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Unexpected 111
"Mission Into Eternity!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND February - March, 1969

Story: George Kashdan Art: Jack Sparling

(Originally Reviewed On 03/06/02)

A lone figure is in his final moments of life, telling the trio of mystic figures before him that he has failed them... that they must find the man known as Johnny Peril, who may be the only one who can aid them... for he and Peril worked in The FBI, CIA, and other organizations. They see that the end is near, and wonder if his words are to be heeded or discarded as the ravings of a delirious mind? Johnny Peril, whom the dying man tells them is a man without fear. One figure gestures, for their enemy, Zarko, is as much a foe as time itself, and for mankind's survival, they must place it in Peril's lap, with him facing the very threat which slew his friend, and making him one with the cosmos, not that the young man has much saying in the matter...

The Masters of The Cosmos greet Johnny, who seek him to be their corporeal agent, and hearing a familiar voice from behind him, he turns and sees Eric Starr, who recommended him for the job. Johnny is told of Zarko of The Fearful, he who struggles for all eternity against Khirwa of The Peaceful. Since both gigantic combatants cannot die, all that Khirwa could do was continue the struggle, but recently, he was rendered helpless by a passing stellar body!

Enslaved by Zarko, the villain has begun his plans for the world, but Ben Starr failed in his task to stop him, so it is up to Johnny Peril to do the job, that is if he agrees to. Agrees, he does, and he is sent to the grotto of Varnu The Seer, among the tall peaks of Earth, and in the mystic's mind, is the location of Zarko, and with his help, Johnny will be able to face him in battle! The agent of the cosmic masters is greeted by Varnu, who tells him that there is no time to waste, and Johnny is shown an image of Kirg, an earth warrior, whose form is being possessed by Zarko's spirit, and who is leading his followers to the planet's destruction!

Land, sea, water, and the air itself are not safe from Zarko's power, but while he is within a human host, he can be destroyed, and if Johnny slays Kirg, Zarko will die, as well! Varnu sends him on his way, and soon, Johnny finds himself atop a mountain, experiencing the most far-out mission of his life. As he sees the village below, Johnny turns and sees Kirg The Conqueror laying siege to the village, his giant axe threatening to flood the village, as it strikes the very mountainside. Johnny sees that a child is in danger of drowning, then makes his way down, reaching the boy in time and dragging him to shore, with Kirg's followers seeing his deed and waiting for him there!

Johnny runs as the followers of Kirg pursue him. They are aware that the other side of the mountain is a sheer drop, and that they will no doubt trap him there, but Johnny Peril sees the gas geysers, which are spurting every sixty seconds. Rolling a stone atop of one, Johnny lures them towards him, and as they rush him, they are caught in his trap!

Kirg gestures, seeking to thwart Johnny's attempts before he inspires others, and Peril finds himself under attack by giant bat-like creatures, who strive to knock him off the mountain, and since he can't keep dodging them, Johnny jumps on top of one, and rides up, jumping, and landing upon Kirg, with such force, that the warrior falls to the ground! Soon, Johnny has a sharp rock at the giant warrior's throat, telling Kirg that he and the evil spirit inside of him are finished!

But... Johnny then wonders what right he has in killing Kirg, who is after all an unwilling victim of Zarko, but the only way to stop Zarko is by killing Kirg, and for him to survive, Zarko must live! Raising Kirg above him, Johnny yells out to Zarko that if he doesn't remove his spirit from Kirg's form, he'll hurl him to the very bottom! From Kirg's form, there comes the spiritual form of Khirwa, who was trapped within Kirg by a spell of Zarko! Johnny has unwittingly saved the being he was sent to rescue, and Khirwa tells him that Zarko had hoped that Peril would slay him, instead! Johnny catches a lift from Khirwa, who soars in search of Zarko...

Johnny realizes that only one person could have known where to find Khirwa, and who almost tricked him into killing Kirg... Varnu! The startled mystic is greeted by a rushing Johnny Peril, who seizes him by his robe, and threatens to kill him, provoking Zarko to depart, and admit that Johnny has won this round for the masters of the cosmos.

Khirwa is still weak from the battle, and Zarko seeks to make him prisoner once again, but Khirwa decides to share his energy with Johnny, and the two men become as one in their fight with Zarko, who is confident that no mere mortal's energies are enough to thwart his great mystic powers, but Johnny has grown to giant size and has no fear in dying in the struggle against evil! He hurls Zarko against a nearby mountain...

