Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Warlock 5 #1




Fantasy February and Magical March!
Warlock 5, Part 1
Warlock 5 #1





We examine a cult classic…

"Untitled”
Writer – Gordon Derry
Artist – Den Beauvais
Editor-in-Chief – Barry Blair
November 1986



The breakthrough comic book for Den Beauvais came in 1986 and I was there to see it.

Warlock 5 sat on the shelf of the local comic book shop with its painted covers beckoning to me and I plunked down my two bills (a hefty sum in those days) for that first copy. Coming from Barry Blair’s Aircel, the title appeared on a rocky distribution schedule and didn’t always show up when expected. Occasionally I wouldn’t receive a copy, so I bought the first trade to fill in those holes when I saw it a year later.

What made the book so special? You’ll see for yourself in a minute. The first thing that had me scooping up an issue was the painted cover. Then there was the interior pencil work by Beauvais, and if you are scratching your temple trying to figure out where you’ve seen his work before, look no further than the first two volumes of Dark Horse’s Aliens mini series. 



But that wouldn’t have been enough to keep me. No, that was the bait on the hook, but the hook itself was how well those dark and moody graphics melded with Gordon Derry’s story of five science fiction and fantasy archetype characters fighting to wrest control over five “gates” to our world from other universes. The interplay and conflict between these characters would be the engine that would drive Warlock 5 through thirteen astonishingly successful issues.

What happened after issue 13 is the stuff of tomorrow’s review, but for today let’s concentrate on the “good” Warlock 5…

We begin our tale with no introduction, no explanation … just the fury of a one-eyed mage weaving arcane energies while a knight leans upon a Morningstar in the background. The sorcerer bades his Lord’s legions to cross over…



…and from a shimmering gate step forth knights in full plate armor that present themselves before their ruler, Lord Doomidor. Doomidor seeks power and he is using the sorcerer Morbvd to pluck knights from his home dimension to our world to achieve that power. What he seeks is not clear, but he calls this power source “The Grid.”



Doomidor and his knights descent in a modern conveyance and we see now that the city they inhabit is much like modern-day New York. Doomidor is cruel to fellow citizens and for the first time we catch the inkling that he may not be our hero. 



Now you are three pages into the story and if by now you don’t see the quite obvious raw power and skill that Beauvais can wield I’m not sure the book will dazzle you. I’m in awe of his work. Every panel is a master stroke of placement, lighting and shading. And to make matters worse, this isn’t his best work. He gets BETTER as we go. Back to the story, though…

Across town we find a parallel yet oddly dissimilar scene being played out. A high-tech industrial lair with an odd floating droid suddenly springs to life and opens a gate similar to the on Morbvd opened. Out of it stride robots with menacing gun-turrets for heads, looking like they stepped right out of the future sequences of a Terminator movie. The illusion of that film franchise is complete when the man addressing them removes a mask that hides his true face…



…revealing himself to be Argon, an intelligent machine wearing a body that can pass for human when he wishes. The robot servants pledge loyalty to Argon and they also descend into the city’s underbelly toward some dark and sinister purpose.



Having met two of our five warlocks, we turn now to two others. These are who you would mistake at first for the “good guys” who protect the mortal realm from the evils of Doomidor and Argon. 



It’s easy to see how you would make that distinction, given that they are sharing glasses of wine and relishing the calm. Or perhaps the mistake would come because both appear to have a system in place that alerts them to coming conflicts between the other warlock factions.

This is Tanith and Savashtar, and they aren’t necessarily the good guys, as you will see in later issues. The Grid is something all the warlocks wish to control just some use methods other than force to gain control of the gates.
But today it is conflict of a physical sort that draws them out from their own chess moves to establish dominance. Tanith summons her driver. Thorin, and they rush into town to disrupt the coming battle and disburse the combatants back to their gates.




As they reach the spot where the two groups will meet, Tanith has Thorin pulls their car into an underground parking garage. As he doe, a strange van with hidden armaments moves in to block their retreat. Conspicuously painted on the side of the door is the symbol of anarchy.



