Friday, June 12, 2009

Showcase #84

Showcase #84 (On Sale: June 12, 1969) has a Nightmaster cover by Joe Kubert.

"Come Darkness, Come Death" is by Denny O'Neil and Bernie Wrightson, with an artistic assist from Mike Kaluta and Jeff Jones. Nightmaster Jim Rook and his barbarian friend, Tark, and the mentally-challenged albino guide, Boz hold one-side of a chasm. The warlocks and their mystical flying ship and Nightmaster's captured fiance, Janet, are on the other. In frustration Jim picks a fight with Tark, but it is soon interrupted when smoke from the warlock's ship drifts across the chasm, materializing into ribbons of evil which then forms into two giant spiders. The magic of the spiders is no match for the magic of the Sword of Night, and Jim defeats the two spiders.

But the court wizard has other ideas and sends forth blizzard winds which carry thousands of spiders toward our heroes. Horribly outnumbered, they make there way towards a cave only to have their path cut off by the spiders. As Jim prepares for the onslaught, thousands of rays of light streak from the cave and blast the spiders, obliterating them. Tark knows that only one man could have the power to create such a spell and guesses that the cave they have found is the home of Mar-Grouch the Mystic.

They enter the cave and beseech Mar-Grouch to return Janet from the clutches of the warlocks, something he agrees to do. However, the Court Wizard has cast a spell over Janet, turning her into a servant girl named Mizzi and commanding her to kill the Nightmaster if she can. Mar-Grouch's spell returns Mizzi and Jim is incensed that Mar-Grouch got the wrong girl. Still, Mar-Grouch offers one last bit of aid to the group, some wings they can wear to cross the chasm and attack the warlocks.

The wings are powered by crystals found on the ground and they are told to gather into pouches only the green crystals to make the wings fly, but to avoid the yellow crystals which attract the Arivegs, hideous flying plants. But Mizzi fills Jim's pouch and fills it full of yellow crystals, causing the Arivegs to attack Jim. Tark takes hold of Jim as he tosses his pouch away and they continue on their way to the ship.

Once inside they confront the warlocks but are subdued by mystic gases. When Nightmaster awakens he and Tark are tied up in the hold of the ship and are soon to be tortured and killed, but the warlock, Duke Spero wants to know why Jim Rook has been fighting, why he has not returned to Earth where he belongs and Jim says it is because of his love for Janet. Somehow his speech reaches through the spell fogging Mizzi's/Janet's mind and she decides to help. While Spero is boasting, Mizzi secretly cuts Jim's ropes and moments later when Spero reveals that Mizzi is really Jan, Jim leaps into action, forcing Spero and his wizard to flee through a dimensional vortex to Earth, with Jim and Janet in hot pursuit.

Jim forces the warlocks back through the portal to Myrra. Jim and Janet stumble out into the street, where they walk together in silence for hours. As the sun is rising they speak of what a dream, a fantasy they both shared and how it could not possibly have been real. Then Jim Rook feels the cold hard steel of the Sword of Night in his hands and knows that though he is Jim Rook, he is also Nightmaster.

This is the last of the Nightmaster series. Being Bernie Wrightson's first full book, his two Nightmaster stories are pretty uneven artistically and have ample assists from friends such as Mike Kaluta and Jeff Jones (such as in the half-page above, obviously penciled by Jeff Jones).

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

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