FOR PART ONE OF BALLADEER’S BLOG’S EXAMINATION OF THIS OLD, OLD MARVEL COMICS STORYLINE CLICK HERE The revisions I would make are scattered throughout the synopsis below.
AMAZING ADVENTURES Vol 2 #29 (March 1975)
Title: The Hell Destroyers
Synopsis: April, 44 years in the future. We pick up where we left off last time around, deep in the heart of Death-Birth, a combined fortress and breeding farm run by Earth’s alien conquerors. Killraven, leader of a group of Freemen fighting the aliens and their human quislings, stands alongside three of his followers: Hawk (Native American), Old Skull (the big, bald, brawny one) and Volcana Ash (a woman genetically engineered into a mutate capable of generating and shooting fire).
The four of them have taken a moment to relish the reunion of Adam 3031 with his very pregnant “breeding partner” Eve 3031. The couple infuriated Earth’s conquerors by falling in love despite their degrading status as livestock for the extraterrestrials, who eat human flesh.
Facing all of them from across the futuristic operating room stand two human quislings, the main villains of this 4-part story. (This is Part 3) Atalon is the sadistic man who serves as the administrator of Death-Birth. He is hideous but has an obsession with cleanliness, especially regarding his white uniform. (Obviously a reference to Dr Mengele from the Nazi death camps.)
The other quisling is known only as the Sacrificer, clad in green and gold. Like Atalon he is ugly but his ugliness is amplified by his metal cybernetic jaw with jagged steel teeth. His amputated right arm has been outfitted with assorted cybernetic blades which can be used as weapons or as surgical tools in the perverse “operations” he performs.
Eve 3031 has now been saved from the fate of having the Sacrificer carve her unborn baby out of her womb to serve as the piece de resistance in another of the feasts of human flesh which he prepares for the aliens (Zetans in my revisions, Martians in the original comic book).
Our heroes know that more of Atalon’s shock troops, called Death Breeders, will be arriving at any moment so they decide to vacate the area. They are still intent on freeing the thousands of Adams and Eves imprisoned in Death-Birth and then destroying the fortress itself.
Old Skull picks up Eve 3031 in his massive arms since her condition is slowing her down. Hawk, as always a fiery-tempered Wolverine to Killraven’s Cyclops, wants to just get out of Death-Birth while they’re ahead. Killraven overrules him as the six of them escape to a lower floor via the pneumatic displacer, a futuristic elevator.
Don McGregor’s writing was really gelling by this point so I’ll quote Killraven verbatim: “We’ll use it Hawk, but not for escape. Not yet. Adam 3031 phrased it well, the aliens and their servants have created a temple for Hell, dark deeds cloaked in shining spires.We’ll bring it down around their heads, Hawk, and when Death-Birth’s debris becomes their tombstone, THAT’S when we’ll leave this perverse monument.”
Melodramatic, yes, but hey, it’s a comic book! Meanwhile, back with Atalon and the Sacrificer, they are making their way toward the dining hall where their alien overlords were awaiting their cannibal banquet.
As they step their way over the slain Death Breeders whose bodies litter the hallway they bicker. The Sacrificer, a prima donna who fancies his ghoulish surgeries/ culinary efforts to be “art,” blames Atalon for the way his troops failed to stop the invading Freemen. He also says he won’t cover for Atalon’s inadequacies before their angry overlords.
Atalon literally tells the Sacrificer that he finds his lack of faith disturbing, but since this was written in 1975 it’s NOT a cutesy Darth Vader reference. He goes on to point out that it was Killraven himself, not some non-descript rebel who led this foray. Atalon vows to kill the Galactic Rebel today, and says that if Killraven is indeed Earth’s champion, they will need a new one.
The Sacrificer airily replies “Do not clutter my mind with trivialities. I am an artist.” (McGregor was finally getting a handle on characterization, too) The bickering between the pair abruptly stops as they enter the dining hall and see that the Freemen have already been there – last issue – and killed all of the tentacled extraterrestrials waiting for their fancy meal. They are horrified at the thought of what punishment they may face from their other alien rulers elsewhere.
