Friday, January 30, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Out of Five 3D Men
Friday, January 23, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The creative team wastes no time, as the Soldier, disguised as Colonel Rolf, one of the few men with access to "Project Omega" is about to be shot from behind with a Luger.
After a brief flashback sequence to establish the first part of the story, Col. Rolf meets with Dr. Schopfer to obtain vital information from him. As Rolf turns away, the scientist pulls the pistol. However, Rolf is contacted that a Nazi General Olbricht and his staff have arrived for the demonstration of Schopfer's Nazi super weapon. Dr. Schopfer hides his pistol, unable to pull off the assassination. The General and his people greet Col. Rolf, and the demonstration begins.
Massive steel doors open to reveal strange ape-like men, towering tall, and the General is assured the creatures are fully controlled. Dr. Schopfer's experiments involved "strengthening" the Nazi soldiers into practically unkillable monsters, but at the "cost of their minds!" Schopfer has implanted electronic devices in the creatures' brains, not only to keep them docile, but to control them.
Dr. Schopfer ends his speech by addressing the General directly, "But that's all wrong, can't you see? I only wanted to save lives, not turn men into mindless zombies!"
To which the General replies, "But my dear Doctor--what do you think good soldiers are?"
Resistence fighters attack the Castle at that moment. The General is overjoyed at a chance to see the "Super Soldats" in action, live. Col. Rolf is instructed to activate the creatures, but the false Rolf has no idea how. The General takes over, ordering Dr. Schopfer to intiate the monsters' attack. The Underground is swiftly destroyed by the beasts.
Col. Rolf slips away while General Olbricht crows about using the Jews as "raw material" for mass producing the monsters. At the lab once more, Rolf is faced down by Dr. Schopfer, who begins firing at him with a pistol. The Soldier removes his Rolf mask, revealing himself before Schopfer can wound him. The Soldier asks Schopfer to sabotage his own implants, which he does, causing the creatures to go berserk, killing Nazis and anyone else in their way.
Back at the lab, the Soldier is about to spirit Schopfer and his little daughter away from the castle when the General arrives, tattered and wielding his Luger. Dr. Schopfer attempts to shoot the General and is himself mortally wounded. The Soldier snatches Schopfer's falling Luger out of mid-air and guns down the General.
The dying scientist sends the Soldier to take his daughter from the castle, in order to set off explosives that utterly destroy Project Omega and everyone involved in it. Only the Soldier, his face hidden by rags tied over his horrible scars, and the child who bears the knowledge of his father's death, walk from the smoldering ruins.
An epilogue shows Nazis investigating the rubble the next day. A one-armed Leutnant searches for clues as to what happened. Other soldiers describe him as "obsessed with finding the Amerikanisch spy who cost him his arm!"
Lt. Rico Strada stands, displaying the discarded Col. Rolf mask worn by the Unknown Soldier. Strada promises to kill the Soldier, who "...took more than mere flesh--for he also murdered my soul."
There's an odd schism this issue between Michelinie's script and Gerry Talaoc's art, regarding the "monsters." Michelinie must have wanted something a bit more like, well, zombies...actual soldiers enhanced in some grotesque way. Perhaps even linking to Anton Arcane's "un-men" from SWAMP THING a couple years earlier. Talaoc renders the monsters as gorillas with very long arms and legs, standing upright. Though not actual gorillas, they're built like the Harlem Globetrotters, with little menace.
Strange to consider, but I'm wondering if this was a case of Michelinie going too far with the whole science-fiction/horror aspect and Joe Orlando or some other editorial force put the nix on the thematic choices. I feel like it wouldn't have been Orlando, per se, but someone "got" to Talaoc to slap the old gorilla motif atop Michelinie's gene-altered zombies. DC Comics was the old dependable company, and though dabbling in horror was one thing, I suspect DC might have a hard time spinning an Unknown Soldier vs Nazi zombies comic to readers of war comics who bought the Unknown Soldier. Believe it or not, comic book companies once upon a time didn't change a character's modus operendi at the drop of a hat, in order to satisfy some "hot" writer or artist. The Soldier was a war comic, incorporating aspects of horror, but not a horror comic. Case closed.
Thus, this short foray into a more fantastical arena for the Unknown Soldier comes to an end. There's a lot crammed into this issue, and not a lot for the Soldier to do (though certainly the Talaoc-rendered catch-the-falling-gun and blast-the-General panels are a nice innovation.) This war formula story clashes uncomfortably with the horror aspects, but is entertaining overall.