As Tanith’s car finds its way to the bottom of the garage, Doomidor and Argon’s forces meet in a clash that is uneven yet strangely balanced in strengths.





I love the energy of the upper four frames and the juxtaposition of Doomidor/his troops followed by robots/Argon that conveys the groups moving toward each other from across the parking area with their leaders resolute. This is really subtle positioning that shows motion and conflict with a lot of panels. Also note the clump of Doomidor’s savage knights vs Argon’s evenly spaced terminators. It counterpoints the differences between the two characters and their methods. SO much subtle things going on in the art here and I’m barely scratching the surface on this book. A lot could be learned from taking each issue apart.

After it becomes apparent that neither ranged weapons nor sorcery will easily win the day, the two groups descend into fierce hand-to-hand combat. 


Exquisitely rendered by Beauvais, the brutality and violence of the conflict needs not sound bubbles nor exposition to explain. The ferocity of the attacks evident in each panel, we get front row seats to something our inner child has always wished for: Knights vs Terminators.



The leaders of this conflict now stand face-to-face when Tanith’s car pulls up. She, Savashtar, and Thorin all move to separate the warring combatants and get them to halt their fruitless bid for the power of the other’s gate. Unfortunately one of Argon’s troops fires a blast that narrowly missing Tanith. Savashtar pushes her out of the way, but she has Thorin rush to her aid using “the hardware from the trunk.”


The Hardware turns out to be a machine gun and a glowing, magical sword. Thorin takes both and appears to relish slaying for his mystic mistress, when Savashtar steps forward to halt Thorin from sating his bloodlust.


As Savashtar removes his glasses, hat, and coat we see he isn’t human at all, but instead is humanoid…humanoid with an oddly reptilian cast to his skin…


…and that’s because Savashtar isn’t human or humanoid at all. He is a dragon disguised as a mortal, a guise he happily slips out of to turn Doomidor and Argon’s forces…


…into so much slag. As he administers a bit of punishment to Argon for his part in this war, one of Doomidor’s troops gets the drop on him. Tanith warns him…but in time for him to do what exactly?

The warning proves moot, as Tanith unveils that she is a sorceress herself, banishing the enemy forces before sending Thorin in to mop up things…


…which he does until Doomidor himself threatens Tanith. Thorin appears to nurse quite a crush on his lady and even without the advantage of his machine gun he faces Doomidor unafraid.


He should be, however. Because Doomidor is a formidable foe who turns a moment of disadvantage on its head and ends Thorin’s life. With a final word of devotion, Tanith’s protector dies, allowing Doomidor a chance to claim his magical sword.


Or so he thinks, as Tanith has placed enchantments on Helsbane such that no one may touch it without her permission. Savashtar has continued pushing back Argon and Doomidor’s forces during this fracas. Argon is now in full retreat.


As the dragon turns his flames on Doomidor’s remaining dregs, Tanith says goodbye to loyal Thorin, regretting her callous use of his life and the lives of so many protectors before him. She picks up Helsbane and returns it to the trunk.


Savashtar has the duty of mopping up…


…and that includes melting away all trace of the battle. Including Thorin’s body. Some beautiful scenes in this sequence that emphasize who these two people are and their core values. 


Savashtar takes the wheel and guides the car out of the burning parking garage…


…and right into an ambush by our fifth warlock gatekeeper: Zania, the punk rock, anarchist with an army of zombified Mad Max rejects. To be continued next issue…


And that’s the way it went for a bit. Over a year of these five character’s exploits, plots, and infighting. We learned that Savashtar wasn’t quite as honorable as we expected, the Doomidor wasn’t quite as inhumane, and the Zania and Argon were more alike than their social structure would indicate. It was a fun, trippy, violent ride with no clear winners going into round two of this conflict…and then…

Issue fourteen came out. We will deal with that issue, the destruction of a fanbase, and the tarnishing of a legacy tomorrow in part two.
eauvais came in 1986 and I was there to see it.