Back with the Freemen and Adam & Eve, they have penetrated to the observation deck from the windows of which Atalon usually observes all the suffering “breeding stock” shackled in the breeding pens below. While Hawk, Old Skull and Volcana Ash stand guard, Killraven steps to the Holographic Megaphone.
This device presents a huge three-dimensional image of the face of whoever speaks into it as well as broadcasts their words. Atalon had used this device to taunt the Adams and Eves daily, “killing their hope with mocking words.”
Killraven is aware of that fact thanks to his temporary mental link with one of the (now-dead) alien overlords in Death-Birth. That link was established via K.R’s use of The Power, a pre-Star Wars version of The Force and a gift he still struggles to control.
We get some more decent and memorable dialogue as Killraven speaks to the surprised Adams and Eves via his enormous visage floating over the slave pens:
“I imagine many of you were expecting to see Atalon’s abominable face up here, but right about now, if luck is with us, Atalon and the Sacrificer should be finding that the alien masters they served are dead!”
Amid the rumblings and whispers from the watching Adams and Eves, Adam 3031 tells K.R. “They’ll have trouble believing THAT, Killraven, but some of them will remember your face. The life expectancy of us Adams is not long, but some of us were here the night the High Overlord said your execution would be broadcast live over the Mural Phonics System. You should have seen Atalon when you turned the tables on them … he actually SCREAMED. You were beautiful!”
Killraven resumes his address to the Adams and Eves below, informing them that he and his Freemen will liberate them from their pens and chains. With his usual eloquence he exhorts them to band together, arm themselves and flee to establish a rebel settlement for themselves somewhere safe. Or at least defensible.
Killraven steps away from the Holographic Megaphone, prepared to operate the Molecule Disruptor which can remove the walls of one or a few or ALL of the slave pens. Volcana engages in her usual flirtatious dialogue with K.R. and ends by telling him that when she returns she’ll turn more than just his cheeks pink.
Killraven tries telling her not to go off on her own but she reminds him she joined up with the Freemen specifically to try to find her long-lost sister Melonie, who was captured and turned into one of the “Eves” in Death-Birth.
Volcana conjures up some of her internal fire to melt her way through the nearest wall, like she did last time around to get the rebels inside the fortress. As she departs she tells K.R. “Think pleasant thoughts and we’ll work on them when I return.”
Old Skull expresses his usual awe at seeing Volcana’s use of her powers but then attention turns to Eve 3031, whose contractions are coming more quickly now.
Once again, Hawk talks to Killraven in an impatient Wolverine to Cyclops way (though this X-Men dynamic had not even been established yet), telling him that they CAN’T take Adam 3031 and a pregnant woman with them because she’ll slow their escape.
K.R. says “We take them, Hawk. If we left them here this war would be without reason.” Hawk replies “You’ve let Carmilla Frost confuse you with her debates. A warrior cannot afford compassion. It will kill you as it killed my grandfather.” Killraven retorts “Perhaps one is already dead without it, Hawk.”
Not to be so easily silenced the Native American states “The Sacrificer and Atalon will be coming for blood and a debate will NOT stop them. Count on it!”
Next our rebel leader uses the Molecular Disruptor to remove all of the pen walls, freeing the thousands of Adams and Eves below. McGregor describes their awe: “They are silent and still at first, as if a wandering Messiah, heard about but never seen, has stopped by on his lonely crusade to perform miracles.”
Killraven encourages the freed slaves to get moving while he and his Freemen do what they can to create a large-scale diversion.
The narrative (and Craig Russell’s art) do a tremendous job of capturing this throng of thousands evacuating the area in a figurative exodus. During the long minutes that this goes on, Volcana Ash “watches the exodus seethe about her. A flesh ocean swelling with faces that she desperately seeks out, trying to make each face conform with the memory of her sister’s face.”
Eventually Volcana thinks she has found her in one of the Eves filing by, but in a heartbreaking scene Volcana’s feeble attempts to convince the woman she is her sister Melonie are abandoned as she realizes she is a stranger to this Eve.
The teary-eyed Volcana stands alone for a long while as the evacuees vanish into the distance. The Chicago wind buffets her hair and her cloak. At length Killraven comes upon her, glad that he finally found her.
