Sunday, December 28, 2008

STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES 186: "Man of God...Man of War"

The first multi-part story from Michelinie/Talaoc begins in an Italian village called Monte Grande in the Apennine mountain range. The village is occupied by the Nazis, though the village itself does not actively support the Axis. At this time, the Nazis are battling Americans in the mountains, with villages like Monte Grande caught in the middle.

After the Nazis have captured an American soldier in the village, the Nazi commander Colonel Weile attempts to convince Father Memmoli, the village priest, to sway the villagers to fight the Americans. Father Memmoli refuses, as "war is not God's way."

Just then, a small unit of American soldiers intiates an escape for their comrade, running down and killing several innocent village children with their jeep. Father Memmoli, grief-stricken, finds himself ready to assist the Nazis. The villagers battle the Americans at a "bottleneck" in the Apennines, keeping the Allies off-balance while the Nazis fortify.

As reported to the Unknown Soldier by Intelligence, this village's efforts undermine the Allies, and thus must be stopped. The Soldier is directed to infiltrate the village as an "escaped" Leutnant named Aschermann, using one of his mask disguises. Once there, the Soldier must eliminate Father Memmoli.

In order to authenticate who he is, the Soldier as Aschermann uses a GI's .45 to wound his own left arm. Aschermann then stumbles to a villager unit, who take him to Colonel Weile.

Once at the village, Weile directs the only local doctor, Father Memmoli himself, to dress Aschermann's wound. Father Memmoli reveals his inner conflict over having been "forced" to choose between the Allies and Nazis. While Memmoli's back is turned, Aschermann is about to kill him when a young Nazi footsoldier named "Rico," a former orphan raised by Father Memmoli. While the two greet warmly, Aschermann learns why Memmoli has joined the Nazi cause. Aschermann is secretly incredulous however, as no Intelligence record of the rescue exists, as far as the Soldier knows.

Taking his leave, Aschermann finds a Nazi-guarded house, raising his suspicions. After dispatching the guards, Aschermann overhears two Nazi soldiers discussing why they are in hiding. Working for Colonel Weile, these men portrayed the "American soldiers" who raided the village and intentionally killed the village children, to sway Father Memmoli.

Aschermann executes the two and prepares to display their bodies in Father Memmoli's church, surreptitiously unveiling the deception. Preparing to drag the bodies, Aschermann is unaware of another Nazi soldier approaching with a knife, to kill him.

This issue is set up, and a lesser entry in the Unknown Soldier run. However, some nice character bits with the Soldier at the Intelligence HQ, and his jarring self-wounding, along with some Talaoc-rendered karate, keeps the story snappy and visually interesting.

Also of note, the events begun here will influence another conflict later in the run. Michelinie is already preparing to usurp the usual formulae of the "one and done" war story.

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