, sending them both to their deaths on the rocks far below.

Morgan mourns the faithful dog’s passing, and he confirms to Tara that the body is that of their son. Morgan thinks to use the Mask of Life, but Tara is quick to deny it. She will not have her son living in the shadows and drinking blood to survive. Before Morgan can do anything, Tara shatters the mask with her sword.

All hope fades from Morgan as he realises that his thirst for adventure has had tragic consequences. He gave the people of Skartaris hope and led them to freedom, but now he has paid the price personally for thinking he could be a saviour. His only recourse is to run away, to try to forget what he blames himself for.

But he will set off alone. Even Mariah sees Morgan in a different light now. Haunted, Morgan can only hear Deimos’ mocking laughter.

Far to the south, Ashiya completes Deimos’ revenge by leaving the real Joshua with a farmer and his wife. She gives them gold to see to the child’s needs, and exacts the promise that no one will ever know Joshua’s origins.The rightful heir to the throne of Shamballah shall grow up unaware of his heritage. Strapped to the toddler’s upper arm is Morgan’s wristwatch. Who knows what the boy’s destiny will ultimately be?

This is arguably the most important issue of Mike Grell’s original run on Warlord. Up to this point, Morgan was more cavalier about life. He was the untarnished – while quite obviously flawed – hero. Losing his son becomes the defining moment of his life, made worse by the fact that he had no choice but to kill him. It is a wound that has never healed, and why he still cannot remain with Tara for any length of time. He has never forgiven himself.

Of course, the real Joshua grows up to be Tinder in the series, and it is a constant reminder to the readers that closure for Morgan – and possible redemption – is only one story away should Grell decide to tell it. (Update: And he has in Warlord v4 #12.) eom

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