He also tells her “Atalon and his compatriot have not vanished along with these walls and Hawk questions my wisdom already. Searching for you will only confirm his suspicions.”
Despite her heartbreak Volcana tries to resume her usual vamping nature and says “Which part do you want to search first? Take your choice. Either way you won’t come up empty-handed.”
“But I see you did” Killraven replies as they embrace, “I know the pain of losing your last blood kin.” Volcana states “The aliens changed my future, red, but I’d hoped I could touch part of my past.”
Killraven – “The past? The aliens have tried to destroy our history. They would isolate us from prior memory of mankind’s reign. The easier to rule a planet … But let’s move it, woman, I’m beginning to think Hawk is right about me.”
As he and Volcana walk back toward the heart of Death-Birth together with their arms around each other – “Old Skull has found some snow-skimmers we can use for escape AFTER you guide us to the Crucible Center. If this Atalon has a penchant for screaming it will be interesting to see his reaction when we wipe Death-Birth off the face of the Earth.”
Killraven and Volcana Ash walk on, bantering all the while. Elsewhere the Sacrificer watches Atalon rally his remaining Death Breeders in the wake of the chaos following the flight of the Adams and Eves.
Atalon addresses them from his Hover Chariot above them, and his speech is in direct contrast to Killraven’s inspiring speech to the freed slaves. The white-uniformed figure confirms the whispers that Killraven and his Freemen slaughtered their alien overlords in Death-Birth.
In true quisling style, Atalon goes on to say that “Our race, the human race, is so wearisome in its tedious narrow vision” and he praises himself and his troops as people of wisdom who recognize the superiority of Earth’s alien conquerors.
He says they will disperse in all directions in their snow-skimmers and sky cycles to attack any fleeing Adams and Eves they come across. The Eves must be taken alive but the Death Breeders are free to kill any Adams who resist. Presumably Killraven and his band will try to save them, and that’s when Atalon, the Sacrificer and squads of Death Breeders held as a reserve force will descend on them as quickly as possible and wipe out the rebels.
In closing the fastidious Atalon bemoans the necessity of bloodshed since messy blood stains are so difficult to get out of his white shirt. The Sacrificer, on his own Hover Chariot next to Atalon, adds a command of his own to the troops below.
Still smarting from Killraven’s defeat of him last issue, the Sacrificer insists that the rebel leader be brought to him alive. “He will be my artistic triumph! He’ll beg to die but my blades will make him live on in agony.”
The Death Breeders disperse in squadrons as commanded, little dreaming that, rather than flee with the Adams and Eves, K.R. and the Freemen withdrew into the bowels of Death-Birth.
Killraven, Hawk, Old Skull, Volcana Ash, Adam 3031 and Eve 3031 have arrived at the high-tech Crucible Center which powers the massive edifice. While Killraven stares into the crucibles he drifts into another Vision courtesy of The Power.
The alien technology has triggered assorted memories from the mind-link K.R. had formed with the aforementioned alien who resided in Death-Birth. Those memories are gradually cluing him in to a way to destroy Death-Birth via these infernal engines.
While that’s going on Hawk, Old Skull, Volcana, Adam and Eve are attacked by the Crucible Guardians. These purple-uniformed guards are armed with fancy clubs and staffs, since projectile weaponry poses far too much of a danger to the crucibles.
Our heroes are under no such limitation since they plan to destroy the whole fortress anyway. Hawk fights them with his photo-nuclear rifle, Volcana with her fire-blasts and Old Skull with his enormous brute strength. (In my revisions he would still be using his two-handled, wishbone-shaped plasma-ray gun.)
Adam grabs a rod/ club from one of the dead Crucible Guardians and joins in the battle while he and Hawk exchange harsh words over the way Hawk wanted to leave him and Eve 3031 behind earlier.
As the battle continues, Adam 3031 closes with “Don’t bother to apologize” to which the steely Hawk sarcastically replies “For what?” Killraven at last comes out of his Vision in time to join in the finishing off of the Crucible Guardians.
Next our main character orders the others to get to a snow-skimmer while he destroys Death-Birth. Poised before the nerve center of the honeycomb of crucibles, K.R. plunges his ionic knife (introduced last issue) into the vital spot.
