Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Man/Tiger Hybrid & a Woman Scorned: Tragg and the Sky Gods #4

Tragg and the Sky Gods #4 (February 1976):

Last issue we left off with half of Tragg's tribe now held as slaves in the aliens' newly established volcano base.  Gee whiz, volcano bases are pretty common among villainous organizations. It's interesting to discover the tradition goes back to prehistoric times.

Tragg and Lorn are attempting to find other tribes to help in the fight against the aliens. This entails going through a very dangerous forest that is responsible for the tribe's isolation--there's usually no reason to risk walking through the forest.

But the danger to them isn't going to come from the indigenous wildlife. Zorek, the leader of the aliens, decides to send a special assassin after the two humans. He takes Gorth--the guy who hates Tragg and led the tribe into captivity--and uses a variation of their evolution ray to combine Gorth's body with that of a saber-tooth tiger. Thus, Sabre-Fang is born.

I do miss Jesse Santos' pencils on this title, but Dan Spiegle's work here is excellent. The above panel is visually striking and has all the information we need to follow the story. I think the image actually generates some sympathy for Gorth, who has been such a complete jerk throughout the series so far that this is quite an accomplishment in of itself.

Zorek also still suspects that his gal Keera has a thing for Tragg. He's right, of course, but she vehemently denies it. Then she sneaks out of the base to warn Tragg about the Sabre-Fang.

A side-note. "Zorek" is very similar to "Zorak," an evil alien who fought Space Ghost several times in the Saturday morning cartoon not too many years before Tragg was published. It's very likely a coincidence, but I wonder if writer Donald Glut was giving us a shout-out to another alien bent on conquest.

Back to the story: Sabre-Fang finds Tragg and Lorn. Stronger and faster than either of them, he's about to finish off an unconscious Tragg when Keera shows up. Sabre-Fang has been programmed not to attack the aliens, so she is able to protect Tragg by standing near him.

What follows is a really nifty action sequence in which Lorn barely stays one step ahead of Sabre-Fang, though an encounter with an ill-tempered brachiosaurus makes this task even more difficult.

Back with Tragg and Keera, there's a neat bit of characterization when the alien casually tells Tragg to forget Lorn. Tragg, naturally, reacts badly to this.

Keera is attracted to Tragg because of his courage, intelligence and loyalty. So she's attracted to Tragg in ways that--in other circumstances--would be considered healthy. But that attraction does not magically make her a good person. She is still a product of her militaristic and brutal culture and is, in fact, surprised when Tragg doesn't share her innate ruthlessness. Having never been taught any real moral standards, she does not exhibit any real moral standards

It's really a sophisticated bit of characterization, arguably making her the most interesting (if not likable) character in the story.

Tragg pursues Sabre-Fang and manages to save Lorn--who, by the way, remains proactive in her own actions and is never a mere damsel in distress. The final confrontation is at a tar pit, giving Dan Spiegle a chance to give us yet another really cool panel:

Through brains and determination, Tragg kills Sabre-Fang. Keera, in the meantime, has a "if I can't have him, no one can" moment and nearly fries Tragg with her ray gun.  But she can't force herself to do it, bringing the story to an end with Tragg and Lorn still on their quest to find allies.

No new major plot points are revealed in this issue, but the action and characterizations are still excellent and the overall story arc continues to progress steadily. Tragg and the Sky Gods continues to be an entertaining and skillfully executed example of science fiction world-building.

Next week, we'll return to 1941 and join Captain America in fighting off a Zombie Apocalypse.

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