Monday, August 10, 2015

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 59: April 1964

The DC War Comics 1959-1976
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Joe Kubert
All American Men of War 102

"Blind Eagle--Hungry Hawk!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick

Peter: The recent trend of full-length battle sagas continues with "Blind Eagle--Hungry Hawk," in which newly-promoted Captain Johnny Cloud (moving up the ranks after the events of Brave and the Bold #52 last month) can't seem to shake a bad premonition. In these ominous dreams, Johnny sees himself as a blind eagle being attacked by a hungry hawk. It doesn't help that, years before, the Indian shaman of his tribe described such events to the youthful Cloud, warning that some day the hawk would test the eagle's skills. Now, in a series of unfortunate events, Johnny finds himself blinded and attacked by Nazi "hawks." Only the Captain's incredible battle savvy and a whole lot of luck keep Johnny Cloud from becoming a war statistic.

Padded to double (maybe even triple) the length it should be, this is another one of those "Johnny Cloud reflects on what the Shaman warned him of a decade before" dirges. Whenever I read one of these tales, I wonder if Johnny only has these premonitory visions as long as this adventure lasts (since he's never referred to the "eagle and the hawk" vision before this but notes here that it's been ongoing) and is concurrently having nightmares about an adventure that is yet to happen! The guy's got a full dream plate, wouldn't you say? I do like how Bob Kanigher refers to the B&B cross-over (we get Marie and Rock cameos); it gives the series a feeling of reality to give a nod to past occurrences. Bob should have tried the same trick with The War That Time Forgot. Novick does a fine job keeping us distracted with some nice air battle choreography.

Jack: I love the full-length stories! This one is in four parts: 6, 6, 4 & 9 pages long. We start with an exciting opening sequence that finds Cloud in mid-battle, blinded, and having to parachute out of his burning plane. Then there's the obligatory flashback to a childhood prophecy. I'm noticing a parallel between Kanigher's Johnny Cloud stories and his Haunted Tank stories. Each one features a ghostly figure or shaman from memory who utters a mysterious warning that is subsequently hard to figure out. The main character is obsessed by it and thinks, wrongly, that it's coming true a couple of times before it finally does. I also really like the continuity with the Brave and Bold story and the fact that we're seeing Mlle. Marie again!

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 141

"Dead Man's Trigger!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Operation Egg!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

Jack: Back in high school, Sgt. Rock was a football star being tutored in math by Nat, the team water boy. Nat shook all the time and it made him awkward and shy. Guess who turns up as the newest replacement soldier in Easy Co.? Yes, it's Nat, still shaking like a leaf and convinced he'll be unable to fire a gun under pressure.

He's right! Snipers and machine gun nests test his mettle and he fails every time, so Rock assigns him the job of loading the bazooka. A letter comes from Rock's kid brother Bill, who is a marine fighting in the Pacific. He tells Rock about an incident involving a "Dead Man's Trigger!" where a soldier kept firing his machine gun after passing away.

Soon enough, Rock and Shaker (Nat's nickname with Easy Co.) find themselves facing a Nazi tank. Rock is shot in the chest and unable to fire the bazooka but Shaker has it worse and is killed. His dead finger saves the day by contracting on the trigger and Rock rejoins Easy Co. for another battle.

The latest recruit with a problem comes through in the end but the best thing about this story was the flashback to Rock's high school days and the revelation that he has a brother in the marines. Have we heard that before?

Peter: Any Rock story that provides a glimpse of the early days, when the Sarge was a mere pebble, is all right with me, even if it's a tale filled with tedium. Shaker's routine was grating but I'll give an extra star to "Trigger" for the downbeat ending. I was expecting Shaker to be a bullseye master by story's end but Kanigher fooled me!

An unusually nice panel from Ross & Mike
Jack: As four G.I.s attack a Nazi-held farmhouse, all they can think of is the tasty eggs they hope to find inside. By the time they rout the enemy, all but one of the eggs have been smashed. They leave a fresh recruit behind to protect the bit of food in "Operation Egg!" and agree that whoever kills the most Nazis on patrol gets to eat the egg. The recruit left behind ends up fighting off an armored car, a plane and a tank, earning him an egg that promptly hatches. "I guarded that hunk of cackle-fruit with my life," begins one caption by our pal Hank Chapman. Andru and Esposito provide their usual annoying art. The biggest problem with the longer stories we're seeing now is that when a backup tale is bad, it goes on for ten pages.

Peter: Hank Chapman lays an egg. Being the Politically Correct guy I am, I found offensive the sequence when the three G.I.s decide they'll go on a run and the grunt with the most kills wins the egg. Seriously?

Joe Kubert
Our Fighting Forces 83

"Any Marine Can Do It!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jerry Grandenetti

"The Blind Tank!"
Story by France Herron
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

Jack: Every Marine knows that silence can be golden, especially when a single sound can tip the enemy off to your position. Sarge risks his life by keeping quiet and saves Gunner from an enemy sniper, leaving Gunner to wonder if he could be as cool in the same situation. But he learns that "Any Marine Can Do It!" when he loses his voice in a fall down a booby-trapped hole in the jungle, allowing him to rescue Sarge and Pooch from the clutches of Col. Hakawa. Why, after going through so many adventures, is Gunner suddenly doubting himself? It's like he's a new recruit in Easy Co. Grandenetti's art alternates between confusing and plain ugly.

Peter: Arf! Arf! (These Gunner, Sarge, and Pooch yarns sure don't seem to be getting any better, do they?) Arf! Arf! (Nope!)

Jack: Sarge and Shorty are sent off in a tank known as The Lucky Duck to clear the town of Noire. On arrival, a potato masher leaves Shorty blind and Sarge lame, so the two work together to clear the town of Nazis and their tanks. This must be blind hero month at the DC War Room! First Johnny Cloud, now Shorty! I won't even mention the third soldier who climbed into the tank with them on page two but had disappeared by page three. Was he killed in the explosion? If so, Sarge and Shorty are awfully cool about working in a tank with a corpse.

Peter: Stealing the gimmick from the far superior "Eyes for a Blind Gunner" (from Our Army #113), "The Blind Tank" delivers a modicum of suspense but shortchanges us in the art department with the Archie Andru/Esposito big eyes routine. France Herron remains a 50/50 enigma.

You'll fall hard for our next thrilling issue of 

Do You Dare Enter? On Sale August 17th!

And coming Saturday, August 15th:

For more information, click here.

No comments: