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It is well that war is not this wonderfully goofy, lest we should grow too fond of it – Weird War Tales #116

January 19, 2011

My apologies to Robert E. Lee for my corruption of one of his more famous quotes.

Weird War Tales could be a lot of fun. Sometimes the run of the mill features that revolved around haunted submarines and the like were dull, but many of the more cartoony stories rocked, and rocked hard.

This issue has a double dose of the latter, as promised by that nice Gil Kane cover.

First there’s the Creature Commandos. Avengers, shmavengers. The Commandos were a crack Dirty Dozen type unit created to battle America’s foes, but instead of providing soldiers with advanced combat training the great minds of the U.S. military decided to turn them into monsters. I’m not sure about the ethics of all that, but you can’t argue with results. The only way that these guys could rule any more would be if they were the “actual” Medusa, Dracula, Wolfman and Frankenstein.

Wait. Let me take that back — that might be too much of a good thing. It’d be like having Sherlock Holmes and Magnum P.I. solving crimes together. With Detective Chimp. In space. You get the picture — sensory overload.

It’s with great sadness that I report that the Commandos story in this issue (“Doorway to Hell!”, written by Robert Kanigher with art by Fred Carrillo and Jerry Serpe) isn’t all that great, though you have to love how their normal minder, Lt. Shrieve, unrelentingly berates them for their gruesome appearances and abilities:

I think he calls them freaks no less than 1,834,926 times in these pages.

The story, which has the Commandos grappling with enemy forces and a fiery underground deity, is serviceable, but the dialogue is atrocious. Here’s one exchange between Inferna, the aforementioned deity, and Doctor Medusa:

“Why do I weep…if I have no heart?”

“Without a heart…you could not weep.”

The words fall like bricks, folks.

The G.I. Robot tale is far more enjoyable. If you’re not familiar with him, he’s a mechanized, silent World War II Pacific-front warrior named Jake who bears a passing resemblance to Nien Nunb from The Return of the Jedi:

      

In “The Lonely Robot!” (Kanigher, Carmine Infantino, Sal Trapini) we learn that even robot warriors get the blues. Jake seems a little down, right up until a supply shipment comes in and one of the crates opens to reveal a special surprise:

Yes, it’s a robot dog, with a wagging robot tail.

I love comics.

This riveted canine soon gets the moniker of “Cap,” and it’s not long before he sees some action. One day he inexplicably swims out into the ocean where…:

Jake swims out after him, blows up the shark and spots what Cap was really going after — a Japanese sub. He dispatches it with his incredibly explosive finger missiles, and then drags Cap’s broken body back to shore. Finally we have the clichéd anxious wait and happy ending:

Let’s just be thankful that Cap didn’t run up against a mecha-Michael Vick. Ain’t no dog — metal or not– escapin’ that guy.

This G.I. Robot tale, though only eight pages long, is a treat. Infantino has that rare gift of being able to invest even the thinnest of material with graphic gravitas, and G.I. Robot’s pathos couldn’t have fallen — even if briefly — into better hands. It more than makes up for the stilted hoo-ha that bogged down those stupendous Creature Commandos.

“Without a heart…you could not weep!” indeed.

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