Warlock 5 sat on the shelf of the local comic book shop with its painted covers beckoning to me and I plunked down my two bills (a hefty sum in those days) for that first copy. Coming from Barry Blair’s Aircel, the title appeared on a rocky distribution schedule and didn’t always show up when expected. Occasionally I wouldn’t receive a copy, so I bought the first trade to fill in those holes when I saw it a year later.

What made the book so special? You’ll see for yourself in a minute. The first thing that had me scooping up an issue was the painted cover. Then there was the interior pencil work by Beauvais, and if you are scratching your temple trying to figure out where you’ve seen his work before, look no further than the first two volumes of Dark Horse’s Aliens mini series. 



But that wouldn’t have been enough to keep me. No, that was the bait on the hook, but the hook itself was how well those dark and moody graphics melded with Gordon Derry’s story of five science fiction and fantasy archetype characters fighting to wrest control over five “gates” to our world from other universes. The interplay and conflict between these characters would be the engine that would drive Warlock 5 through thirteen astonishingly successful issues.

What happened after issue 13 is the stuff of tomorrow’s review, but for today let’s concentrate on the “good” Warlock 5…

We begin our tale with no introduction, no explanation … just the fury of a one-eyed mage weaving arcane energies while a knight leans upon a Morningstar in the background. The sorcerer bades his Lord’s legions to cross over…



…and from a shimmering gate step forth knights in full plate armor that present themselves before their ruler, Lord Doomidor. Doomidor seeks power and he is using the sorcerer Morbvd to pluck knights from his home dimension to our world to achieve that power. What he seeks is not clear, but he calls this power source “The Grid.”



Doomidor and his knights descent in a modern conveyance and we see now that the city they inhabit is much like modern-day New York. Doomidor is cruel to fellow citizens and for the first time we catch the inkling that he may not be our hero. 



Now you are three pages into the story and if by now you don’t see the quite obvious raw power and skill that Beauvais can wield I’m not sure the book will dazzle you. I’m in awe of his work. Every panel is a master stroke of placement, lighting and shading. And to make matters worse, this isn’t his best work. He gets BETTER as we go. Back to the story, though…

Across town we find a parallel yet oddly dissimilar scene being played out. A high-tech industrial lair with an odd floating droid suddenly springs to life and opens a gate similar to the on Morbvd opened. Out of it stride robots with menacing gun-turrets for heads, looking like they stepped right out of the future sequences of a Terminator movie. The illusion of that film franchise is complete when the man addressing them removes a mask that hides his true face…



…revealing himself to be Argon, an intelligent machine wearing a body that can pass for human when he wishes. The robot servants pledge loyalty to Argon and they also descend into the city’s underbelly toward some dark and sinister purpose.



Having met two of our five warlocks, we turn now to two others. These are who you would mistake at first for the “good guys” who protect the mortal realm from the evils of Doomidor and Argon. 



It’s easy to see how you would make that distinction, given that they are sharing glasses of wine and relishing the calm. Or perhaps the mistake would come because both appear to have a system in place that alerts them to coming conflicts between the other warlock factions.

This is Tanith and Savashtar, and they aren’t necessarily the good guys, as you will see in later issues. The Grid is something all the warlocks wish to control just some use methods other than force to gain control of the gates.
But today it is conflict of a physical sort that draws them out from their own chess moves to establish dominance. Tanith summons her driver. Thorin, and they rush into town to disrupt the coming battle and disburse the combatants back to their gates.




As they reach the spot where the two groups will meet, Tanith has Thorin pulls their car into an underground parking garage. As he doe, a strange van with hidden armaments moves in to block their retreat. Conspicuously painted on the side of the door is the symbol of anarchy.



As Tanith’s car finds its way to the bottom of the garage, Doomidor and Argon’s forces meet in a clash that is uneven yet strangely balanced in strengths.





