Saturday, April 18, 2009

STAR SPANGLED WAR STORIES 195: "The Deathmasters"

This story begins with a Kommando named Oster breaking into the Nazi HQ of a "School of Assassins" located on a remote Rumanian island. Oster has come to kill the head of the school, Count Witschenbach. However, Oster is captured, having been tracked since stealing his way onto the island. The Count demands Oster's orders, while Oster reflects back to his briefing at Allied HQ, as he is the Unknown Soldier in disguise as Klaus Oster.

The School of Assassins is preparing a counter-offensive against the Russians in Moldavia, and so the Soldier has been sent to stop it. As new "trainee" Oster, the Soldier has infiltrated the School, and the Count prepares him as he does all new recruits. Oster is trained vigorously in the days following, but he learns nothing of the School's plans.

Finally he encounters a fellow recruit named Gherner, who is said to be the Count's "number one man." Oster decides to sabotage a routine training session involving the planting of wired dynamite; Oster insures the dynamite is real, not fake, and that his name will correspond with Gherner's on the duty list. During the training, Oster waits for Gherner to plant the bomb, before taking action and saving both men's lives. Oster relates that the live explosives must have been a mix-up, as "...luckily, I recognized the code numbers on the charges just in time!"

The Count, though, isn't convinced of the accident, and decides to keep a closer watch on Oster. Meanwhile, Gherner brings Oster to his cabin for drinks, and to relate a bit of backstory. Gherner's family is Communist, yet obviously this is an unpopular position in Germany. Gherner's mother is very sick, and Gherner has become a Nazi assassin to afford her medications. The friendship continues, until the evening when Gherner is ordered to report personally to the Count. Oster follows, taking up a position on the roof to listen in to the plan: Gherner is to kill an important Russian General at a ceremony in Odessa.

Oster is then nearly captured, as the Count's spy has discovered Oster's ruse. Oster kills the spy but is too late to stop Gherner from starting off on his mission. Oster can only race to Odessa and hope he is not too late.

Oster, on his way, blows up the entire School compound. At Odessa, Oster reaches the presentation honors for the Russian General, and realizes Gherner is in disguise as one of the dignitaries. Knowing it could be any one of them, Oster concludes the issue by racing forward toward the dignitaries and launching into a karate kick.

Another solid issue, replaying some themes writer Micheline uses often in these stories. Talaoc's art is settled into a grimy groove perfect for the work. Another two-parter here as well, as Michelinie continues to evolve the War Comic format. Though the War Comic would eventually return to its former creaky execution, this comic displays yet more evidence of what could be done with the formula.

Out of Five 3D Men.

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