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 #34 (January 1976)
Freemen: Killraven, M’Shulla (African-American), Old Skull (Big, bald and brawny), Hawk (Native American), Carmilla Frost (The scientist of the group) and Grok, Carmilla’s creation (Deathlok in my revisions)
Title: A Death in the Family
NOTE: Despite the singular title, TWO Freemen are slain in this story.
Synopsis: The war-ravaged ruins of Chattanooga, TN. July, 43 years in the future. Killraven and his Freemen continue their uprising against Earth’s alien conquerors. (Zetans in my revisions, NOT the ridiculous Martians in the original comic book.)
Killraven, M’Shulla and Carmilla Frost are using an old, abandoned horse-racing track to race each other on their separate mounts. KR is riding his usual pinkish-red serpent-stallion, while the other two ride similarly chimeric creatures spawned by residue of the bio-warfare agents unleashed 18 years earlier in Earth’s unsuccessful war against the alien invaders.
M’Shulla rides a two-legged ostrich-giraffe beast with cattle horns on its head. Carmilla rides a cougar-horse hybrid that sports a unicorn’s horn on its forehead. The Freemen have obviously been camping in the area for some time since the two new creatures are every bit as saddle-broken as Killraven’s reliable old serpent-stallion.
REVISION: As I pointed out two installments ago I would have most of the American southeast overgrown with mutated plant life from the bio-warfare residue, forming an almost impenetrable jungle in places. I adopted this change to justify why Carmilla Frost – a scientist – could be so off-course for Yellowstone Park, where the Freemen are headed to find Killraven’s long-lost brother.
As I said before, the sun rises in the east. You need to head west, so go in the opposite direction. There is no reason Carmilla would keep leading the group SOUTH instead of west if they were in wide-open spaces.
Therefore, my makeshift jungle would be forcing the Freemen to take such a roundabout, circuitous route, either from the jungle itself being impenetrable in places, or due to insurmountable canyons caused by war damage or other hazardous distortions in the landscape.
Back to the unrevised story: Killraven, M’Shulla and Carmilla shout playful, competitive taunts to each other above the pounding of their creatures’ hooves. KR bursts into the lead but M’Shulla cheats by kicking the serpent-stallion to distract it.
He moves ahead of the cursing Killraven but, in a development which is a trope here in 2019 but was NOT back in 1976, Carmilla comes riding past both of them to win the race. She does an intentionally flamboyant dismount and jokes with KR and M’Shulla as they cross the finish line.
M’Shulla takes Carmilla into his arms and congratulates her with a few kisses. (Their interracial romance was bold for a 1976 comic book and in fact the pair had shared the very first interracial kiss in color comic book history.)
Meanwhile, back at the Freemen’s camp, Hawk, seated by a waterfall, is breaking down his photo-nuclear rifle for maintenance while telling Old Skull he hopes KR and the others get back before nightfall. He doesn’t like having their forces split in half like this, especially with Grok STILL injured and only half-conscious on his cot.
REVISION: As always, in a kind of “Ultimate Killraven” way, I would have had Deathlok be part of the Freemen as a substitute for Grok. He would still share the same secret with his creator Carmilla Frost that Grok does, but my revisions had Deathlok recovered and back in action THREE installments ago.
Back to the unrevised story: Old Skull asks Hawk how he liked his (Old Skull’s) pan-flute playing just now. Hawk is noncommittal and Old Skull says he just doesn’t appreciate good music. Hawk replies “Music is within me. I do not expect you to understand that. An internal beat.”
Old Skull instead asks Grok if HE wants to hear some more music. The monstrous Grok makes with one of his usual unintelligible grunts and the child-like Old Skull pretends he said yes. Hawk smiles wryly at Old Skull’s behavior and resumes work on his photonuclear rifle.
Unknown to any of the Freemen, the enigmatic yellow-skinned being Skar (Warscar in my revisions) is nearby in his tripod. The entity has hunted for our heroes for several issues at the behest of the High Overlord. He has parked his vehicle so that it blends in with the tall trees in the area yet still affords him a line of fire at the rebels’ camp.