As before, the ionic knife’s energy rips well beyond where it initially penetrated and the floor begins to shake as a chain reaction begins. Killraven and Volcana hurry to join Hawk, Old Skull, Adam and Eve in the commandeered snow-skimmers.
They drive across the snowy landscape (yes, it’s April but this is CHICAGO). Naturally they get to safety just as the chain reaction envelops Death-Birth. The explosive reaction unleashed by the alien technology does not flow outward, but inward.
Death-Birth literally implodes, completely obliterated, to the joy of our heroes and the sobbing of the distant Atalon on his Hover Chariot.
Cut to the ruins of Meigs Airfield, where Carmilla Frost and M’Shulla were left behind last issue to guard Carmilla’s creation, the injured and still-comatose Grok. In my revisions her creation would be Deathlok and I would not waste him in the chapters ahead like McGregor wasted Grok.
Carmilla, the scientist of the group, and M’Shulla have another tender conversation. M’Shulla is black and this romance anticipates another interracial romance that Don McGregor would use in his post-apocalyptic series Sabre. In those comic books the African-American Sabre would have a romance with the white, blonde, artificially created (and therefore navel-free) Melissa Siren.
M’Shulla comforts Carmilla over her fears for Grok/ Deathlok’s future plus her vague, enigmatic sense of guilt at having created him. M’Shulla holds her and tells her he doesn’t understand why she hasn’t told Killraven or if not K.R. – HIM (M’Shulla) about whatever the secret is between her and her creation.
Softened up, Carmilla is about to confide the secret to M’Shulla when Killraven, freshly arrived, enters the ruins of the airplane and interrupts. M’Shulla does a literal face-palm and jokes “K.R, your timing has been off before but never THIS off!”
Amid more bantering Killraven has M’Shulla and Carmilla load Grok/ Deathlok’s cot into one of the snow-skimmers. Adam 3031 and Eve 3031 are introduced to these two Freemen they hadn’t yet met and the group rides off, Killraven on his reddish-pink, genetically engineered serpent-horse and the others in the two snow-skimmers.
M’Shulla, Killraven’s closest friend on the team, tells his leader that he should just abandon the ill-tempered serpent-stallion and ride in the snow-skimmers with the rest of them. Our main character refuses, reminding M’Shulla that “There won’t always be snow on the ground, mud-brother.”
We now get a terrific running battle over the snow and the ruins of the Chicago suburbs. With M’Shulla’s crossbow and nearly indestructible bolts plus Carmilla’s radium pistols added to their firepower our heroes fight the pursuing Death Breeders, riding snow-skimmers of their own.
Obviously these days it’s impossible to NOT think about how thrillingly cinematic this set piece would be on the big screen. Killraven manages to maneuver his serpent-stallion around the Death Breeders while using his photo-nuclear pistol, his sword and his explosive throwing-stars.
The battle ends with all of this particular squadron of Death Breeders dead so the Freemen pause for a moment’s breath and to check on how Eve 3031 is holding up. The narration tells us she “smiles weakly at Killraven, absurdly braver than his own heroics.”
Meanwhile, far behind them, Atalon assumes that the Freemen killed all of the pursuing squadron since he has now lost contact with them. (They could have had M’Shulla, the wry funny man of the group, taunt Atalon over one of the snow-skimmers’ radios.)
The fussy Atalon wipes at an imaginary spot on his white shirt and vows that he, the Sacrificer and the remaining dozens of Death Breeders will track down the Freemen and kill them.
This issue finally saw this series reach the heights it is remembered for. If all of the earlier chapters had been this good the series might have become a sensation. Unfortunately as we saw many of those earlier chapters were poor and badly plotted, requiring many of my revisions just to have the stories make sense. Not so this time.
Up next is the final battle between our heroes and their deadly pursuers as assorted themes of this 4-part story all come together.
FOR THE NEXT PART CLICK HERE
I’LL EXAMINE THE NEXT ISSUE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT HOMBRE, SPAIN’S POST-APOCALYPTIC COMIC BOOK FROM THE 1980s, CLICK HERE
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