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 #33 (November 1975)
Title: Sing Out Loudly … Death!
NOTE: Another fill-in issue, this one with Bill Mantlo and Herb Trimpe substituting for the regular writer/ artist team of Don McGregor and Craig Russell. The number of ways that this story fails will leave you shaking your head. Bizarre decisions all the way through.
REVISION: To make Killraven and his Freemen’s travels make geographic sense I skipped the Nashville story, but I’ll review it next time. It would make no sense for KR and his fellow rebels to go through Tennessee, THEN West Virginia, then BACK to Tennessee for the Chattanooga story. Last time around I had the Freemen in Ohio, so West Virginia and Sing Out Loudly … Death! would be the next logical installment.
Synopsis: May, 44 years from now. Killraven and his band of rebels continue their uprising against the alien conquerors of the Earth. (Zetans, NOT Martians in my revisions) Their attempt to shake off their most recent pursuers has led them into the mountains of West Virginia.
REVISION: Sadly we’re back to a situation where I need to add revisions pretty frequently. Coming off the high of the terrific Death-Birth Saga that’s especially disappointing. After shaking off pursuit this time the Freemen will spend months aimlessly wandering the American south. This makes no sense since they are headed for Yellowstone Park, site of the alien compound where Killraven’s (Jonathan Raven’s) brother Joshua is being held.
Yes, I know that at the end of The Day The Monuments Shattered, Carmilla Frost, the scientist of the group, stated that while fleeing Atalon and the Sacrificer she became completely lost. But COME ON! That’s only good for so much wandering.
When the sun comes up in the morning, you know that’s East. You need to go West, so head in the opposite direction. There is no way that the Freemen should wind up wandering all the way down to Florida like they do. It makes no sense. UNLESS …
We go with my next revision and have the southeastern portion of the U.S. be an overgrown, almost impenetrable jungle filled with mutated plant and animal life necessitating frequent detours just to stay alive.
Remember, we were told in Part One that the human race unleashed bio-warfare agents against the alien invaders as a desperate final gambit to try to avoid defeat. The residue of those bio-warfare agents have already resulted in many of the monstrous, mutated creatures that our heroes have battled previously.
I would kill two birds with one stone by having the Freemen forced to enter the otherworldly jungle at its northernmost tip, West Virginia, to try losing the intensified manhunt for them following their destruction of the fortress of Death-Birth. That will set up THIS story plus explain their very, very wayward course in the chapters ahead.
We would start out with our heroes already in the West Virginia jungle’s mountainous region. Narration and expository dialogue would explain the mutated jungle surrounding them as well as explain why they plunged into it.
Back to the unrevised story: Killraven leads his followers into an extensive cavern system to spend the night. (Presumably this is either Seneca Caverns or Lost World Caverns in WV) Carmilla Frost considers engaging in challenging banter with him again but uncharacteristically refrains, noting that she has never seen the exhausted KR this subdued and vulnerable. (An actually GOOD bit of writing in this issue)
REVISION: Killraven would lead his followers into the cavern to get out of the unnatural jungle with its heavy vegetation and larger than normal insects. I’d keep Carmilla’s unusual sympathy for KR intact.
Unrevised story: Time passes – Killraven, Old Skull (the big, brawny bald guy with the handlebar moustache) and Carmilla Frost have started a campfire deep within the massive cavern. They are waiting for M’Shulla to get back from hunting so they can eat. Mention is made that Hawk (Native American) is a bit behind them, hauling along Carmilla’s injured and semi-comatose creation Grok (Deathlok in my revisions)
REVISION: Everybody INCLUDING Hawk and – in my revisions – the NO LONGER INJURED Deathlok sit around the campfire, awaiting M’Shulla’s return.
Unrevised story: Killraven goes into another of his Visions courtesy of The Power (a pre-Star Wars version of The Force). As we now know, these visions are really KR randomly entering the minds of any aliens nearby and seeing through their eyes. He sees hundreds of black people, pounding drums, a baby being left out for a tentacled creature to grab and then the vision ends.
REVISION: No change, except it would be a mixed-race bunch of people. The weird, all-black settlement and the stereotypical jungle drums gave this inane story a silly “Killraven Does Blaxploitation” feel.
Unrevised story: M’Shulla returns with a deer he has caught ready to be skinned, cooked and eaten. After the meal the Freemen settle in to sleep for the night, with Old Skull voluntarily taking the first watch. Killraven visits with him briefly before going back into the cavern.
REVISIONS: No changes.
Unrevised story: Killraven idiotically grabs a torch and goes off alone, exploring the miles-long cavern. He doesn’t even tell the others that he’s doing this as another sign of the poor writing decisions in this issue.
After walking until what appears to be morning, he spots a large human settlement next to a vast subterranean lake. An enormous hole in the roof of the cave at this spot allows sunlight to enter.
From behind Killraven gets jumped by 7 or more black people who – despite being in WEST VIRGINIA OF THE FUTURE are dressed in loincloths and are using spears. For more idiocy the black attackers say things like “Jump the honky” and “Teach whitey his place!”