Out of Five 3D Men
Friday, January 16, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Here comes perhaps the craziest story in the Michelinie/Talaoc run of Unknown Soldier.
Some American soldiers on the Austrian Front are set upon by huge, monstrous figures who are unstoppable by bullet or bayonet. Three units end up ripped to pieces by these creatures.
Watching a short film obviously shot by one unit's cameraman, the Soldier receives his orders from Allied HQ in Corsica. The intel is sketchy, as all the Allies have are rumors of experimental research in an Austrian castle. An important SS Officer is traveling to the castle to provide a demonstration of the new "weapon" for the Nazi higher ups. The Soldier must take the place of the Officer and discover what the weapon is, and sabotage it.
On a road in the Alps, a car carrying SS Major Wollheim is stopped by an obstruction. The driver struggles to move the rocks and branches. Wollheim is garroted while the driver is occupied. When the road is clear, the driver is met by Wollheim, returning from "the call of nature." Wollheim arrives at Castle Todesfall, greeted by an eyepatch-wearing Colonel named Rolf.
Moments later, local Resistance fighters escape their cells, and take off across the fields. This gives Rolf the chance to demonstrate one of the Reich's new inventions: small pipe jets in the field release what appears to be lasers which utterly incinerate the Rebels. Afterward, Wollheim is introduced to the lead scientist, Dr. Schopfer and his small daughter Gudren. A brief conflict erupts between Schopfer and Col. Rolf over the morality behind murder, even during war. Rolf makes implies once again that Gudren will be harmed if the scientist does not remain loyal to the Reich.
Wollheim is led about by Col. Rolf, who introduces him to "...everything from gases that turned the nervous system into jelly--to land mines set to explode at the mere heat of a human body." But none of these deadly weapons match what the Soldier saw in the film. Wollheim quickly finds the most guarded project and attempts to bluff his way inside "Project Omega." Col. Rolf arrives curious why Wollheim would try to enter, since it was under his orders that only Rolf, Dr. Schopfer and the Fuhrer himself be allowed in. Wollheim passes it off as a "security check" to insure his orders are being carried out. Later, the Soldier determines he must take the place of Col. Rolf, become Rolf, if he is to infiltrate "Project Omega."
However, the suspicious Col. Rolf has baited Wollheim, and holds a gun on the spy, taunting him. The Soldier quickly disarms Rolf and batters him into unconsciousness (Talaoc's art shows Col. Rolf with one staring eye, quite dead...but this is a mistake, or Col. Rolf sleeps with his eye open.) When the Colonel awakens, he looks up to find himself. The duplicate Rolf forces a Wollheim mask over the Colonel's face, and leads the new "Wollheim" gagged and at gunpoint outside.
Col. Rolf instructs "Wollheim" to begin running, and the real Rolf flees directly into the field of lasers. The Soldier as Rolf takes a long time to finally push the button, milking the sadistic Rolf's terror before finally obliterating him, and the Wollheim personae.
The new Col. Rolf determines to get inside the guarded room. Meanwhile, Dr. Schopfer stands over his sleeping daughter, whom Rolf has threatened. Coming to a final decision, Schopfer takes up a Luger and promises to assassinate Col. Rolf at the first opportunity.
The story is more science fiction oriented than perhaps any Unknown Soldier story ever written anywhere (outside of the unfortunate revision series from the 1980s that cast the Unknown Soldier as a "super soldier" via chemical enhancement, giving him quick healing and a measure of superior physical strength...good stories but just not quite right.) Massive lurking man-monsters and lasers aside, the story concentrates on the brief test of intellects between Col. Rolf and the Soldier (which Rolf actually wins, resulting in a gruesome death.)
The SF elements actually don't harm the formula of the war story, and as usual Editor Joe Orlando follows the compelling story wherever it leads. Also, here in this comic and ish 188 as well, the letters pages begin to reveal reader opinion on the new direction. One reader , Bob Rodi, calls the Unknown Soldier comic the "most promising series of 1975." Joe Orlando calls out for more feedback, asking if readers want, "more two-part stories? Or feature novel-length adventures...more frequently?"
I miss the way the world used to work, when an actual letter meant something, both for the writer and reader.
Monday, January 12, 2009
I don't know admittedly very much about Joe Jusko. His art is found http://comicartfans.com/GalleryDetail.asp?GCat=1950 in such places, and at other sites associated with the man. I haven't found much to indicate who he is or where he's from, but I recently stumbled onto a ton of Tarzan paintings from the man.
