If you were a fantasy person in the 80s, your options were kind of limited. You could read Tolkien, or any one of five thousand Tolkien imitators. You could whip out your D20 and some graph paper and your Monster Manual and you could have a spirited game of Dungeons & Dragons until Mom threw everybody out for laughing too loud at the joke about somebody's "magic missile." You could go to the local video store and rent "Conan" again for the 30th time. Or, you could create your own original fantasy comics, full of all the wizards and warriors and tunnels and trolls your imagination could create, or at least borrow from somebody else's culture or mythology. And that's just what happened!
Like an etheral phantom glimpsed airbrushed on the side of a custom van, the cover of "Darkewood" promises us weirdly ripped monsters, be-turbaned wizards, and Victoria's Secret runway models all possessed of various glowing mystical powers. It also promises that we'll be mightily confused since this is issue 4 of a 5 part mini-series. No, surely the editors of this fine publication would make sure to add some sort of caption or explanatory text that would gently introduce potential new readers to this amazing world, right?
Well, no. What we DO get is an admission that a full color comic book is really expensive to print, so "Darkewood" is being cancelled next issue, and our darkelings will drift back into the nethermists and I will be putting this comic book back on the rack at the local comic shop, and then thirty years later I'll pick it up at a steep discount. Now that's the kind of mystical wizardry I can get behind.
Speaking of "getting behind," if there's one thing your fantasy comic really needs on page one to hook those readers, it's an angry blue woman sporting that well known fantasy universe accoutrement, the thong. Oh, and there's a paragraph about wrath and dwarves and a fortress-tree and "spider gobbelins," that's all you need to know, enjoy your fantasy.
Now you may think that when you see a guy with giant hair and a headband and an earring and an expression that says "I am coked out of my skull!" that you might be reading a comic book produced in the decade of the 1980s. And you'd be right. The McDonaldland Trees add support to our chemically enhanced thesis.
Anar The Mistress Of The Thong has a complicated relationship with Shirtless Headband Guy, she tries to kill him with her spider gobbelins, and he grins inanely because, as we mentioned before, cocaine. It's a hell of a drug.
You guys don't seem to be happy to be rescued by the McDonaldland Fry Tree. What's the matter? Don't you enjoy crispy golden french fries?
Look, if you're going to be a character in this comic book, either you get the giant 80s hair metal wig, or you get the thong. Take your pick.
She is really determined to catch that guy. I think she wants to steal his pants. It's probably getting kinda breezy up there in the treetops.
Volkolis commands it! All the wardens - including Anar-Akni - are summoned to Darkelin Hill! And if you're hair metal hair guy this is astounding! Because everything is astounding when you're on the right combination of stylish 80s stimulant chemicals!
Our lives are so busy - filled with careers, family, obligations, trying to murder each other with spider gobbelins - that even simple conversations are neglected. This relationship needs work! And pants!
The next evening at Darkelin Hill, some Roman legionaires stand around and participate in the ancient Darkelin custom of "expository dialogue."
This is either a gang of wizards about to summon a new Darkelin King, or an illustration major's final project in his three-point perspective assignment. Or maybe both.
look, there are a lot of things we need to do before the Drakulords grow strong enough to break the barrier! We have to sweep and mop the floors, vacuum those tapestries, and somebody's gotta clean that bathroom. Who's turn is it?
Also, "Drakulords" is an awesome name for a fantasy comic and if they'd used it for this comic book I bet they wouldn't have cancelled it after five issues. Just say it with me. "Drakulords."
I will say this for the throne room at Darkelin Hill, there's a great selection of vending machines.
So I know what you're thinking, sure, this comic is covering all the fantasy world bases, but it somehow needs to get even more mystical and ethereal. Can we sort of dial up the crystal-gazing new agey astral spirit quotient up two or three notches?
Yes! yes we can.
In fact, we can crank this cosmic Pink Floyd album cover nonsense up ALL THE WAY.
And just when they were grooving on those cosmic universal love vibrations, here comes Gorynych The Drakulord, making his bid for kinghood!
But quick work by our King Selection Committee sends Gorynych The Drakulord back to Drakulordland. I dunno guys, I didn't see any other potential kings waiting around. Maybe you gotta go with the guy that wants it the most.
Remember, a soul-death is final! Almost like a, what do you call it, a regular normal type death!
Whenever things get confusing, the best course of action is to find the oldest tree in the forest and ask his advice. Well, first you'll have to help him set the clock on his microwave and remove all the spam and spyware from his desktop computer. Who even uses AOL any more?
Two things for which we can thank the world of fantasy: number one, warning us of the schemes of the Drakulord, and number two, giving bald guys with beards an achievable option for every event that might require a costume. Find a cloak and a stick, and hey presto, you're a wizard!
They're off to see the wizard - or the most ancient tree in the forest, maybe he's a wizard, I dunno - but hark! What's that up in the sky? Could it be that Drakulord has vampires? And we don't just call them "vampires", but we have a fakey made-up fantasy name for them as well? Sure we do! Now look out!
The Troll Shaman is leading the opyrs, which are the vampires of the Drakulords, against Volkolis and his party of Darkelin Wardens, but that's all beside the point. The point is that it's been at least five pages since we've experienced the most vital element of any fantasy epic, which is to say a sexy lady in a thong bikini.
And just like that, Darkewood delivers with not one but two busty fantasy ladies in abbreviated and, in the case of butterfly wing girl here, patently ridiculous outfits. I think the flying dragon thing, I think that's an opyr, I think the opry speaks for us all here by trying to destroy it utterly.
Some hideous scaly monster with a surprisingly healthy head of hair is gnawing at your upper arm, what's the expression you're going to go with? Boredom, you're going to go with exasperated boredom? Okay then.
Damn the Drakulords! Also damn the people that said "hey girlie, sure there are horrifying scaly monsters everywhere in this fantasy world of ours, but you don't want to burden yourself with things like armor or leather coats or shirts or pants. Just walk around in your underwear. You'll be fine! And you'll get lots of tips! Trust me!"
Things look terrible for our band of heroes - the Victoria's Secret model is bleeding, Baba Yaga's head is growing by the minute, and Axe Dude here just realized he's wearing a pig's head for a helmet!
It's Kreznik Triumphant as his evil plan to take the throne for himself comes to fruition! But will his plan to "catch a ride" also succeed? Only Uber knows! Or maybe Lyft! Do they have Lyft in the fantasy world?
Just want to point out that this is a comic book that has wasted entire pages showing us throne rooms and outer space monolith seances, and still can take the time to give us this little moment where a purple three-eyed dragon pokes his head through a magic portal, making Kreznik all happy and excited.
All will bow before King "Three-Arms" Kreznik! And just like that, part four of our amazing five part fantasy saga comes to a close. Maybe one day we'll uncover the exciting climax of this tale, we'll see how the evil Drakulords are defeated and Kreznik is cast down and maybe the ladies will get to wear pants or skirts or otherwise cover their knees for a panel or two. Who knows? Only the oldest tree in the forest of Darkewood, that's who!
Lastly, let's check in with our publisher.
Look, it's not fascist iconography if you're completely ignorant of context or history, okay? Okay! Aircel Publishing, which grew out of an insulation company, would have financial difficulties right around the time this comic was published, and would eventually merge with Eternity Comics which would merge with Malibu Comics which would merge with Marvel Comics, who would fire everybody. I bet Volkolis didn't see that coming!
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