Review Date: 04/17/2009

Good King Leonardo has just finished watching a marathon of back-to-back episodes of the television sitcom "That 70's Show," and as such has decreed that this week we shall review current comic versions of well-known 1970's comic titles.  So let's see how two DC comic characters who originated back in the 70's and were very popular at the time are currently faring:

  -   The Warlord #1
Publisher:  DC Comics
Mike Grell: Writer
Joe Prado: Penciller
Walden Wong: Inker
David Curiel: Colorist

     DC has just published issue #1 of a new title for The Warlord.  The creation of veteran Mike Grell, The Warlord had his debut in 1975 in DC's First Issue Special #8 (I still own my copy!) and had a popular and lengthy run through 133 issues of his own title from 1976 until 1989.  The Warlord is Vietnam War fighter pilot Travis Morgan, who while flying over the north pole crashes through a hole in the Earth into the undiscovered realm of Skataris.  Grell developed the storyline as an Edgar Rice Burroughs-like lost world where Morgan becomes The Warlord and has numerous adventures in this prehistoric civilization/barbarian land.

     Issue #1 of the new title is set in the present day and alternates between two sub-plots. The main story focuses on young archaeologist Alysha Grant, who discovers a frozen dinosaur in a cave in Tibet, which unbenownst to her is most likely a portal into the hidden Skataris.  The rest of the issue takes us through Grant's efforts in assembling a team of adventurers to return to the frozen dinosaur, ending with their stumbling upon the hidden kingdom's entryway.

     Our second sub-plot re-introduces us to the present day Travis Morgan/Warlord, as he awakens from one of his periodic hibernating sleeps which slow down his aging and allow him to extend his Warlord rule over the decades.  Although much briefer in length than the first sub-plot, the premise is established that a wave of refugees is flooding into the Warlord's city of Shamballah, ahead of an invading "new god and his queen" with previously unseen powers.  Morgan quickly discovers that said new powers are modern firearms, thus establishing the hook that modern world invaders have entered the hidden realm.  Its up to issue #2 to reveal whether or not these invaders are part of Alysha Grant's team or a separate force.

     This is an enjoyable comic read for at least three reasons.  First and foremost is the artwork.  A major attraction of the original title was Grell's lush illustration, recalling the best of the mid-20th century pulp illustrations that accompanied the fantasy fiction of writers such as Burroughs.  The new art team of Prado/Wong/Curiel succeeds in filling Grell's shoes admirably, providing us with a really nice two-page flashback montage of Morgan's 1969 entry into the hidden kingdom, as well as seven beautifully-rendered pages of Morgan's present-day life in Skataris.  There's also a beautiful cover for issue #1 drawn by Grell himself.

     The second strength of this issue centers on Grell's writing.  I enjoyed the fusing of the new, modern-day story characters of Alysha Grant and her young adventurers with the traditional world of The Warlord comic line.  Its obvious that beyond issue #1, the plot will lead to the old and new characters coming together, with lots of potential interesting plotting and action possibilities available to make for an entertaining new comic run.  Third, as an old Warlord fan, I was glad to see Grell quickly introduce us to a few other standard characters from the old comic, namely, Morgan's barbarian bride/queen Tara and Shakira, Morgan's shape-shifting were-cat friend and ally.

     You don't have to be a veteran fan of The Warlord to enjoy the return of this DC character; this comic has strong legs of its own, both artistically and plot-wise, for old and new fans alike to be entertained.  So definitely give this new title a read and enjoy!

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