Killraven does not use his sword, photo-nuclear pistol nor his explosive throwing-stars because he does not want to seriously injure or kill potential human allies against the aliens. He fights off his attackers with his bare hands for awhile but eventually numbers tell the tale and he is hit from behind and knocked out.
“Whitey done got the fight kicked out of him, brothers” one of the black guys says. More dialogue reveals that Killraven is the first white man to fall into their hands in 9 years. The warriors carry Killraven across a loooong wooden bridge traversing the vast lake and when our main character comes to he is in the middle of the village, which thankfully enough is normal wooden buildings and not stereotypical huts.
Bill Mantlo’s blaxploitation writing continues as the groggy KR is pelted with small stones by the black children of the village who say things like “You is goin’ ta DIE, white man!” Killraven is tied to a stake in the center of the village and told to await the arrival of their Chief.
I swear I’m not making this up but the Chief shows up being carried in a stripped down, wheel-less cadillac chassis as if it’s a sedan chair or palanquin. (?) He announces himself to our hero by saying “I is the Head Man!” (Even the Spirit’s old sidekick Ebony would turn up his nose in disgust at the stereotyping in this story.)
The Chief, wearing a pimp hat, gold chains and a vest, has his bearers drop him off by the post KR is bound to. He regales Killraven with stories about racial tensions and explains that he and the other black people here migrated into this cave to hide from the war.
Our hero asks the Head Man why he saw a vision of this village sacrificing babies to the alien monstrosity in the lake. Chandra, the black man who led the warriors in attacking Killraven earlier, tells KR it’s none of his business. When the Head Man tries to calm Chandra down the latter kills him with his spear for letting “a white man talk to him like that.”
It becomes obvious that the bound Killraven will be substituting for the usual offering of a baby to the thing in the lake. The gigantic animal from the alien invaders’ home planet rises to the surface, apparently its extraterrestrial senses detected the freshly spilled blood of the Head Man. One of its tentacles grabs the dead Chief and the beast devours him.
The villagers retreat far away, except for Chandra. Killraven gives a cornball comic-book level (no other way to say it) speech to Chandra about how his people may have eluded the alien conquerors in the outside world but are just as surely enslaved to this creature in the lake.
Chandra has a mood swing and agrees with KR but before he can cut him free one of Chandra’s ankles is grabbed by the monster, who submerges with this bonus offering.
Just before he can be dragged underwater Chandra throws his knife to the post where KR is tied up. As heroes in fiction are able to do, Killraven somehow uses the knife near his bound hands to free himself, grabs his nearby sword and dives into the lake to help Chandra.
A Robert E Howard battle takes place underwater as KR slashes a few of the beast’s tentacles with his sword. Thus freed, Chandra swims to the surface to grab two spears then dives back in to help our hero.
The two use teamwork to slay the monster, but, since KR is still in its mind (the first time we’ve seen that he can do this with a non-intelligent Zetan/ Martian creature), he feels like he is “dying” with it, like happened at Death-Birth when he happened to kill the alien whose mind he was telepathically invading.
This time it is so intense that Killraven passes out from the ordeal. When he wakes up Chandra greets him, and says that KR has convinced him that he and his people cannot stay hidden any longer. They will all venture outside the cave, presumably to battle any aliens who come their way.
Killraven makes his way back through the cave to find the camp where he left the Freemen. Adding even more pointlessness to this story, Hawk and the unconscious Grok have caught up with them, but nobody has bothered to come looking for him, even though KR feels like he was gone for days.
Deciding that neither he nor we readers deserve any clarification about this our main character simply shrugs and joins the others in sleep. Stupid ending to a stupid, stupid story.
REVISIONS: Right at the top I’ll point out that I would have come up with another type of monster besides yet ANOTHER tentacled one. I would also have it emerge from the depths of the cave, NOT from a lake, since that’s too similar to the Devourer from a few chapters back.
I would also have ALL the Freemen in on the action. And the settlement would be mixed-race like I said above. As for changes to the story:
Since the premise for the Killraven stories was inspired by H.G. Wells, we could borrow from another Wells story, The Time Machine. The villagers would be people who fled into the cave before the surroundings became a jungle.
They would be living in the settlement by the lake – a clear lake in my revision. They would have plenty of drinking water and lots of fruits and vegetables to eat, but if they ever tried leaving the cave the creature would prevent them. They would be living contentedly except for occasionally sacrificing people – but not babies – to the beast on demand.
That demand could manifest itself in the form of a howling song-like noise from the creature. This would put readers in mind of the Morlocks summoning the Eloi AND would provide a meaning to the otherwise pointless title Sing Out Loudly … Death!
Chandra would help KR and the Freemen slay the creature, freeing them from its reign of terror. The villagers would then resolve to try to tame the surreal jungle outside while attacking any aliens or their quisling troops who enter.
Okay, this story was the absolute low point of the series. It’s back up from 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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