Conqueror of the Barren Earth, “The Warrior!”
Written by Gay Cohn
Art and Cover by Ron Randall
Edited by Ross Andru
Before diving into this issue I want to mention something about exclamation points. In the scanned pages, and in my quotations of dialogue, you’ll notice that pretty much every sentence that isn’t a question ends with an exclamation point.
There are two reasons for this:
1. Due to the limitations of the printing technology of the day, periods could easily get lost in the jumble of lettering.
2. It added excitement!
I just thought that was worth mentioning.
In any case, when we left off, Jinal and Zhengla found that their camp was surrounded by a massive assemblage of Harahashan hordes, presumably brought together by Barasha.
As Zhengla, Jinal, and Zhengla’s forces stare out across the desert at the Harahashan, Jinal comments on the fact that it feels good to have her weapons restored to her. Zhengla notes that as his consort she’s earned the right to wield them once again, and she pledges that she will wield them in his service.
Yisrah informs JInal that he’s thrilled that she has seen reason, and he begins to suggest that the two of them can steer Zhengla to serve their ends, but Jinal cuts him off, unwilling to listen to such mutinous speculation.
*Sigh* Oh, Jinal.
The leaders of the Harahashan ride out to parlay with Zhengla, who, along with Jinal, Yisrah, and his captains, rides out to greet them.
Jinal sees that Renna and Skinner are at Barasha’s side as they approach. Zhengla states that he has no quarrel with the Harahashan, as his interest is in conquering the civilized world.
Barasha, however, states that he and his hordes have many quarrels with Zhengla, such as the theft of the waterworks, the slaughter of their allies in Arq, and last – but certainly not least – the kidnapping of Jinal.
Barasha is shocked and appalled when Jinal states that she is with Zhengla willingly, referring to him as her “lord and love.” He determines that Jinal is simply trying to prevent the battle, and insists that blood must be spilled for the many offenses committed by Zhengla.
Yisrah suggests that as the quarrel is primarily between Barasha and Zhengla the matter might be resolved in single combat.
Barasha and Zhengla agree.
While Zhengla’s attention is focused on Barasha, Skinner considers making his move, not feeling bound by the same code of honor that the two leaders adhere to.
Then this happens:
|I'm with you, Skinner: ಠ_ಠ|
Barasha insists that he would never serve Zhengla, but Jinal points out that he had previously sworn to serve her, and given that Zhengla’s cause is now hers…
Ultimately, Barasha decide that this is the honorable path and he swears to serve Zhengla “so long as does the Little One.”
A bit like Yoda Barasha talks.
The other Harahashan leaders declare that Barasha doesn’t speak for them, and they prepare to leave, but Jinal makes an appeal to them to ride with Zhengla, one which resonates with the assembled lizard men, and they agree to join the cause.
Renna and Skinner also agree to join with them, and Jinal prepares to have a joyous reunion, but then she seems to shut down, and while acknowledging that she’s pleased to see them, goes off to attend to Zhengla’s wounds.
As she walks away, Yisrah informs them that they will find that Jinal has changed a great deal, and advises them to be patient.
Meanwhile, in the floating city of D’Roz, the Old Ones have received word from their “agent” that Jinal has united the Harahashan hordes under the banner of Zhengla, and they decide that they must take action lest Jinal and Zhengla forge an empire that can challenge them.
We then cut to the ship being manned – insected? – by the Qlov who crashed to Earth back when Jinal did. After their encounter with the Old Ones (in the backup stories), they lost contact with their people in space, and since that time they have been roving the globe in search of a signal, a signal that they find at last, though it seems to be coming from Earth itself.
Back at Zhengla’s camp, Renna and Skinner inform Jinal that they’ve been made Zhengla’s retainers. Jinal is pleased, but when her friends ask her what her angle is, she informs them that she doesn’t have one. Everything is as it appears to be, and she is with Zhengla all the way.
In answer to Renna’s, “What happened to you, blondie?” Jinal replies, ”I’ve learned how this world works and my proper role here! It’s a lesson you tow would be well-advised to learn!”
She leaves them behind to check on Barasha, who tells her of the struggles that he and the others went through just to rescue her. For her part, Jinal has this to say:
|Don't try making me feel bad for you, Jin: I'm still mad at you.|
All except Jinal question the wisdom of challenging the Old Ones, but Zhengla’s mind is made up, and in the morning they ride for S’Keen. Along the way they encounter an airship, which broadcasts a message from the Old Ones, inviting him to follow the ship to D’Roz where they may confer. Though Jinal believes it to be a trap, Zhengla chooses to follow.
