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 #31 (July 1975)
Title: The Day The Monuments Shattered
Freemen: Killraven, M’Shulla, Old Skull, Carmilla Frost, Hawk, Volcana Ash, Adam 3031 and Eve 3031 and Carmilla’s creation Grok (Deathlok in my revisions)
Synopsis: This is the 4th and final part of the Death-Birth storyline. It is April, 44 years from now. Killraven and his Freemen, a band of rebels fighting Earth’s alien conquerors, have arrived in the ruins of Gary, IN, along the southern shore of Lake Michigan.
It is nighttime and Killraven has chosen to set up camp in a cave on a nearby hill. This will give him and his Freemen the high ground and a defensible position as they await the final battle with their pursuers.
Those pursuers: Atalon – white-shirted human quisling administrator of Death-Birth, the now-destroyed alien fortress where they raised humans like cattle since they eat human flesh – and the Sacrificer, green-clad medical madman who used to prepare those cannibal meals for the aliens, including their favorite delicacy – human infants carved out of their mother’s body shortly before they are due to deliver.
Backing up Atalon and the Sacrificer are dozens of Death Breeders, their armed troops in uniforms resembling skeleton outlines.
Eve 3031, one of the human “breeding stock” liberated by our heroes last issue, is about to give birth, so the aforementioned cave will help shelter her and her baby as her mate, Adam 3031, attends her.
NOTE: Writer Don McGregor would later recycle this tableau of a final battle taking place around a woman giving birth in his post-apocalypse comic book Sabre. In that book the villainous Joyful Slaughter (real subtle, eh) and his troops attacked the rebel settlement where Sabre’s wife Melissa Siren was giving birth.
At the foot of the hill, over a hundred yards away from the beach, is a ruined building with nothing left standing except a jutting, incomplete golden arch whose mate is apparently part of the debris below. Yes, it’s obviously supposed to be a partial Golden Arch from a futuristic McDonald’s, but McGregor wants that to be a surprise at the end of the story.
Those future McDonalds’ from before the alien invasion must have had Golden Arches that were almost as solid as the Saint Louis Archway given what happens later. The use of McDonald’s is meant as a wry tie-in with this installment’s title theme: the shattering of all of the human race’s monuments and institutions – even commercial institutions – during the war of the alien conquest long years earlier.
REVISION: I’d have made the remains of the monument instead something like part of a gigantic letter “M” and imply it had stood at the corporate headquarters of a generic-sounding old corporation. Making it obviously a McDonald’s arch is as silly as the breakfast cereal “treasure” from the Battle Creek chapter.
That aside, most of this issue is excellent. McGregor’s writing was really gelling now and Craig Russell’s art was terrific.
The Freemen regard the Golden Arch with awe, mistaking it for the remains of some temple or otherwise grand structure. Meanwhile, the narration poignantly captures the oppressive old monuments and institutions that tended to suffocate humanity almost as much as the aliens would go on to do when they arrived.
One line goes that in the pre-invasion era “Individual expression became more and more suspect by the media manipulators.” Hey, we’re LIVING IT now.
Several robotic, long-necked bird-constructs attack from above. They are android tracking devices sent ahead by the pursuing Atalon to find the Freemen and kill them. Our heroes fight them off with their signature weaponry, Hawk’s photo-nuclear rifle, Carmilla Frost’s radium pistol, Volcana Ash’s self-generated fire blasts, Old Skull’s massive strength, etc.
While the battle rages, the hot-tempered Hawk (Native American) reminds Killraven he warned him that taking the pregnant Eve 3031 with them would slow them down too much. The Freemen destroy all the winged robots.
In the aftermath of the battle, Killraven has his followers set up camp in the cave on the nearby hill. Volcana Ash does her usual sultry flirting with K.R. and uses her fire abilities to cauterize a wound he received in the fight with the robots.
While that goes on, we join the pursuing villains. Atalon and the Sacrificer, riding their Hover Chariots/ Sky-Cycles are still floating above their Death Breeders. Those troops are struggling to free another of their snow-skimmers from the mud. Atalon makes his usual prissy remarks about hating mud and dirt since they muss his immaculate white shirt.
