I first entered the lost world of The Warlord with Mike Grell (writing and drawing then) back in the 1970s. After growing up on Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne, and Ray Bradbury, plunging into the inner earth world of Skartaris was a natural fit for me. Evidently it was for a lot of people back then, because The Warlord soon became DC Comics’ hottest selling title, pushing out ahead of even the superhero titles of Superman and Batman.
There’s something about lost worlds that ignites the dreamer in me, and journeying around with ex-USAF pilot Travis Morgan, the Warlord, satisfied that hunger for adventure for a lot of years. Then college and Real Life called and I drifted out of that world. A lot of other people did too.
A couple of years ago, DC Comics tried to bring the title back. The results were less than stellar (less than adequate, truth be known) and that quickly went away.
Three months ago, Mike Grell’s new run on the series started. My son dragged me to the comic shop today, one of his favorite places these days. I picked up the first three issues instead of waiting for the graphic novel, as I’d promised myself I’d do.
As it turns out, I was thrilled. But now I’m left hanging until next month, which was something I didn’t want to step into. Trying to follow monthly titles wears me out. I much prefer the graphic novels and the whole story.
But exhilaratingly, Grell has brought the Warlord title back in style. It feels like he hasn’t been away from Morgan, Tara, Tinder, Machiste, Shakira, and the others for more than five minutes. But he does allow time to pass. It’s just that in Skartaris, time pretty much stands still – unless you die; then it stops.
I was a little miffed by the 13-page opener that didn’t include Travis Morgan. But Grell handles the story eloquently, and the reader can see that the discoveries made by the scientific team are going to lead them to Skartaris. The build-up is fantastic, and the action kept me glued to the pages.
Then, during the last nine pages of the comic, Travis Morgan steps right onto center stage in a whirlwind of action and intrigue. This, folks, is the comeback all true Warlord fans have been waiting for. People have come to Morgan for his protection because invaders with powerful weapons (a bullet hole through armor!) have arrived in the inner world. I’m betting one of Morgan’s major enemies this time around will be a Chinese soldier that pursued the scientific team into the mountain tunnel and found the portal.
The first 13 pages unleashes outsiders into the inner world, and we don’t know what parts they’re going to play yet. Some of them will ally themselves with Morgan and some with his enemies. I know that’s coming, but Grell is going to take his time, the way he always does on this series, and make the characters real and interesting.
Grell painted the cover himself and it is beautiful, capturing Morgan in all the primal savagery that he’s capable of. Joe Prado handles the pencil work, and Walden Wong inks it wonderfully. As an artist himself, Grell knows how to tell a story, then step off the page to let an illustrator unleash his magic. The two-page spread that recaps Travis Morgan’s initial arrival in Skartaris is fantastic, but the two-page spread of Morgan and Shakira battling a gigantic roc (I assume) is electric and intense.
The stage is set for the next set of adventures, and I can’t wait.
Even better, if you are new to the brutal and astonishing world of the Warlord, this series gently moves you into the tapestry of the characters and the previous stories. Within just a few pages, you’re going to know everything you need to know to kick back and enter the lost world!