The ship leads them through territory dotted with pyramid-like structures, structures which seem eerily to familiar to Jinal. As she realizes that they resemble primitive versions of Qlov structures, the ship speeds away, and suddently Zhengla’s forces are beset by hundreds of Qlov, albeit smaller, more primitive versions than the ones JInal knows.
However, the more familiar Qlov in their ship are leading their pygmy cousins.
Jinal manages to take down the Qlov ship, and she and Zhengla bring the battle to the crew, where Zhengla soon learns that his sword is no match against the thick hides of the Qlov.
However, amazing everyone present, especially Jinal, the Qlov prove no match against Zhengla:
|Zhengla goes all Granch on the Qlov.|
From there they march on S’Keen, with Jinal piloting the Qlov ship, which she uses to take down the embassy suspended above the city by setting the ship on a collision course with the pillar of energy that kept the embassy aloft.
Once the battle is over, Renna presents Jinal with a device she found in the ruins of the embassy, which Jinal realizes is a homing device that will allow them to locate D’Roz.
They don’t have much time to enjoy their victory, however, as the Old Ones send ships to attack the assembled forces, but the ships from D’Roz are no match against the weapons that Zhengla’s forces salvaged from the Qlov ship, and so the forces of the Old Ones retreat.
With that victory won, and the realization that even the Old Ones fear Zhengla, the would-be conqueror, with Jinal at his side, declares that D’Roz itself will be the next city to fall.
Up next: The Conqueror!
If I was mad at Jinal before, I was furious with her in this issue.
Threatening to shoot Skinner?
Dismissing the ordeals that her friends suffered in trying to rescue her?
The hell, Jinal?
That said, even it if has been in service of Zhengla’s dream, she has managed to accomplish nearly all of her goals, uniting all of the scattered cities of the Barren Earth, and even bringing together the humans, the Harahashan, and the Mulge, and she now stands on the cusp of achieving her ultimate goal of overthrowing the Old Ones.
Of course, I had wanted to see her do this on her own – albeit with the help of her friends – and not as a mere “consort” to a sweaty, be-mushroomed barbarian.
Still, there’s no way that Zhengla could have gotten this far without Jinal, mushroom visions or no mushroom visions, and she remains the key player in all of this.
We also see more of the toll that her life on the Barren Earth has taken on her, as she nearly breaks down in front of Barasha and keeps her distance from Renna and Skinner.
(It’s worth noting that Renna is seen inwardly gagging at the sight of Jinal cozying up to Zhengla, and it's clear that the loyalty of her friends is directed towards her, not Zhengla.)
The other significant event in this is the revelation that the Old Ones have an “agent” in Zhengla’s camp. Is it anyone we know? Barasha actually seems like a likely candidate given that – as we’ll see in greater detail next issue – in his youth he actually spent some time in D’Roz itself as a student of the Old Ones. He was also eager to speak with the leader of S’Keen before Zhengla rode forth in conquest.
However, virtually everyone – save Jinal herself – seems to be opposed to attempting to challenge the Old Ones, so it could be almost anyone.
Also, what’s the deal with the tiny, primitive Qlov? Are they descendants of some Qlov who crashed at an earlier time, as Jinal speculates, or are they something else? In one of the backup stories, Yisrah spontaneously whipped up a potion that managed to render a Qlov unconscious, and it was noted that one of the ingredients of said potion only affects humans…
And finally, holy shit is Zhengla terrifying! He killed a Qlov with his bare hands! And this, right after that same Qlov snapped Zhengla's sword like it was a twig.
Maybe I can’t really be mad at Jinal for joining up with him…
Noting much new to add here, as the same praise and criticism applies. I did like the way he managed to show Jinal’s conflicting emotions upon seeing her friends, and the way he presented the near-breakdown in Barasha’s presence.
It’s worth noting that in the “Meanwhile…” column Conqueror was listed as one of the titles that were being printed with the new FLEXOGRAPHIC press, which, supposedly, provided more vibrant colors than the standard press, even without higher quality paper, and without having to resort to the more expensive offset printing technique.
Honestly, I didn’t see any improvement in quality over the then-standard process, though in the column Dick Giordano does note that there were some “bugs” that needed to be worked out.