Monday, March 14, 2016

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 74: July 1965

The DC War Comics
by Corporals Enfantino and Seabrook

Andru & Esposito
 Star Spangled War Stories 121

"The Killer of Dinosaur Alley!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

"Wanted: 4 Tiger Tanks"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Gene Colan

Peter: As a cop, Stoner tried his best to uphold the law but his brother, Manny, the black sheep of the family, is a honcho in the mob and a murderer to boot. When Stoner witnesses Manny perform a rub-out on a rival gangster, he swears he'll bring his sibling to justice no matter what. On the way to "the death house," the train they're riding derails and Manny escapes, leading Stoner's colleagues to cry "foul." To escape the derision, Stoner enlists and demands a place in the Suicide Squad, a WWII elite team designed exclusively for missions "no one comes back from." When an American sub is gobbled up by an unknown force, Stoner parachutes down to the spot to investigate and finds a giant crayfish has the sub in its claws. With the help of a frogman, Stoner manages to blow the big little lobster into shrimp cocktail but the biggest shock of the day comes when the two men re-board the vessel and the frogman unmasks to reveal (go figure!!!!) ... fugitive Manny, now known to his C.O. as Bill Anderson! What are the chances? Manny reveals to his bro that he's decided to turn over a new leaf and do good for the world but Stoner assures the thug that the moment the war ends, he'll fry. The brothers are assigned to check out a nearby island to make sure it's dino-free. As we expect, it's not, and Manny pays the ultimate sacrifice for a life of evil and general bad manners during an attack by a giant from the prehistoric stone age. Stoner reflects on life, happy he was able to see his big brother redeem himself before becoming dino-chow.

Bob Kanigher offers up yet another riff on the "two guys who hate each other on an island full of dinos" with "The Killer of Dinosaur Alley"; yep, it's a bit hackneyed, but the story is entertaining at times. Nice to see Bob at last acknowledging that the worst kept secret in World War II was that the Pacific was stinking with prehistoric nightmares when Stoner reflects on the "'section B reports... about a dinosaur age waking up on uncharted islands." I suspect Kanigher may be leading up to breaking open the War That Time Forgot a little more to initiate some new plot lines. "Wanted: 4 Tiger Tanks" delivers with its gorgeous art from Gentleman Gene Colan but, all through the tale, I kept wishing for some kind of magical wand that would erase all the captions and word balloons. Four brothers in the same tank squad. Oh, and they all played football in college. Where have I heard that one before?

Colan makes it all okay!

Jack: Are we supposed to take from "The Killer of Dinosaur Alley!" that the Suicide Squad is made up of men so miserable that they don't care if they live or die? That seems to fit about half of the members we've seen so far--the ones who feel guilty about something that happened in civilian life. But what about the other half? The bit where Manny escapes due to a train crash en route to the death house is a clear reference to The Fugitive, which premiered on TV in September 1963 but which really took off in popularity in season two, when this story was written. Having one brother be a cop and the other a gangster also recalls Warner Bros. crime films like Angels With Dirty Faces. Kanigher was pulling from lots of sources to keep coming up with plots month after month.

Our Army at War 156

"The Human Tank Trap!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Penny in the Slot!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jack Abel

Jack: Easy Co.’s newest member wanted to join the fighting men but had to settle for the role of medic because he’s near-sighted. He has studied everything about Sgt. Rock’s company, though, and knows the history of the heroic healers who came before him. Apple-Cheek Adams, Easy’s first medic, was killed during Easy’s first beach assault after he dragged a boatload of wounded men ashore. Tall Pete was another Easy Co. medic; he dove on a mortar and lost his life saving the wounded men he had helped. The new medic, only known as “the chick,” flubs his first few combat experiences. Yet when the chips are down, he brings back a wounded man under heavy fire. Sgt. Rock is so impressed that he promotes the medic to combat infantry and hands him a bazooka, which the chick uses to destroy a Nazi tank before breathing his last and joining the long line of Easy Co. medics to die in the line of duty.

For most of its length, "The Human Tank Trap!" follows a familiar Kanigher formula, where a new member of Easy Co. is introduced, then scenes of current battle are interspersed with flashbacks that relate to the present activity. As such, it’s nothing new, but the conclusion, where the chick demonstrates his fitness for combat and loses his life in the process, reaches an emotional peak that is not present in the rest of the tale.

