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.

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4 comments:

  1. Nicely done Rip. Thanks brother. Particularly liked your allusion to Warlock’s similarities to modern day issues of celebrity culture/politics in regard to Rex Trump (errr…) Carpenter. There was something about hitting issue #8 with a lot of books (I suppose the initial sales reports coming in from the early issues) – resulting in cancellations. I believe the color Doc Savage comic bit the dust about the same time here as I recall. (Always the telling cover blurb: ‘Is this the end of fill-in-the-blank?’ – to boost sales on the dying series. Ah well, as you said, Marvel was always good about wrapping plot threads up in other comics when then could.

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    1. Thanks. It was not my intention at all to draw that parallel when I began this, but recent events made the similarity to stark to ignore.

      Marvel tried a lot of things in the Bronze Age, and they cancelled a lot of things. Some of it took off later, but sadly very little of it really managed to find an audience at the time.

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  2. It's tempting to think of Trump as a genetics experiment gone wrong, though he may actually turn out to be the vanguard of a new type of evolution. Maybe he's ahead of where we'll all end up. I'm hoping he'll make politicians understand that they have to do more than just follow the same futile patterns and actually present new ideas. That being said, I'm as creeped out about him as you are.

    As for Warlock: I always hated the idea of a group of hip kids following the hero around and providing convenient victims and objects to rescue. It seemed just as fake when they did the same thing in the early issues of the Phantom Stranger.

    It might've been interesting to see a younger artist take over Warlock, since the first team had moved on and it was obviously on its last legs. I think what Starlin ended up doing was fantastic, but what if Craig Russell had been given the job instead of Ant-Man or Killraven? I bet it would have been just as awesome as the Dr. Strange Annual.

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    1. In general I agree with you on kid gangs (save when Kirby works on them) but in this instance they actually are needed to fulfill the theme of the story.

      Craig Russell would've been an ideal choice to take over, his style would've blended nicely with what had come before.

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