Sunday, November 30, 2008

STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES: "A Sense of Obligation" Issue 184

Michelinie and Talaoc's second issue begins with a six panel grid with three panels detailing the history of two men, paralleling each other. On the left, Heinrich Staub in Germany raised to love his country and people, becoming a soldier, and eventually a Kommando. On the right, a boy in Kansas grows to join the Army after Pearl Harbor and has a grenade explode in his face.

We are given the formula beginning narration by the Soldier himself, that Kansas boy who has transformed himself into what he calls a "soulless killing machine." While performing dojo training, the bandaged Soldier is briefed on his mission by a man whose own face is in shadow, a point not to be taken lightly as both men are involved in the "dirty business" end of the War effort. As with almost every issue of Michelinie's run, the Soldier performs some interesting visual Something during briefing, almost as a small rebellion against his superiors. But make no mistake, the Soldier misses nothing.

With Hitler taking over France, a Fleet of warships at Toulon remained in French hands via agreement, but Hitler is about to send his Kommandos to take the Fleet, rendering the Allies' North African campaign severely compromised. The Soldier's duty is to infiltrate the Kommandos and sabotage their mission.

Taking on the identity of a new recruit to the Nazi commando unit named Karl Greff, the Soldier soon meets another reassigned man, Heinrich Staub. Greff and Staub become friends, as the Soldier attempts to find out details of the takeover mission. No one but the "brass" knows however, and the Soldier must play out his role further. Meanwhile Staub reveals disgust at the hanging of French villagers, and how he truly hates the Nazis but is loyal to Germany. Staub turns out to be a man of high integrity, impressing "Greff."

A final exercise of the Kommando unit finds them assaulting a hidden Resistence HQ in Toulon, which begins as a mass slaughter with Greff helpless to do anything for the discovered French. However, one of the villagers snaps some dynamite in the Kommandos direction, blowing the hell out of the building and trapping Greff beneath debris. Worse, Greff's life-like mask has been lost, just out of his reach, and his scarred death's head is revealed. Heinrich Staub discovers the trapped Greff and saves him. Staub gives back the confused Greff's mask, saying "...This war has left scars on us all! It's just that yours are more prominent than most!"

Staub believes his friend Greff is a scarred war veteran, and promises to keep his "secret."

Meanwhile, the Kommandos learn the Resistence will sink the Fleet to prevent it falling into Nazi hands. Thus the unit will take over the Fleet ahead of schedule and preserve them from the French fighters. The Soldier sends along this information as he prepares to accompany the Kommandos' mission.

Once aboard, Greff sets an explosive charge aboard one of the ships after the Kommandos have secured it. At that moment, the Resistence arrives on their mission to find themselves at the mercy of the Nazis. The Soldier's explosive goes off, killing most of the Kommandos and sinking the vessel. After that, the Resistence detonates the rest of the ships.

"Greff" is escaping with his mission accomplished when he's stopped by a wounded Heinrich Staub, who now knows of the betrayal and the Soldier's espionage. Staub has the drop on the Soldier with his rifle, and intends to hold him for the Nazis. The Soldier turns away, with the intention of parting from this proud German on equal terms. Staub, however, even weakened, attempts to shoot the Soldier. He has a duty to fulfill. He misses with his first two shots while the Soldier politely reminds Staub of their friendship. Staub refuses to listen and the Soldier executes him.

This story is strong and efficient. Talaoc's art is still "loose" but getting stronger. Michelinie doesn't soft-soap the impact of war on these men, and their connection is reinforced at the end in a poignant way.

Three out of Five 3D Men

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