So in the interest of “zeroing out” my unread comics (because that “longbox of the unread” could be moved to a shortbox … if I had the shortbox), I’ve decided to continue with reading the incomplete runs of series that I own, then deciding if I want to finish collecting the entire thing. Which, yes, will probably lead to me rereading the series and then deciding whether or not to keep it in my collection, but I’m nowhere near that at this point.
SO … the rest of my run of Arak, of which I’d already read and reviewed eleven issues (#1-10 and #30), something I’d considered reviewing in pieces like I had Starslayer and Starman, but those are near-complete runs whereas this is half of one, and I figure that I have to go through the whole of what I have to decide whether or not I want to fill in the gaps.
As far as the story goes, Arak is a Native American warrior who was found adrift at sea by a Viking ship, became one of them and then, after they were mostly slaughtered by a witch named Angelica, decided to head to the court of Charlemagne with the wizard Malagigi. Then, Malagigi is captured by Angelica and taken to a land called “White Cathay” (which I believe is supposed to be China or thereabouts). That means that through most of issues #11-20, we are continuing on an odyssey where Arak and Valda (the female knight who is his companion) are journeying through various kingdoms in Medieval Europe and the Middle East and encountering all sorts of monsters and strange beings along the way. One of them, in issue #10 is a satyr who becomes the third member of their group.
The stretch between #11-20 is really solid because Roy Thomas has the chance to play with characters from all sorts of mythologies, such as Ancient Greek and Mesopotamian. I personally liked his approach to the Greeks because at this point, the country was under the control of Christianity and not their ancient pagan gods, and what we get to see are a few lonely characters who were kind of “left behind” after the fall of that particular civilization. Charon, the ferryman to the underworld, is one of the better ones, because while he still does his job, he’s pretty lax with requiring payment because he hasn’t had customers in so long.
Granted, that’s a detail that I found to be a bit fun in what was a series of comics full of werebeasts, harpies, and other ancient mythological creatures. Plus, Thomas uses the Fates to give us a little more insight into Arak’s mysterious origins and a new look–a mowhawk instead of his Tarzan/Conan long hair. By the time we leave issue #20, Arak has made his way through Byzantium and is walking through a desert on the way to a showdown with Angelica. By the time we skip to #29, that’s happened in some regard, and it seems that Arak has been hypnotized by some sort of Wizard and is in league with a group of Amazons. Plus, he’s got the long hair back. That doesn’t last very long, though, and he eventually heads back on his quest to reunite with Valda (whom he was separated from at some point) and rescue Malagigi.
It is a continuing story with a shifting goal for the protagonist that works because Arak seems to do very well when he’s encountering the unknown and weird stuff instead of standing still in a particular setting. Plus, with a “monster of the month”, the creative team gets to stretch their muscles and I can see that they’re having fun with it. All of the art teams are outstanding with Ernie Colon, Alfredo Alcala, Ron Randall, and Tony DeZuniga really putting some great work into it. I mean, I’m pretty sure that sword and sorcery/mythology/fantasy books were not DC’s bread and butter back in the early 1980s and I’m sure the sales figures for something like Arak weren’t near the top of the heap, but there seems to be a real passion put into what all of them are doing.
The series ran for 50 issues with an annual. I was recently at my LCS and it looks like I’ve more or less cleaned them out of what they have, so this will be one I’ll have to scour cheap bins at comic conventions to finish. I think it will be worth it.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
Keep (and finish collecting the series).