The transformed Johnny soars towards the sun, but Zarko seeks to foil his plans by striking him, and destroy his mortal form, but Khirwa refuses the notion of Johnny sacrificing his life and offers to release him, but Johnny is confident that they can take whatever Zarko throws at them, enabling Khirwa to re-energize himself in the life-giving energies of the sun! With his power renewed and at full strength...

Khirwa tells them that the masters of the cosmos have sensed Zarko's defeat, and recall Johnny, while he and Zarko resume their eternal battle. The masters of the cosmos are impressed by Johnny's deeds. He is returned to Earth, and told that he will be their representative, who will be summoned whenever there is a catastrophe of cosmic proportions. Standing on a mountaintop under the light of the moon, Johnny Peril knows that he'll never be alone, as long as he's on call, and be ready for... The Unexpected!

The masters of the cosmos are a trio of giant beings, one resembling a mongal warrior, one wearing African headress and garb, the other wearing Roman garb.

Their role would seem similar to The Lords of Order or The Guardians of The Universe, in appointing an emissary against emergencies which threaten the balance, wherever their jurisdiction may be.

Jack Sparling was also illustrating Challengers of The Unknown at this time. Sparling had also done a Captain America story in Tales of Suspense a couple of years earlier. George Kashdan had also written episodes of the animated Filmation cartoons featuring Aquaman and Teen Titans, among others.

The eternal struggle between Khirwa and Zarko would seem to echo that of The Spectre and Azmodeus, as foes who are meant to face each other, time after time.

Similar to Jim Corrigan's relationship with The Spectre, Zarko would inhabit Varnu's form, but also similar to The Spectre's situation, Johnny would merge with Khirwa, ere long.

The Silver Age character Nemesis would make a similar agreement and arrangement.

Rather than resorting to brute force, Johnny would use his wits to deal with his foes.

The climax of the story reminds me of the Star Trek episode "Arena" (based on a short story by Brown), where Captain Kirk faces off against The Gorn, telling The Metrons that he refuses to kill him, soon having the robed figure of a Metron before him, similar to Johnny meeting Khirwa.

Varnu is no ancient one, but similar to the head of The League of Assassins, who was possessed by the predecessor of Deadman, who sought to slay Rama-Kushna for his years of servitude in the 1988 mini-series, illustrated by Garcia-Lopez.

Zarko is also the name of Thor's foe, The Tomorrow Man. Another D.C. Johnny was Jonny Double, in the pages of Showcase.

The sun's rays are also beneficial to the strength of Superman, as well as the Hanna-Barbera character, Bird-Man.

Johnny Peril was recently mentioned in Starman, by James Robinson.

In the letterspage, Jonathan Jensen of Racine, Wis writes that in all his years of reading DC magazines, he has never been so impressed as he has been with Unexpected. The Johnny Peril series was exceptionally well-handled. The plots are excellent, and with Jack Sparling getting a feel for the character, what more can be asked for? He finds the Peril yarns unique, and the human interest theme, which is an integral part of each story to be just the right touch. If a Sci-Fi element were to be introduced, Johnny Peril could be one of the best graphic features of the day. "The Vengeful Windmill:" was fair, but the story didn't hit him. "Die, Dream Girl - Die" was one of the best weird stories to date. It carried enough suspense to keep the story at a high level and Sparling's art didn't miss. Please have more stories like this one. It was just great!

Tony Isabella of Cleveland, Ohio writes that the quality of writing on Johnny Peril remains exceedingly high. George Kashdan is topping the drawn-out Fugitive series more with every issue. He'll be sorry to see the series end as it seems to him to be good for at least a few more episodes. He hopes to see Johnny Peril occassionally in fantasy stories. Three pages of the "Windmill" story didn't give him much of a chance to judge Bill Draut's art. Then came "Die, Dream Girl -Die" and he almost cried to see what was done to a really outstanding plot. First, that miserable old witch. You gotta get rid of her! She's got on place in a fairly intelligent mag. Hippies are one of the most downgrading social problems in our country. I object to their portrayals as heroes.

The editor replies: Why object to the story if Witchie was the only ingredient you disliked? And she's not the heroine of the feature, but merely the narrator. You'll have a better chance to observe Bill Draut's art here, at least his fine inking rendition of Jerry Grandinetti's pencil's in "The Wheel of Misfortune." As for a sci-fi theme in Johnny Peril, how about the current "Mission to Eternity"? -Ed.

This Review Is Dedicated To Jonathan Jensen and Tony Isabella

Steve Chung