FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL STORYLINE CLICK HERE The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.
AMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 # 21 (November 1973)
Title: THE MUTANT SLAYERS (Revised Title: DEATHLOK, THE DEMOLISHER)
Synopsis: Another issue means ANOTHER change in creative team for this promising but star-crossed series. This fourth change in four issues gives us Don McGregor as the writer and Herb Trimpe as the artist.
McGregor will stay and will handily develop the flowery prose that also characterized his run on the 13-part Black Panther story Panther’s Rage, previously reviewed here at Balladeer’s Blog. Unfortunately, Don’s writing in this issue is as hopelessly lame and “comic bookish” as Herb Trimpe’s artwork.
We are told that the Martians had their human quislings – in this case led by a human cyborg called the Warlord – transport Killraven and his Freemen, who were ambushed and captured last issue amid the ruins of LaGuardia Airport, to this new underground base. The base’s location is undisclosed for now.
REVISION: Given Riker’s Island’s proximity to LaGuardia Airport I would have made THAT the location that the captive Freemen were transported to. And given the island’s use as a prison before the alien conquest of Earth it would be ideal for my revised storyline.
I would make the Warlord be specifically Warlord RYKER as in Simon Ryker (no relation to the island’s namesake). Simon Ryker was, of course, the main villain in Deathlok (sic) the Demolisher, another of Marvel’s promising but short-lived sci-fi comic books of the 1970s.
I’m combining Deathlok’s story with Killraven’s in a sort of Ultimate Killraven way, since Marvel in recent years had KR, Deathlok and other figures from their canceled post-apocalypse titles get thrown together as a team due to time anomalies, etc ANYWAY.
Warlord Ryker would still hate Killraven for causing the loss and cybernetic replacement of his (Ryker’s) arm and eye during his escape from the gladiatorial pens a few years earlier.
Back to the real story, the Warlord and his fellow quisling Carmilla Frost (in her first-ever appearance) are watching several waves of guards struggling to shepherd Killraven along to join his Freemen in their new prison cells. Expository dialogue makes it clear that Keeper Frost is a molecular biologist and, like all the other Keepers, she is a scientist who sold out her fellow Earth people in exchange for privileges. Mostly, access to the Martians’ advanced science to continue their work.
The Warlord rants a great deal about how he warned the Martians to execute Killraven years ago, but he was such a good fighter in their gladiatorial games that they kept him alive for sport. Eventually the Warlord knocks out KR from behind.
REVISION: As always, I’d have jettisoned the tenuous War of the Worlds connection by getting rid of the ridiculous Martians and just made it regular aliens – say from the Zeta Reticuli area of space – who had conquered Earth.
Instead of watching Killraven struggle against guards I would have Warlord Ryker and Carmilla Frost watching and taking notes as other Keepers subject the rebel leader to various tests – many of them painful, of course – to determine the nature and origin of his paranormal abilities called simply The Power in the first two issues. (This was 4 years BEFORE Star Wars, so The Power is NOT a ripoff of The Force.)
Warlord Ryker, Carmilla Frost and the other Keepers would be refusing to tell Killraven what they’ve done with his Freemen. After re-establishing – for the sake of first-time readers – that The Power allows KR to – among other things – mentally render himself undetectable to the alarm sensors of the aliens, they would anesthetize him for now. They would say they are doing that to probe his subconscious mind to find out what damaging information Keeper Whitman told him about Earth’s conquerors before he died.
Back in the real story, when Killraven comes to, the Warlord – who should have heeded his own advice and slain KR while he was knocked out and helpless – instead has our hero strapped to an operating table to be the latest surgical guinea pig for those Keepers who are trying to bioengineer new bodies for the Martians. Those new bodies will be immune to Earth’s germs and will be strong enough for the Martians to move around more freely in Earth’s greater gravity.
The Warlord orders the Keepers NOT to use anesthetic on Killraven when they begin the actual surgery several minutes from now. Leaving them to finish their prep work, he departs with Carmilla.
REVISION: While KR was out I would cut to show the plight of his captured Freemen. To explain: Warlord Ryker and Carmilla Frost have been experimenting on using dead Earth soldiers, slain during the initial war against the invading aliens, as overhauled cyborgs a la Deathlok. The original plan was to use them against the invading aliens, but after Earth fell, the project was seized upon by the aliens – Zetans in my revision.
