When last we saw the Soldier, he had been wounded and captured, leaving him at the mercy of Lt. Rico Strada, the young man with the serious vendetta, due to the Soldier being responsible for the death of Strada's "only family," a priest named Memmoli way back in ish 187. Also, the Soldier's wounding of Strada left him with only one arm. And on the end of that arm is his Luger.
Lt. Strada gloats how he will be turning over the "mask-making" kit to the Gestapo, once the Soldier is dead. He has sent away everyone except himself and the Soldier, isolating them in the countryside so Strada can enjoy his kill.
The Soldier, hands chained in front of him, kicks dirt into Strada's face and flees. Strada however is confident that the Soldier must face him eventually, to retrieve the mask kit. Should it fall into Nazi hands, the Soldier knows he will have committed a treasonous act resulting in irrepairable damage to the Allied cause. The Soldier breaks his chain using a boulder. Lt. Strada waits with the leather attache, knowing the Soldier must come for it.
As night falls, the Soldier begins to stalk Strada, hoping to get close enough to avoid Strada's pistol. He soon discovers a pack of wolves are hunting him. A savage battle begins as the Soldier begins killing wolves with his bare hands. Worn down during the fight, the Soldier is nearly overwhelmed when bullets scare off the animals.
Lt. Strada steps forward, Luger trained, while the Soldier again tries to reason with him, that Father Memmoli's death could not be laid at the Soldier's feet. Strada refuses to listen. The Soldier manages to throw a stone at a broken tree branch above Strada as he fires. The branch falls, disarming Strada, who leaps for the pistol. However, he is on the edge of a cliff and topples over. Catching a protruding branch with his one arm, Strada hangs there, the mask kit slung over his shoulder.
The Soldier attempts to reach him, prompting Strada to question why. Even when the Soldier explains Strada still has the make-up kit, Strada points out the attache will be destroyed when he falls. What is the point? The Soldier responds that Strada is wrong about him, about the circumstances behind Father Memmoli's death. Understanding at last, Strada is too ashamed to allow himself to be saved. He has been used by the Nazis, all he had remaining as a symbol of his worth. Strada releases the branch, falling to his death. The Soldier walks away into the night.
Another good issue, summing up the Monte Grande storyline from Michelinie's earlier issues. The Soldier's knockdown-drag out with the wolf pack is the highlight, with Gerry Talaoc shining. Strada seems hesitant to actually murder the Soldier, despite having the drop on him twice in this story. Strada's hesitation, something the Soldier does not share, hollows out his vendetta. Without true passion, Strada's desire is murder only, and thus he is unable to accomplish his goals. The Soldier has no qualms about letting any man die who impedes his missions, but makes the attempt to save Strada...even though he had not given his word to Father Memmoli, still the Soldier had compassion for the younger man. He'd already spared him once at Monte Grande and again, here, to save Strada from his own intellectual folly.
Out of Five 3D Men