It's rare to have a visceral reaction where I immediately think, "Yeh, this is pretty much what Tarzan would look like." And I'm not a big believer in the beefcake overmuscled hulk to indicate anything to do with power and strength in characters (see Superman, who shouldn't look like a body-builder...what is he using to build his muscles up with? He's super strong, naturally, and aside from being a bruiser at his height/weight, he's not going to look all cut and sh*t.) Still, Jusko has some awesome stuff going on here. I can't help but be impressed.
All these scans from http://www.comicvine.com/joe-jusko/26-5550/gallery/108-8441/
Go there to check out other Jusko amazement, including John Carter and Conan and other similar pop culture properties.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
This second interview took place in an alley behind a poolhall on October 18, 2002.
DW: It seems your voice is well and truly back. Congratulations.
DW: Yes, well. The last time we chatted, there was a certain . . . hostility in the air. I hope we're past that now.
DW: You do seem to know quite a bit about crime and the criminal mind.
DW: The greatest insights come from so-called comedy, I believe. But how do you manage to maintain absolutely no sense of humor year after year?
DW: I wouldn't even try. But speaking of humor, perhaps inadvertent, what did you think of Payback, the Mel Gibson programmer based on Parker's first outing, THE HUNTER?
DW: You didn't get paid for PAYBACK?
DW: You must be a little shallow-pocketed at the moment. What's next for you and Parker?
DW: Thank you. Is there another outing for Parker com--
DW: This interview is over.
Copyright 2002 by Donald E. Westlake
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Meanwhile, Stefan/the Soldier is being dragged topside when he awakens and kills the soldiers. Taking a weapon, he makes his way to the explosives the Nazis have activated, discovering them welded to the hull with no chance to be defused in time.
Molly and Kraus discuss their issues in the face of the War, how their love is forbidden. Molly is willing to live as best they can, as long as they can.
In the hold, the Soldier determines the only thing to do about the bomb is to set it off prematurely, before the ship reaches the Port. He fires his weapon at the explosive, which tears a massive hole in the hull. The Soldier then begins evacuating the wounded Allied troops onto lifeboats, just as Kraus and Molly arrive to stop him. Kraus gets the drop on the Soldier, pointing out he cannot have the soldiers leave. They are the enemy, and even though his prime mission has failed, it is best the soldiers die on the vessel than in battle. Molly is incredulous the man she loved would murder innocents, and Kraus reminds her "There's no such thing as murder in war, Molly--and very little innocence either!"
Pleading to Molly to understand his actions, Kraus is distracted long enough for the Soldier to tackle and disarm him. With water fast rising, the two struggling men are stopped by Molly, who holds the Luger now. While the Soldier and Kraus continue to battle, Kraus asks Molly to shoot the Soldier, preserve their love. Molly fires the weapon. Leutnant Kraus falls, dead.
Eventually the hospital ship is fully evacuated, and the Soldier rides in one lifeboat with Molly. He tells her she made the right choice, to save all those lives and help the War effort. Molly, weepingly, points out what a sheltered life she'd led, how she'd learned little of men, or weaponry. She then tells the confused Soldier: "...You see (sniff) I was really aiming that pistol--at you!"
One of the best of the Michelinie/Talaoc stories, "Encounter" is a remarkable achievment in story economy and characterization. With little to support the doomed love between Nazi spy and lonely Allied nurse, the writing effortlessly details the conflict. Again, the individual tragedy has been lost amidst the struggle of Wartime, with only the Soldier aware of the details. The story ends on the lifting of the fog and the dawn's light, but the realization is apparent: Molly cares nothing for flag and country in the face of agonizing mortality, and if not for the whims of Fate, she could have altered the course of World War 2. The individual choices do affect the tides of history, but those choices have meaning only to those who make them. History does not acknowledge the "faceless" dead.
The best issue of the run so far.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Friday, January 2, 2009
Well, by ish 236, Machine Man has put himself back together in order to save his friend/psychologist from a very angry Hulk, but he's in too big of a hurry to repair himself altogether. Thus, he's carrying one of his arms while he runs to intercept the Hulk. Courtesy of Sal "Brings It" Buscema, scripted by Roger Stern, providing the first truly "badass" moment of Aaron Stack's career where he actually defeats the Hulk. By himself. A robot.
Stack reminds the Hulk that the ugly part of the bruise is purple.
http://www.spacebooger.com/ reminds you that whatever you call it, whether a severed arm or a "figment of your imagination," it still hurts.