I love the energy of the upper four frames and the juxtaposition of Doomidor/his troops followed by robots/Argon that conveys the groups moving toward each other from across the parking area with their leaders resolute. This is really subtle positioning that shows motion and conflict with a lot of panels. Also note the clump of Doomidor’s savage knights vs Argon’s evenly spaced terminators. It counterpoints the differences between the two characters and their methods. SO much subtle things going on in the art here and I’m barely scratching the surface on this book. A lot could be learned from taking each issue apart.

After it becomes apparent that neither ranged weapons nor sorcery will easily win the day, the two groups descend into fierce hand-to-hand combat. 


Exquisitely rendered by Beauvais, the brutality and violence of the conflict needs not sound bubbles nor exposition to explain. The ferocity of the attacks evident in each panel, we get front row seats to something our inner child has always wished for: Knights vs Terminators.



The leaders of this conflict now stand face-to-face when Tanith’s car pulls up. She, Savashtar, and Thorin all move to separate the warring combatants and get them to halt their fruitless bid for the power of the other’s gate. Unfortunately one of Argon’s troops fires a blast that narrowly missing Tanith. Savashtar pushes her out of the way, but she has Thorin rush to her aid using “the hardware from the trunk.”


The Hardware turns out to be a machine gun and a glowing, magical sword. Thorin takes both and appears to relish slaying for his mystic mistress, when Savashtar steps forward to halt Thorin from sating his bloodlust.


As Savashtar removes his glasses, hat, and coat we see he isn’t human at all, but instead is humanoid…humanoid with an oddly reptilian cast to his skin…


…and that’s because Savashtar isn’t human or humanoid at all. He is a dragon disguised as a mortal, a guise he happily slips out of to turn Doomidor and Argon’s forces…


…into so much slag. As he administers a bit of punishment to Argon for his part in this war, one of Doomidor’s troops gets the drop on him. Tanith warns him…but in time for him to do what exactly?

The warning proves moot, as Tanith unveils that she is a sorceress herself, banishing the enemy forces before sending Thorin in to mop up things…



…which he does until Doomidor himself threatens Tanith. Thorin appears to nurse quite a crush on his lady and even without the advantage of his machine gun he faces Doomidor unafraid.


He should be, however. Because Doomidor is a formidable foe who turns a moment of disadvantage on its head and ends Thorin’s life. With a final word of devotion, Tanith’s protector dies, allowing Doomidor a chance to claim his magical sword.


Or so he thinks, as Tanith has placed enchantments on Helsbane such that no one may touch it without her permission. Savashtar has continued pushing back Argon and Doomidor’s forces during this fracas. Argon is now in full retreat.


As the dragon turns his flames on Doomidor’s remaining dregs, Tanith says goodbye to loyal Thorin, regretting her callous use of his life and the lives of so many protectors before him. She picks up Helsbane and returns it to the trunk.


Savashtar has the duty of mopping up…


…and that includes melting away all trace of the battle. Including Thorin’s body. Some beautiful scenes in this sequence that emphasize who these two people are and their core values. 


Savashtar takes the wheel and guides the car out of the burning parking garage…


…and right into an ambush by our fifth warlock gatekeeper: Zania, the punk rock, anarchist with an army of zombified Mad Max rejects. To be continued next issue…


And that’s the way it went for a bit. Over a year of these five character’s exploits, plots, and infighting. We learned that Savashtar wasn’t quite as honorable as we expected, the Doomidor wasn’t quite as inhumane, and the Zania and Argon were more alike than their social structure would indicate. It was a fun, trippy, violent ride with no clear winners going into round two of this conflict…and then…

Issue fourteen came out. We will deal with that issue, the destruction of a fanbase, and the tarnishing of a legacy tomorrow in part two.

2 comments:

  1. WOW! I only knew Beauvais for his fantastic covers and other art for TSR, especially on Dragon Magazine! Thanks for another great review on something I never knew existed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Another one of my all-time favorite indie books ever! My young mind was BLOWN AWAY when I discovered this comic book at my local shop. And as you said, it was heartbreaking to see the series fall apart only 14 issues in.

    ReplyDelete