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.
KILLRAVEN: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL (1983) – Killraven and his Freemen continued their guerilla war against Earth’s alien conquerors. In the 7th of its official line of graphic novels, Marvel Comics let writer Don McGregor and artist Craig Russell wrap up some of the storylines left dangling by the cancellation of the 1973-1976 series of Killraven stories. In the previous post I detailed how McGregor had, in the meantime, transferred many of the Killraven story elements and time period to his independent 1978 graphic novel Sabre.
In the meantime Eclipse Comics had signed McGregor to write a regularly published Sabre comic book series. In late 1982 the original black & white graphic novel was colorized and reprinted in serialized form in the first few issues of the new Sabre series. Unfortunately for Killraven fans that immediately made our red-headed rebel leader into the proverbial red-headed step-child among McGregor’s works.
Understandably – and fairly obviously – Don McGregor was already saving up his best ideas for his own Sabre title, reducing this last chance for closure on the Killraven saga to a rushed, mundane, unsatisfying mess devoid of much of what had made the original series worthwhile. Even the dialogue, despite a few flashes of the old KR style here and there, was lackluster and pedestrian.
Killraven and his Freemen seemed like pale imitations being handled by a fill-in writer as Don McGregor virtually Rian Johnson’ed his own characters. I’ll examine that in detail as we move along, but first let’s look at some of the changes necessitated by real-world events in the years between 1976 and 1983.
*** First, through no fault of Don McGregor or the original Killraven artists, Darth Vader became a huge pop culture figure in 1977. KR’s main alien villain, the High Overlord (introduced in 1974), had worn full-body armor and a Japanese feudal helmet like the kind Darth Vader went on to wear in Star Wars. Obviously, Star Wars was so much better known than the canceled Killraven series that this 1983 graphic novel dropped the helmet for the High Overlord to avoid looking like their villain was a ripoff of Vader, despite the fact that the High Overlord predated Star Wars.
That alteration to the look of the High Overlord was far from fatal, but became another of the distracting elements undermining this continuation of the KR story. Those other elements:
*** Killraven IS Peter Pan! For some odd reason Killraven was no longer being drawn as the long-haired Fabio/ Chippendale Dancer sex-bomb that he was in the original series. He was now depicted like he was a comparatively scrawny teenager with short Peter Pan hair. It was a bizarre 1983 forerunner of the modern trope of soying down a formerly badass hero.
*** Huey and Louie, the two newest Freemen, were dropped from the story and not even mentioned, possibly because McGregor was already planning to introduce Deuces Wild and Summer Ice in his new Sabre series. Again, you can’t really blame Don. Why bother using two characters who could never be openly gay at Marvel Comics in 1983 when he could make Deuces Wild and Summer Ice VERY OPENLY gay over at the more adult-oriented Eclipse Comics?
*** McGregor had already repackaged some of the planned Killraven story in the 1978 Sabre tale. For a full list see the previous KR post. This time around I’ll just rehash two of the biggest items that had to be rejected for this Killraven graphic novel since they had already been done in the 1978 work –
Post-Apocalypse Disney World – Sabre’s adventure took place in 2020 Disney World, which was clearly the
Magic Kingdom “enchanted village” that the Freemen were approaching when KR was canceled in 1976.
Blackstar Blood – The red-headed Blackstar Blood, leader of the elite mercenaries in Sabre, was quite possibly what Killraven’s brother Deathraven, leader of the Mercenary Elite (see Red Dust Legacy), was ORIGINALLY supposed to look like. (Probably without the eye-patch though.) Instead this graphic novel gave us a comparatively unimpressive Deathraven (more on that below).
*** A few erroneous references to the High Overlord as “the Overseer” (the main villain in Sabre) slipped by McGregor and/or the proofreaders.
I’ll pepper in the rest of the problems as we go along in this 4-chapter graphic novel:
CHAPTER ONE: LAST DREAMS BROKEN – The 1973-1976 Killraven stories ended in Florida in January of 2020. Sabre’s Disney World clash with his title’s villains took place in that same month. This Killraven graphic novel starts off in February 2020 near Cape Canaveral, Florida.
We learn that Killraven’s possession of “The Power” led him to this site of great activity by Earth’s alien conquerors. Like they did before assaulting the alien fortress of Death-Birth in Chicago, the Freemen are staking out Cape Canaveral to carefully plan their attack.
Instead of being a ruin, like many other remaining Earth centers, Cape Canaveral has been overhauled and upgraded by the aliens and their human quislings. The futuristic space center sees a lot of traffic from the spaceships and airships of Earth’s alien conquerors – Martians in the original stories but Zetans in my revisions.
It is nighttime. While Old Skull stands watch over the Freemen’s camp, M’Shulla and Carmilla Frost have sex, distracting Killraven from sleep and reminding him how much he misses the voluptuous Volcana Ash, who left the Freemen months ago. KR and Old Skull have a long talk to pass the night, a talk that was well-written and makes you wish the rest of the story lived up to it.