The Sacrificer has watched the Freemen defeat the “Birdroids” on his craft’s viewscreen and he again blames Atalon for all the damage Killraven and his followers have done, including freeing the thousands of Adams and Eves back at Death-Birth, then destroying the fortress itself.
Atalon and his colleague continue bickering and the white-shirted quisling eventually reminds the Sacrificer that if he and his Death Breeders are obsolete with Death-Birth gone, then so is he. The Sacrificer replies with his usual pretensions about being an “artist” with his twisted surgical proceedings.
Atalon retorts “Nonsense, Sacrificer, anyone can be a butcher. And in the end analysis isn’t that what you really are? A butcher? As for Killraven and his followers, we’ll be upon them within the hour. And they’ll choke on their own blood before I grant them the release of death.”
Back with the Freemen, Carmilla Frost, the scientist of the group, observes to Killraven that the cave is excellent for sheltering Eve 3031 and adds “She looks almost elemental, doesn’t she? The one natural thing in this perverted landscape.”
Old Skull, the big, brawny bald guy with a handlebar moustache and who is very slow-minded, says “Miss Eve, sometimes you’re breathing so heavy Old Skull gets a mite scared.” Eve 3031 informs him that the baby is “moving” and he naively asks “Where’s he going?”
Meanwhile, at the foot of the hill 15 or 16 human survivors, apparently from a destroyed nearby mental hospital, approach the Golden Arch. They are clad in all kind of thrown-together costumes and are obviously conducting some sort of insane “ritual.”
As the lunatics gather in between the arch and the shore they continuously repeat the words “To the Devourer, grant us deliverance.” At the top of the hill our heroes note that they seem to be presenting offerings and bowing. As their chanting continues, the Freemen await the arrival of their pursuers.
Cut to: Frozen-over Lake Erie. The enigmatic yellow-skinned being called Skar (Warscar in my revisions) continues to drive along in his tripod (triphibian craft in my revisions). The figure has a face which is nothing more than a big black hole above his mouth. He is still tracking down K.R. and his rebels in order to kill them as ordered by the High Overlord (Abraxas the High Overlord in my revisions).
Skar/ Warscar in his craft is tracing the Freemen’s path across the frozen lake on board their commandeered boat/ sleigh. He passes by the frozen corpses of the two Kaiju-sized mutated lampreys that attacked our heroes and continues on to what’s left of Milwaukee.
One of M’Shulla’s spray-painted “Killraven was here” signs is near the docks and the brewery where the Freemen first battled the Death Breeders. Skar interrogates a lone human survivor who is eking out a miserable existence foraging for whatever food he can.
After determining that the old man knows nothing about Killraven and his followers, Skar/ Warscar burns the man’s hands to make it impossible to gather food with them. He did this just for spite and now drives off, leaving the man to likely starve to death. (Readers often complain about the sadism of the villains in the Killraven stories, but it really makes you root for our heroes to smack down those villains.)
Back with the Freemen, Killraven and Volcana Ash are at the mouth of the cave, warily watching the “worshippers” below and keeping an eye out for Atalon and the Sacrificer. Volcana is still in pain over not finding her long-lost sister among the Eves at Death-Birth and fears she is dead.
Old Skull watches in curiosity and childlike horror as Eve 3031 goes into labor. Since Adam 3031 is holding her hand and coaching her, Hawk sarcastically asks Old Skull if he wants him to hold HIS hand.
M’Shulla and Carmilla Frost are elsewhere in the cave, having another gentle conversation. M’Shulla is black and his interracial romance with Carmilla was bold for its time and in fact the pair exchanged the first interracial kiss in the history of color comic books. (More adult-oriented black & white comic books had done it earlier.)
As always Carmilla hints at the deep guilt she feels for the things she did when working as a scientist quisling for Earth’s alien conquerors before she met the Freemen. Especially haunting her is her creation of Grok/ Deathlok, who is still semi-comatose from the lamprey battle and is carried around on a cot.
NOTE: I won’t waste Deathlok in the chapters ahead the way McGregor wasted Grok’s potential.
