Thursday, December 24, 2015
Power Of Warlock - Endings!
The Power of Warlock undergoes a major change with its sixth issue when Bob Brown, a longtime veteran of comics over at the "Distinguished Competition" and recent Bullpen addition steps in to take over for departing Gil Kane. I've always liked Bob Brown's direct storytelling style, but there's little doubt that some of the majesty of the series left with Kane. Under a John Romita cover in a story by regular scribe Mike Friedrich and inks by regular Tom Sutton (this trio will handle all three remaining issues of the series), we meet The Brute, in reality Reed Richards the friend on Counter-Earth of Victor Von Doom.
Following the events of the previous issue Warlock is being hunted down by the United States military by order of President Rex Carpenter and while Von Doom tries to reason with the new leader Warlock must fend off the threat without doing further damage. The people he has saved rise to protect him but it's not enough. A member of Warlock's cadre named Astrella appears and leads Warlock to the Golden Gate Bridge where the Brute appears to battle him. It seems that this creature is the result of the propitious flight by four brave teammates which on another planet resulted in the Fantastic Four. Here on Counter-Earth only Reed Richards got powers, while Sue Storm went into a coma. Warlock battles the Brute and wins briefly.
Meanwhile Von Doom turns his attention to one of his inventions, a machine to bore into the Earth itself. The Brute directed by a mysterious figure goes to take control of this device but is confronted by Warlock.
Again Astrella appears and again seems not have Warlock's best interests at heart. Warlock gets a warning from his disciple Jason Grey who has been hurt seriously in trying to go to his mentor. The Brute is seeking energy to feed his mutated form, but in doing so threatens the planet. To save it Victor Von Doom destroys his project and in the process himself. Warlock erects a statue to remember this fallen hero.
And then in the final issue of the series Warlock is confronted finally by his true enemy. President Rex Carpenter is revealed to be the man who is plotting to destroy Warlock and Astrella is revealed to be his sister who insinuated herself among Warlock's followers to hurtful effect.
Two demons appear over Washington, DC and while battling these two monstrosities both physically and psychically Warlock is forced to draw upon his will and his soul gem to fend off the attacks to his very essence. He withstands the attacks and for the moment saves the day, but is confounded when he is finally confronted by his true enemy, the deadly Man-Beast who has inhabited the body of Rex Carpenter since his defeat several issue earlier, using the politician to further his destructive agenda. Warlock is left to face off against his mortal foe as the story and the series closes.
I have to admit that reading these stories today, in the political climate of our times with a dominant candidate on the field who brags incessantly about his lack of ties to the established political class and who allows his charisma to dominate in place of clearly detailed policy proposals, I find the character of Rex Carpenter scarier than I might've done even a few months ago. That such a demagogue could ascend to the highest office on the planet (for all practical purposes -- sorry about that Pontiff) is downright creepy. But life does indeed imitate art and Friedrich taps into an anti-establishment vibe which does indeed inform our own times so many decades later. That the character turns out to be the defacto Satan of Counter-Earth is actually a bit too on the nose, but it does offer a cautionary moment for all of us.
It was sad in the day that Warlock's story ended so abruptly, but in the Bronze Age we regular Marvelites became all too accustomed to such matters. To their credit, Marvel did almost always see to it that the story was resolved somewhere eventually. They did here too, in the surprising pages of The Incredible Hulk. I won't leave you hanging boys and girls as tomorrow on Christmas Day we will find out what happens next.