(As stated above, Huey and Louie – revised by me into the two-headed androgynous being called Didymus – have been dropped completely and never mentioned, despite the orgy of fan-service references to the original KR series. Deathlok, my substitute for Grok in an Ultimate Killraven spirit, would still be there along with Didymus in my revisions.)
Presumably, Killraven’s use of The Power is cloaking himself and his Freemen from the sensor devices of the aliens, like in the original series, but we aren’t told this specifically. Carmilla Frost and M’Shulla rejoin the others and after some lamely written attempts to rekindle the old group chemistry and bantering, Old Skull is left to continue standing guard. He is unaware that a shadowy figure is observing the Freemen’s camp in the forest darkness.
The next morning Carmilla becomes convinced she is late enough with her period that she must be pregnant with M’Shulla’s baby. Sabre ended with blonde Melissa Siren pregnant with the African-American Sabre’s baby, you’ll recall. Both couples were interracial – bold for 1970s comic books but less unusual by 1983 comic book standards.
With a casual reference, Killraven makes it clear that he can now CONTROL his formerly random invasions of the minds of the aliens. He says “in the last month” he has learned to control that aspect of The Power, which may be a reference to story elements we’d have seen in Killraven’s original version of the Disney World adventure that got cannibalized for Sabre.
It’s another distraction to just suddenly be TOLD he can control that ability and it underlines the haphazard, catch-as-catch-can way this story was put together. While Old Skull guards Killraven’s body and the other Freemen stay alert for trouble, KR enters the mind of a Martian/ Zetan inside Cape Canaveral.
This alien whose mind he has entered is the commander in charge of Cape Canaveral. As Killraven sees and hears and senses things telepathically through the alien who is unaware his mind is being monitored, he is shocked at the presence of the High Overlord.
The High Overlord and the alien being monitored by KR make enigmatic references to something called Project Regenesis as they walk amid the alien technology in Cape Canaveral. (Don’t bother getting excited about Project Regenesis. It winds up being one of the examples of Don McGregor ignoring continuity and Rian Johnson-ing his past stories.)
One of the human quislings that the High Overlord and KR’s oblivious “host” talk with is Keeper Saunders … AND KILLRAVEN DOESN’T REACT TO THAT! He, like regular Killraven readers, know full well that Keeper Saunders was the man who took away his brother Joshua for unknown experiments as a child just like he (KR) was taken away by Keeper Whitman.
It’s another “Self-Rian Johnsoning” moment for McGregor. KR should IMMEDIATELY know that Saunders’ presence probably means his brother Joshua may be there, too, or at least that he should try abducting Keeper Saunders to learn if Joshua is still being held at Yellowstone Park.
But nope. Not even a reaction from KR. And ultimately McGregor is saving the Yellowstone Park elements originally intended for Killraven for his new Sabre stories, instead.
At any rate, Killraven’s mind returns to his body and he fills in the Freemen on the presence of the High Overlord inside futuristic Cape Canaveral. Carmilla Frost finds it suspiciously convenient that the High Overlord should show up just as they have come upon this place. That’s a perfect setup for KR to say “Not only that but Keeper Saunders is here, the man whose presence in Yellowstone Park with my brother Joshua drove our quest to find that place for several months now.”
Nothing, though. But Killraven tells his Freemen about Project Regenesis and what it means. I’ll call it Project Rian Johnson instead, since it ignores the fact that the original Killraven stories told us that the aliens were forced to conquer Earth and move here because their home planet had become unsustainable.
Now we’re told the aliens are just going to carve out large chunks of minerals and oil from inside the Earth and take it with them back to their planet. Oh, and they’re still going to keep eating human beings, too, in a rare bit of consistency.
Remember Red Dust Legacy, in which the Freemen’s actions tragically tipped the balance in favor of those aliens who advocated for completely exterminating human beings instead of feeding upon us and using us for slave labor. I’d have revised this 1983 graphic novel so that the “shocking” project Killraven learned about was instead the fact that the High Overlord, acknowledging the will of the rest of his race, had okayed something instead called Project Genocide, a Final Solution to the human problem.
Anyway, while KR and his Freemen hold a stunned discussion about how to stop Project Regenesis, they are approached by the shadowy figure who watched their camp the previous night. She is an older, but not quite elderly woman in outdated clothing, with a plasma-ray rifle on her shoulder.
Our heroes ask her who she is and she replies “Me? I’m a relic. I’m obsolete. I’m what used to be called … an astronaut.” And that’s the cliffhanger ending for this first chapter of the Killraven graphic novel.
NOTE: For newbies to the KR stories, the alien invasion happened 19 years earlier, so it’s not that outrageous that an actual, surviving astronaut from the pre-invasion era might still be alive.
FOR THE NEXT PART CLICK HERE
FOR MY LOOK AT HOMBRE, SPAIN’S POST-APOCALYPTIC COMIC BOOK FROM THE 1980s, CLICK HERE
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