Cut to Atalon, the Sacrificer and the remaining Death Breeders. They are closing in on our heroes and are within sight of the Golden Arch and the insane cultists still chanting “To the Devourer. Give us deliverance.” Atalon squeamishly ponders a way of getting to our heroes without dirtying up his clothing.
As the moon reaches its zenith it summons up from Lake Michigan one of the huge, grotesque extraterrestrial monsters the aliens brought with them from their homeworld (Mars in the comic books, Zeta in my revisions) and scattered around the Earth to prey upon any pockets of human survivors.
The scaly, weird-mouthed creature, with tentacles and detached eyeballs feasts on the food offerings brought by the lunatics, then turns its attention to the newcomers: K.R. and his Freemen.
As it makes its slug-like way up the hill toward the cave, Killraven opens fire on it with his photo-nuclear pistol, Carmilla with her radium pistol, M’Shulla with his crossbow and bolts made of alien metal, and Hawk with his photo-nuclear rifle. (In my revisions Old Skull would still have his wishbone-shaped, double-handled plasma-ray gun)
Volcana Ash and Old Skull take up a last stand position around Eve 3031 as she gives birth. On the hill outside, Hawk narrowly avoids getting crushed under one of the brontosaur-like limbs of the monster, but as he tumbles out of the way he comes face to face with Atalon. The white-garbed, hideous man is aiming a photo-nuclear pistol at Hawk at point-blank range and asks if he’s heard any good prayers lately.
Hawk is saved when one of the monster’s flailing tails (or tentacles, it’s hard to tell) smacks against Atalon, disarming him. The Sacrificer and the Death Breeders now join in the attack as the Freemen battle them and both sides simultaneously fight for survival against the gigantic creature.
This would be a Michael Bay-sized spectacle but with the benefit of an actual story around it. As the action continues, Old Skull excitedly tells Killraven that Eve finally had her baby, then he joins in the fight.
Killraven speculates to M’Shulla, his best friend on the team, that the crazed cultists must have been feeding this creature to try to appease its hunger and that it probably would have just wandered off long ago if they hadn’t done that.
Volcana Ash joins in the fight and uses her fire blasts to kill more of the Death Breeders, her archenemies ever since she escaped Death-Birth following the genetic experiment which gave her her powers.
The creature has entered the cave. Killraven, meanwhile, grabs one of Hawk’s photo-nuclear rifles and uses it to shoot off a large, pointy stalactite from the roof of the cave. As he intended, the stalactite falls and pierces the monster’s soft top flesh, impaling and killing it before it can reach Eve and her newborn baby.
From behind K.R. the Sacrificer attacks, once again using the cybernetic blades replacing his amputated right arm as weapons against the rebel leader. Killraven draws his sword and the pair join in battle like they did back at Death-Birth.
Their “swordfight” takes the two combatants all the way back down the hill, where they tumble and collide with the Golden Arch, setting it creaking. Killraven and the Sacrificer spring to their feet, dazed but ready to resume their duel.
The Sacrificer renews his attack, telling K.R. that getting mud on his clothing doesn’t bother HIM the way it bothers Atalon. In his usual pretentious way, he continues by saying “A bit of pain refines one’s art … Not that I expect you to understand anything about aesthetics.”
Amid the parries and slashes of their fight Killraven tells the Sacrificer that he should have stayed far away from him. He intends to make the sadist pay for the way he carved up Adams and Eves and their babies to feed his alien masters.
The Sacrificer gets in a good thrust at K.R.’s shoulder and gloats aloud “There! Did you notice the fine precision of that wound, rebel?” As the battle continues he adds “I am ABOVE life and death! An artist is beyond human mediocrity.”
Killraven counters “Not when it is at the expense of human life. There IS no greater art.” The outraged Sacrificer replies “What do you know of ART, idiot? Your blade is for pigs!” Our hero zings back “On such as you, I agree.”
The still-creaking Golden Arch has begun to sway and comes falling down. Killraven manages to avoid being crushed underneath it but the Sacrificer isn’t so lucky. He is killed and only the tips of his cybernetic blades stick out from under the fallen arch.
The narration tells us that philosophical questions regarding life and the nature of existence were questions the self-satisfied Sacrificer never asked himself. “And now never will.”
