Tuesday, January 20, 2009
STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES 190: "Project: Omega"
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