Monday, February 22, 2016

Dragonslayer (Marvel) (Ltd. 1981)

Dragonslayer!  An adaptation of a movie I've never seen or heard of, with Denny O'Neil doing the scripts and Marie Severin on the artwork.  The setting is solid: it's a sixth century England where the old ways of paganism, sorcery, and mystery are falling before the crusading monotheism of the Church.  These two issues are quite plot heavy!

In Issue # 1, one of the last of the great wizards, Ulrich, sees visions of a great monster rising in the land and sure enough, soon after, word comes of a massive dragon terrorizing the countryside.  Ulrich's apprentice, Galen, wants to slay the dragon, but Ulrich refuses.  When a representative of the king, an evil knight named Tyrian, arrives at the castle, Tyrian mocks Ulrich and doubts his power.  He arranges a test for the old wizard, which Ulrich intentionally fails and dies.  Galen takes an amulet worn by Ulrich and decides that, although he hardly has any magic power, he'll revenge himself on Tyrian and slay the dragon to boot!  After a rousing fight with the dragon, Galen thinks he's successfully buried it under a pile of rock.  But the king, instead of thanking him, decides that a wizard is too much of a threat to have running loose and throws him in the dungeon.  There's a subplot involving the king's daughter that I won't even try to shoehorn in here, but suffice it to say that she lets Galen loose--only to be confronted by Tyrian!

In Issue # 2, Galen escapes in an exciting scene: he tries to flee the evil king's castle on horseback, but the main gates are closed; so he turns back into the castle and leaps his horse towards a crumbled stone wall in the back and crashes through it!  Very cinematic.  Galen hides from the king and Tyrian by finding refuge with a girl named Valerian.  Valerian's father crafts him a special "dragonslayer" spear, and Valerian herself steals scales from the dragon's nest so her father can craft him a shield.  In molten caverns underground, Galen finally confronts the dragon (a good setting for an epic battle).  It's a stalemate until Galen realizes he can resurrect his mentor by opening the amulet and pouring the ashes onto the lava (apparently Ulrich's master plan from the beginning).  Although both Ulrich and the dragon are slain, the threat is ended and Galen emerges triumphant, but knowing that he is the last of the true sorcerers that will ever walk the land.  A new age has dawned, and the days of magic are withering away.

The theme of the comic--a last hurrah for magic that would dwindle to nothingness with the time of Christianity--was really well done, and made the story much more interesting than the standard fantasy setting.  There were some scenes that I could imagine would be pretty exciting on the screen, so I may actually try to track down a copy of the movie!

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