Those preserved corpses- turned-cyborgs would be used to replace hundreds of thousands of quisling soldiers, who in turn would be freed-up to be used as gladiators or food for the aliens, who DO feed upon humans, as we learned in the first chapter. Ryker still thinks these cyborgs are in the testing stage, little dreaming that Carmilla has secretly perfected one she calls Deathlok (who, obviously, would replace her creation Grok in my revised version of events).
Supposedly to help tweak and perfect the undead cyborg fighting machines/ super soldiers, Ryker and Carmilla would be watching tests/ proving runs pitting partially completed “Deathloks” against the captive Freemen, who are slated for execution anyway.
One at a time the Freemen – all of them former gladiators like Killraven – would be facing the cyborgs in these test runs as the Keepers and Warlord Ryker take notes on various adjustments that need made to the cyborgs’ fighting ability.
The first Freeman thus used: we’ll say the female Dagger, since the Freeman called Dagger has simply been forgotten about by the writers at this point and has vanished. The other captive Freemen – M’Shulla, Hawk, Old Skull and Arrow (that last one also turned female in my revision) – watch on viewscreens as Dagger fights.
The odds are video-game impossible. As Dagger defeats one cyborg, two more are set loose on her. After she defeats them, three more attack. After defeating two of these three cyborgs, the third one manages to kill her before she can best it. (Four more would have been unleashed if she had) The Freemen are infuriated by this and long to avenge their slain comrade. Ryker calmly recommends improvements to the cyborgs’ programming.
Before the next Freeman can be sent out to face the prototype Deathloks, Warlord Ryker is urgently summoned by the Zetans probing Killraven’s subconscious. The test-runs pitting Freemen against cyborgs are paused while Ryker obeys the summons.
Back in the real story, Carmilla Frost tries to convince the Warlord to keep Killraven alive and intact in order to use him to smoke out other groups of Freemen for capture. (If you’re new to KR stories, yes, that lame excuse means Carmilla has been pondering betraying the Martians and helping Earth’s rebels. She’s just been waiting for the right moment and for the right potential leader to come along.)
The Warlord resists the notion, saying if Killraven is left alive and whole “he’ll bury us all.” We are shown the imprisoned Freemen. M’Shulla is trying to bash the cell door down (REVISION: It should be the simple-minded brute Old Skull doing that). It’s not working and he banters with Hawk and Old Skull about the urgent need to escape and save their leader Killraven.
Carmilla Frost has slipped into her laboratory and, deciding it’s now or never, she unleashes her monstrous creation Grok. (SPOILER: In an unnecessary mystery it turns out several issues down the road that Grok is really Carmilla’s father. The Martians forced her to experiment on him to prove she had cut all ties with humanity, but in so doing they sowed the seeds of her betrayal of them.)
ANOTHER NOTE TO STAR WARS FANS: Yes, Grok may be monstrous and incredibly strong and unable to speak English but he is NOT a Chewbacca ripoff like so many of you often claim. 1973 came before 1977, when Star Wars was released.
REVISION: While Warlord Ryker goes off to see what the Zetans need to urgently tell him, Carmilla uses the opportunity to sneak off to her lab. In my revision she frees Deathlok, her secretly-completed cyborg warrior. And what the hell, we’ll have HIM turn out to be her dead father Luther down the road. Maybe she came across his corpse among the dead experimental subjects she was working on and the emotional trauma fueled her plans to betray the aliens by perfecting HIM and using him as a weapon against them.
Anyway, Carmilla also arms Deathlok with the secretly developed laser-gun connected by a cord to his backpack charger. Deathlok’s tormented memories of the Vietnam War in which he was killed in his 1970s comic book will be converted in THESE stories into tormented memories of humanity’s futile war against the invading aliens instead.
Carmilla and Grok arrive to set the Freemen loose from their cell. She then leads them to where they can free Killraven, who engages in pointless battle of the sexes bickering with Carmilla. Anyway, with Carmilla and Grok at their side, KR and his rebel band fight their way to the surface while the Warlord snivels ineffectually. (Seriously, they might as well have had him whining “Why me? Why me alla time?”)
