Monday, January 18, 2016

Star Spangled DC War Stories Part 70: March 1965

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

Joe Kubert
 G.I. Combat 110

"Choose Your War!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

"Battle Exterminator!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Irv Novick

Peter: The Haunted Tank comes under fire from heavy enemy artillery and the only way they make it through is with a hand from the ghostly General Jeb Stuart. After a particularly close blast, the men are transported back to the Civil War, where
they're finally able to pay the General back for all his help. Or is it all a battle-induced hallucination? There are both pros and cons to this 24th chapter of the Haunted Tank saga. I like the fact that the General actually has more of a role in the action rather than just issuing the standard warning of "Storm clouds on the horizon!" The ghost actually lays hands on his descendant's and guides the younger Jeb into blasting a few Ratzis off the face of the planet. That's a big plus as usually the story could stand (or fall) without the inclusion of the specter. The other selling point here is the art by Kubert; dynamic and well-choreographed. Granted, there are only so many ways to show the lid being blown off enemy armor but Kubert always manages to make you smile with his visuals. The cons are not enough to sink the battleship but they are eye-rollingly silly. Why would two enemy tanks line up closely on a wooden bridge just to blow away a sinking Allied tank? That's a recipe for disaster, I would think, and something they should have taught in basic Nazi tank training. The sequence that made me laugh out loud though is when Jeb gets locked out of the tank as it's rolling down a hillside. How does he not get crushed? He just hangs on, that's how! This guy is unkillable.

Jack: Seeing the ghost of the Confederate general so much in this issue with his C.S.A. hat got me wondering if this comic could be published today, what with all of the controversy about the Civil War and the Confederacy. Would readers take issue with a heroic Confederate general? Would they have a problem with the modern-day tank commander fighting for the rebel side in his (dream?) trip back in time? I'll just bet they would, but I sure don't!

Just hang on for the ride, Jeb!

Joe Kubert
Our Army at War 152

"Last Man--Last Shot!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Joe Kubert

Jack: Sgt. Rock is driving a jeepload of replacement soldiers to meet up with Easy Co. when they are attacked from above by a Nazi plane. Rock has to shoot down the plane by himself when none of the new recruits can manage to unfreeze and pull the trigger. To motivate them, he tells the story of Ziggy Austin, a replacement who froze under fire but swore he'd shoot at the enemy if it was the last thing he did. In a battle with a Nazi tank, Ziggy suddenly found himself holding a bazooka and soon after that was shot to death. Somehow, his finger managed to squeeze the trigger after he had stopped breathing.

Rock's inspirational story falls on deaf ears and the men in his jeep remain frozen when they are attacked by enemy sharpshooters. Once again, Rock must act like a one-man army and toss a grenade at the enemy, putting them out of action. Deciding another story is in order, he tells the new men about a soldier nicknamed Hopeless, who couldn't do anything right if it involved a gun. He was assigned to a desk job but put his own name on a list of replacements for Easy Co. and ended up leading an assault on a beach. With his last breath, he threw a grenade that destroyed an enemy tank.

Incredibly, the replacements remain unmoved! The jeep is attacked for a third time and Rock fights his own battle once again. When he gets hung up in some barbed wire, the men see that he is only human and come to his aid, finally showing their mettle and blowing up a hidden Nazi tank. By the time Rock arrives at Easy Co., the men look like veterans!

"Last Man--Last Shot!" runs a full 25 pages and features the usual strong art by Joe Kubert, but the repetitive nature of the story gets a little tired. I was waiting for Rock to smack the new recruits around a little bit or give them a good chewing out. Instead, he keeps telling inspirational tales. I suppose the story could have gone on and on like this but comics were only so long.

Peter: While reading this, I was remembering Robert Stack at the end of Airplane!, telling inspirational stories while everyone else had moved on. This one just went on and on and... The transformation of the greenies, from scared little children to battle-crazy kill machines, comes right out of left field. Two inspirational stories (one detailing battle beyond death) can't do the trick but seeing Rock in hand-to-hand wakes these kids up pronto (even though they'd already seen the Sarge fighting for his life a couple times that same day!). Yeah, right. And though I love Kubert's art, "Last Man..." featured way too many close-ups and tiny frames; not Kubert's strength. Although, having said that, I thought the most powerful panel in the story was of Rock looking over his shoulder at the new recruits and thinking, "They all look alike!"

Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
Star Spangled War Stories 119

"Gun Duel on Dinosaur Hill!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito

"Desert Rat!"
Story by Hank Chapman
Art by Jack Abel

Peter: "Sheriff" and "Wild One" are the latest recruits of the Suicide Squad to hit Dinosaur Island but the history between the two men may be more dangerous than the "monsters from a prehistoric stone age." Back in their home town, "Sheriff" was, indeed, a sheriff and "Wild One" was a local kid who had been caught rustling steer. When the two meet in a town street, the youngster draws on the lawman and has his gun shot right out of his hand. He holds a grudge from then on and, in a wild bit of coincidence, the two men are accepted into the Suicide Squad, with "Sheriff" given the task of taming the impetuous youth. But once they land on the prehistoric isle, it becomes a "Gun Duel on Dinosaur Hill" until "Sheriff" convinces "Wild One" that camaraderie is the way forward.

Did we stumble into Star Spangled
Western Stories by accident?
At first glance, it's an interesting fusion Kanigher makes with the Wild West meeting dinosaurs, but there's nothing new about the set up since this is exactly the same plot device Bob used with the previous two SS members, Morgan and Mace. And though I'm sure some of the Wild West was still untamed by 1942, the scene of "Sheriff" and "Wild One" facing each other down on the dirt street outside the saloon throws up red flags. But that's not the only thing about "Dinosaur Hill" that makes you go "say what?" The conversion of "Wild One" from angry, potential killer to softy who buys into the system literally happens in one panel. There's no rationalizing it; it just happens. When the boys land on the island, they mention their mission is to find the missing SS men who had landed before them. This means that either Mace and Morgan were eaten by thunder lizards or they'll spend the entirety of the series wandering around on the same island, having adventures. Not to tease you, DC war fan, but that little walnut will be cracked open next issue! On an interesting note, as the GCD reminds us, "Sheriff" lets the reader know that this is his third SS mission (obviously his first to Dinoville) but the first one recorded for posterity.

The second story this issue, "Desert Rat," is an awful Hank Chapman story about a proper CO who takes a dislike to a grunt who's always looking dirty and disheveled. After a day spent with the "Desert Rat," the CO sees how much of a true soldier the rat is and adjusts his way of thinking. But we knew he would.

Jack: What a terrible issue! After the monotony of Morgan and Mace, I thought we'd be in for a treat with two new characters, but it quickly became apparent that they were just Morgan and Mace with new names. One interesting thing about the lead story is that Sheriff and Wild Man don't seem at all surprised to come across dinosaurs. Did the word finally get out to everyone in that part of the world that there were dinos roaming about? It's about time. The less said about "Desert Rat," the better. It's one of those stories where Chapman repeats the title phrase to death. I liked Abel's art better than Andru and Esposito's though.

In the 70th Issue of
Do You Dare Enter?
On Sale January 25th!

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