EPILOGUE: Killraven looks around him to see that the Freemen have killed all of the Death Breeders and the battle is over. Atalon has survived but is now unarmed and his pathetic attempt to flee is hindered by the way he mincingly tries to avoid the vast stretches of mud.
“Going somewhere, Atalon?” Killraven asks with a laugh. Adam 3031 runs in front of Atalon and tells the Freemen to stay back, Atalon is HIS. (Remember, Atalon forced this Adam to clean his boots with his tongue three chapters back.)
Adam 3031 picks up a handful of mud and approaches the horrified Atalon, shoving it in his face while telling him “Here, Atalon, THIS is for you.”
While the furious Atalon sputters and spits indignantly, Adam continues “You made us wallow in mud, Atalon, but we were never as unclean as you were … And THIS (punches him) is for the memories.”
Atalon, still a muscular man, viciously thinks to himself that he will kill the weaker, half-starved Adam 3031, ruining his attempt at retribution. Atalon starts to attack Adam but Volcana Ash kills him from behind with one of the fire blasts from her hands. The narration tells us “Atalon’s last sight is the mud rising to greet his face. The Freemen are hard put to tell what causes more of a reaction – his death or the muddy baptism.”
Volcana regards Atalon’s corpse in the mud and observes “His death won’t help me find my sister or undo what he did to her, but he’ll never … NEVER dehumanize another person.”
Killraven asks “Are you sure he didn’t have one last conquest? You?” Volcana replies “That’s a strange question, coming from you, red.” The pair embrace again and Carmilla Frost teases Killraven about his uncharacteristic remark but M’Shulla playfully tells her to be quiet. He feels the “mushy talk” between K.R. and Volcana will provide ammunition to pay Killraven back for his jokes about the way M’Shulla and Carmilla lovingly coo at each other.
Later on, Volcana tells Killraven she’s going to leave the Freemen to seek out the other Adams and Eves along with Adam 3031 and Eve 3031. Maybe she’ll find her sister after all or at least help them defend their settlement against attacks from the aliens.
In closing, Volcana says “Too bad we didn’t have time to get together, red. Who knows what we might have come up with?” K.R. pulls her back toward him and replies “Do you have a moment … Or are you all talk, woman?” And they share a passionate – and presumably lengthy – kiss.
Volcana Ash joins Adam, Eve and their new baby in one of the Death Breeders’ snow skimmers and they prepare to leave. Adam 3031 tells Killraven “Our daughter won’t be assigned a number, Killraven. You’ve given us back our identity.” He thanks the Freemen and then drives off.
Killraven sadly watches the vehicle bearing Volcana and the others away. “For an instant, Volcana seems to look back. Last seen, a figure dwindling in the distance. But no, it must have been only his imagination.”
K.R. turns to face the approaching Carmilla Frost, expecting another exchange of joking insults with her. Instead, Carmilla pays him a back-handed compliment: “Normally after a victory you preen your feathers like a rooster, Killraven, and often they have been MINOR accomplishments. Now, when you have achieved your first major triumph, there is no braggadocio. Please don’t misunderstand me … You HURT the aliens this time. Deeply, seriously hurt them. They will now know that their fortresses are no longer impregnable to human assault.”
And as the Freemen all begin walking away from the fallen monument with the crushed Sacrificer underneath it, she adds “Oh … I hate to bring this up, but M’Shulla says I should … While we were fleeing from Atalon, I became thoroughly and completely lost.”
The narration takes us out of the story with the painfully obvious joke about the fallen Golden Arch. We are at last shown a sign that says “Over 77 Trillion Served!”
I will say again, these last two issues have shown the Killraven series at the heights it is remembered for. Too bad it was so uneven in quality in so many of the earlier installments. But on a lighter note, considering how ham-fisted the McDonald’s element was I guess we’re lucky McGregor didn’t REALLY hit us over the head by calling the Devourer “the Consumer” instead.
REVISION: Okay, if I had to amend something else I would have had Volcana Ash continue blasting Atalon’s corpse long after he was dead, reducing him to nothing but a few bones and ashes. That would have provided a better context for Killraven’s remark “Are you sure he didn’t have one final conquest? You?” Just killing Atalon doesn’t seem to warrant that question from K.R.
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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