We readers are shown that the subterranean lab was underneath Yankee Stadium and the emerging Freemen now take the diamond to fight a bunch of mutates and mutants unleashed on them by the Warlord. This whole Yankee Stadium bit COULD have been handled well, but here it’s just barely at Kamandi or Planet of the Apes (the cartoon series) levels of lameness.
Our heroes succeed in killing all the creatures, following which the Warlord attacks Killraven, who defeats him and destroys his arm again. He and the other Freemen don’t bother killing him, though, as he wanders around whining some more. (Like Skarlet, the leader of the Sirens a few chapters back, the Warlord is never seen again, so they might as well have had the rebels kill him.)
With Carmilla and Grok joining them, the Freemen leave the stadium.
REVISION: Carmilla and Deathlok free M’Shulla, Old Skull, Hawk and Arrow. Frost also provides the Freemen with all of their signature weapons, which were stashed nearby for their upcoming fights with the cyborgs.
Back with Warlord Ryker and the Zetans, the aliens inform Ryker that it is as they feared: the dying Keeper Whitman made it clear to Killraven that they are aliens, not demons or dark gods as the conquered masses – kept uneducated by the Zetans – superstitiously thought previously. Even worse, Whitman confirmed that the Nobility are really just human traitors who sold out to Earth’s alien overlords.
However, above and beyond even that, “The Power” as Keeper Whitman called it, seems very dangerous to the Zetans PERSONALLY. Plus the probing of Killraven’s subconscious has revealed that Whitman implanted buried memories of humanity’s past and cultural heritage from before the alien invasion: a past and heritage that the Zetans have done their best to destroy.
The Zetans tell Warlord Ryker that they need to keep KR alive until they determine if there is more to be uncovered, but they will amputate his arms and legs to ensure he is never again a physical threat, just in case the worst happens. On cue, the Freemen plus Carmilla and Deathlok burst in.
To avenge the slain Dagger, the Freemen slaughter the Zetans and their human quisling soldiers while Ryker flees. Carmilla frees the groggy Killraven and, rather than engage in trite battle of the sexes bickering like in the orginal story, I would revive the almost-Luddite levels of distrust for science that the Freemen felt in the first chapter. That distrust was due to the way so many scientists sold out humanity.
KR would be wary of Carmilla because she’s a scientist and not because she’s a woman. She would restore all his weapons too, like she did with his Freemen, to try to gain his trust. (Those weapons: His sword, photo-nuclear pistol and his explosive throwing-stars.)
As our heroes all try to flee, Warlord Ryker would unleash the imperfect cyborg soldiers against them. While the rebels engage in a running fight with them, Ryker would be setting loose all of the lab’s mutates and mutants (being created for use in the gladiatorial contests).
Our “good guys” would wipe out all those beasts, too, by now up on the surface level of Riker’s Island. Killraven would defeat Warlord Ryker and destroy his arm again. He would escape back below the surface, following which explosions – which Carmilla would say she set up – would wipe out everything below ground. It would be unclear if Ryker himself had survived.
An escape would be made by our surviving heroes: Killraven, M’Shulla, Old Skull, Hawk, Carmilla Frost, Deathlok and Arrow.
NOTE: I’d have titled this part The Body Shop, referring to the assorted bioengineering going on at the issue’s labs, if not for the fact that that title was already taken in Marvel Comics.
FOR PART FIVE CLICK HERE
I’LL EXAMINE THE NEXT ISSUE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY EXAMINATION OF THE 7-PART ADAM WARLOCK STORY WHERE HE FACES THE MAGUS, THANOS AND OTHERS. * FIRST APPEARANCE OF GAMORA, TOO* CLICK HERE
FOR MY EXAMINATION OF THE CELESTIAL MADONNA SAGA STARRING MANTIS AND THE AVENGERS (THE TEAM SHE FIRST BELONGED TO IN THE 1970s) – FEATURES THE FIRST THANOS WAR PLUS THE AVENGERS-DEFENDERS WAR – CLICK HERE
FOR MY EXAMINATION OF THE 13-PART BLACK PANTHER STORY TITLED PANTHER’S RAGE CLICK HERE
FOR MY EXAMINATION OF THE ORIGINAL 9-PART KREE-SKRULL WAR CLICK HERE
FOR THE AUSTRALIAN SUPERHERO PANTHEON CLICK HERE
FOR MORE SUPERHEROES CLICK HERE: Superheroes
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