Peter: This is definitely one of the lesser "Rock" tales, complete with the standard "newbie" formula (which is getting really, really old). Joe shows up and does his business as usual but that's a given. "Penny in the Slot" is an exciting but extremely far-fetched navy saga centering around a skipper who has to make the supreme sacrifice to destroy a Japanese battleship. Gripping right up until the cheat climax where we find out our hero's ship survived despite taking on heavy fire and eventually ramming the enemy ship. They don't build them like that anymore.

 Our Fighting Forces 93

"The Human Sharks!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jack Abel

"Bring Me Back, Buddy!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Irv Novick

Jack: Gunner and Sarge must leave their beloved Pooch and the other mud marines to deal with that imperial practical joker, Col. Hakawa, on their own, as our heroes are enrolled in a frogman training course and become "The Human Sharks!" They have to steer a couple of drone boats filled with TNT straight at Japanese pillboxes on shore and, when that succeeds, their next mission is to lead a sub through a minefield. The sub gets through safely but Gunner and Sarge are captured and taken prisoner aboard an enemy sub. Tied up and tossed aboard a drone bound to blow up an Allied destroyer, those zany marines get a little help from an electric eel and manage to turn the tables on the enemy, finally earning some much needed R & R with a bevy of island beauties.

I think we need a little R & R from Gunner and Sarge! Only one more issue, then we can say hello to the Fighting Devil-Dog.

Gunner's so cwazy!

Peter: The art in the Gunner and Sarge story is excruciating. Jack Abel having a very bad day. Much better is the support act, "Bring Me Back, Buddy!" Two friends, Ben and Tod, make a pact when they become World War I pilots; if one should need help, the other will come quickly no matter what. When Ben's Spad is shot down by a pair of Fokkers, Tod swoops down and pops his buddy into the cockpit with him but he soon loses control of the plane. Somehow, the Spad rights itself and Ben makes it back to base. It's only then that we discover that Ben has been dead the whole time. Though the script suffers from some of the Chapman-isms we're so fond of ker-plunking and there are quite a few points when when you roll your eyes and think, "Yeah, right!" (in particular, the opening scene where our two protagonists lose one wing each and somehow manage to join their planes together and fly home safely!), "Bring Me Back..." has a genuinely moving finale and nice Irv Novick art. The best we've seen from Hank in quite a while.

Kubert & Adler
G.I. Combat 112

"Ghost Ace!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Bail-Out Blues!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

Peter: The Jeb Stuart finds itself under attack by a mysterious jet, piloted by an enemy that seems to be able to see through the pitch dark and zero in on their armor. Turns out that the "Ghost Ace!" is being guarded much in the same way that the ghostly General watches over his namesake's rolling battleship. That bodyguard? None other than Attila the Hun! While the Jeb (the tank) fights a grueling battle with the "blazing scourge," Jeb (the General) does spiritual hand-to-hand with the Hun. With the help of fellow DC War heroes, Sgt. Rock and Johnny Cloud, the Jeb proves victorious.

A rousing battle tale with fabulous art and an exciting script, "Ghost Ace!" nonetheless begs the (or rather my) question, "Why is Attila the Hun's specter bothering with small potatoes like the Jeb?" No good reason is given as to why the Hun felt it necessary to fight an epic battle with a nobody General from the Civil War other than the Hun's astonished "So you are supposed to be the greatest cavalry leader the world has ever seen?" Bragging rights it would seem. In any case, this one will sit very high on my list of Best of 1965. Best moments: The C.O.'s command to the crew of the Jeb: "Don't count the cost... Don't look back.. Don't stop..." becomes a haunting mantra as the boys wheel past wreckage of fellow tanksters. Hank Chapman resorts to yet another by-the-numbers retread with "Bail-Out Blues"; this one stars a washed-up stunt flyer who can't seem to do anything right once he's flying in WWI and attacking zeppelins. Poor guy keeps having to bail out of his disintegrating Spads and it's getting him down. Then one day... well, you know the rest. Nice Jack Abel art though.

Jack: Peter, take it from me, an honorary southern boy (my ancestors hail from Texas), that Jeb Stuart was one of the great generals of the Civil War or, as some of my nearest and dearest call it, the War of Northern Aggression. It seems completely understandable that Atilla the Hun would go after the great cavalry commander. As for "Bail-Out Blues," how did you resist making any Led Zeppelin jokes?

Peter: Another round for my friend, Jack!

In Our Second Ghastly Issue of
It's An Entertaining Comic!
Our first look at the master!
On Sale March 21st

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