Skar/Warscar opens his attack on the Freemen by firing a ray-blast that takes down Old Skull as he plays on his pan-flute. In a nice bit of suspense-building, writer Don McGregor does not let the reader know if the rebel is still alive. Since the splash-page of this issue announced that two Freemen would be killed there is genuine tension in the air.
Hawk, his photo-nuclear rifle still disassembled knows if he runs to Old Skull or to get another weapon he will be cut down by whoever is attacking them. As he flees, using the rocky landscape near the waterfall for cover, he sees Skar/ Warscar, now on foot. He recognizes the being from the Freemens’ encounter with him outside Indianapolis earlier in the year.
As always the gaping black hole above Skar’s mouth shoots deadly energy beams, which Hawk continues to dodge. At one point the beam disintegrates a rock behind which the Native American was crouching and he must run again.
His pursuer mocks him, “Freeman? HA! Run, Free … Man! Perhaps you’ll find your long sought freedom in death!”
REVISION: All this is fine but since I would have Deathlok on hand he would shoot at Skar/ Warscar with his laser pistol but the being would dodge the rays. Deathlok would hurl himself upon the yellow-skinned being and a physical battle of titans would begin.
Elsewhere, Killraven, M’Shulla and Carmilla Frost have come upon a very old automobile graveyard and are looking for any parts or supplies they can scavenge. Killraven is haunted by odd memories that the vehicles seem to summon up within him. NOTE: KR does not know it yet but these memories are part of his growing control of The Power, a pre-Star Wars version of The Force. They are part of the knowledge of humanity’s collective past which Keeper Whitman implanted in him when he was a boy.
Killraven muses aloud that he had long thought Keeper Whitman was one of the Earth scientists who sold out mankind to the alien conquerors just to be able to continue their research. He feels he may have misjudged him ever since the day when the Freemen invaded Keeper Whitman’s New York laboratory and learned about KR’s possession of The Power. (This was in the very first Killraven story.)
Carmilla replies that she too has been misunderstood because of the way she served as Keeper Frost for years long ago before she and her creation Grok joined the Freemen. Killraven, exasperated with the way Carmilla has kept Grok’s secret all this time, insists that she finally MUST tell everyone the creature’s secret.
She at last relents and tells KR and M’Shulla that Grok is really her father. Long ago when she and her father were already quislings working for the aliens one of the tentacled alien overlords strangled her father to death in front of her and forced her to experiment on him.
In emotional agony over the situation, she did experiment on him and, months later, the monstrous Grok was the result.
REVISION: As I wrote way back in Part Four, I would have had the project that Carmilla was working on be Project: Deathlok. This project would have started during humanity’s futile war against the alien invaders and involved trying to use dead soldiers as refitted cyborgs against the Martians/ Zetans.
Humanity never got the project to work but with the aliens’ advanced technology Carmilla Frost DID get it to work. She created Deathlok from her dead soldier father, whose corpse she was shocked to find among the dead experimental subjects. Deciding that Killraven was the kind of rebel leader she had been hoping for, she and her creation joined him and his Freemen.
Back to the unrevised story: As Killraven and M’Shulla console Carmilla for the ordeal she and her father have been through, they arrive at a site where they spot Skar/ Warscar’s parked Tripod. Seeing the name The Devil’s Marauder stenciled on the side, the rebels immediately know it is the craft driven by their old foe.
“He’s gone toward the camp” Carmilla says, angrily. Killraven orders M’Shulla “Mud-Brother, I don’t care how you do it, but take that damnable tripod apart. We’ll let it rust here as a marker to Skar’s end.”
KR and Carmilla speed toward the camp, where Killraven runs to the fallen Old Skull. “He is filled with a wrenching sense of loss he thought he’d never feel again. And he realizes they can still take things from him … there are still things he cares that much about.”
Old Skull, lying in his own blood, forces himself to speak “What’s wrong with YOU Mr Killraven? Old Skull don’t feel so well, Mr Killraven. He hurts kinda bad, but he’ll … be … all … right.”
Reassured, KR draws his photo-nuclear pistol and plunges into the surrounding wilderness looking for Skar. Carmilla draws her radium pistol and searches in another direction. Hawk continues to elude the close-behind Skar. (REVISION: I would have had Skar momentarily overcome Deathlok and knock him in the waterfall. The cyborg would be slowly pulling his heavy body out of the water and back up the sheer falls, unknown to Warscar.)
Cut to M’Shulla, in the cockpit of The Devil’s Marauder, ripping out wires and managing as much other damage as he can.
REVISION: Since it was established last time around that Warscar could communicate with the High Overlord from the Devil’s Marauder I would have given the wry funny man M’Shulla a scene with the High Overlord – named Abraxas in my revisions. While sabotaging the tripod, the Freeman would accidentally initiate contact with the High Overlord, who would have answered, expecting it to be Warscar on the other end.
Instead, it is M’Shulla, throwing insults at him. The High Overlord would sneeringly address our hero by his old gladiator name Bloodarrow, only to be corrected by the Freeman, who reminds him he went back to his birth name M’Shulla long ago.
Abraxas would contemptuously mock M’Shulla over “the psychology of Terran identity obsessions.” M’Shulla, annoyed, would hurl another insult at the High Overlord before firing one of his crossbow bolts into the communication screen, ending the transmission.
Back to the unrevised story: Skar is returning to his vessel, unknown to M’Shulla. As tension rises now that M’Shulla might be one of the Freemen who gets killed, Skar starts to climb the metal ladder to the cockpit.
From behind the yellow being, Carmilla Frost opens fire with her radium pistol. Skar turns to deal with her and from long-range he magnetically seizes the gun from her hand and pulls it to him, where he crushes it in his grip.
His attention drawn by the shots fired, M’Shulla gives up sabotaging The Devil’s Marauder and aims his crossbow at Skar. He orders Skar to stay away from Carmilla but the entity ignores him.
While Carmilla kickboxes (as we would call it today) Skar from the front, M’Shulla fires crossbow bolts made from alien metal at the being from behind, then clambers down to close range. Skar manhandles both rebels, leaving them lying dazed before him.
The dark gash above Skar’s mouth begins to warm up to fire again. From a cliff above him, Killraven appears. He leaps down, slamming into Skar and plunging his sword into the gash before it can fire.
Skar rises, disdainfully pulling the sword out of his head and tossing it aside. “I hope that wasn’t your best, human … or was it?” he says to Killraven.
KR and Skar now grapple physically while Carmilla and M’Shulla recover and stagger to their feet. Grok crawls toward the conflict, looking at Carmilla and thinking “Daughter … so long since he’s been able to say the word. He still can’t. That was another lifetime. Daughter is now the mother.”
Meanwhile Skar manages to deck Killraven, who pulls himself up while saying “You will have to break every bone in my body, Skar. Every one. And you will still have to be afraid that I will keep coming for you.”
Hawk appears nearby and the Freemen all surround Skar in the twilight. Skar looks up and uses the gash on his face to shoot rays that blast the cliffside, unleashing a deadly rockslide.
Hawk tries to pull the crawling Grok to safety, but there’s not enough time and both of them get crushed to death beneath the falling rocks. Skar laughs triumphantly.
A furious Killraven shoots Skar with shot after shot from his photo-nuclear pistol, at last managing to penetrate the skin and revealing that Skar is actually a robot and is incapable of feeling pain.
Despite the way Killraven is now managing to blast him to pieces, Skar continues laughing, further infuriating KR since he longs to make Skar feel the pain he has inflicted on the Freemen this day.
Dropping his pistol, Killraven now hurls himself upon the fallen android, pounding his fist into the limbless husk that remains. Narration tells us “He lashes out again and again, knowing that the pain in his hands and the torn wires and broken robot parts won’t change anything.”
“Feel pain, damn you,” Killraven screams in frustration but the Skar android merely laughs once more before oblivion takes it.
REVISION: All that is fine, but obviously I would have Deathlok survive since his character had massive untapped potential. Grok might have, too, but McGregor threw it all away for some reason. Anyway, as painful a loss as it is, Hawk alone would die in my revision, leaving Killraven, M’Shulla, Old Skull, Carmilla Frost and Deathlok still alive.
This issue once again reached the heights that this series is remembered for. And there are more such highs to come in the remaining chapters.
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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