Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Creature Commandos Continue to Continue (Weird War Tales #102)

Back with more of your favorite monster soldiers (although there aren't many others, really)! Strangely, despite their position on the cover, the CC story this issue takes a backseat to "the Dogtag Lottery". Also of note is that in this issue J.M. DeMatteis returns to the feature after being replaced by Bob Kanigher and Mike W. Barr for the last few stories.

If Hitler has a guy throw that hand grenade so close to him, I bet nobody wins out here. Oh, and since I write this part before I actually read the comic, I'm gonna guess that the real Hitler doesn't show up at all.

The story opens, for once, with the CCs nowhere in sight. Instead, we're treated to a scene inside a German boarding school, where concerned parents demand to see their children, having been disallowed any contact with them for weeks. When the children are brought out, they attack and kill their parents for "betraying the Fuhrer and all of Germany"! Afterwards, they are congratulated by their teacher, who reveals himself to be none other than Hitler himself.

Outside, and evidently at that very moment, the Shrieve, Velcro, and human form Griffith arrive at the school disguised as Nazi officers. As they're about to pass security, however, Griffith turns into werewolf mode and attacks a guard at the gate. 

 As a sidenote, I think the imperfection in Griffith's formula is kind of a neat way to make the otherwise flat "blood-crazed berserker" Griffith a little more interesting. Obviously it helps that his changes occur at the most dramatically appropriate times.

Lucky emerges from that tarp in the back of their Jeep (as if anything else would have been back there), and a skirmish erupts between the CCs and the remaining guards. As this happens, Shrieve thinks back 24 hours to the mission briefing in London. Shrieve tells the Commandos, including human Griffith, about brainwashing; Velcro sardonically notes that Shrieve will probably try it on them the first chance he gets. Shrieve, naturally doesn't deny this, only saying that brainwashing in adults isn't 100% effective due to the amount of conditioning involved -- children on the other hand...

Velcro thinks Shrieve is actually talking about Army Intelligence brainwashing kids, and even I think Shrieve wouldn't stoop that low. But Shrieve is talking about a German experiment where schoolkids were indoctrinated and injected with some chemical that gave them incredible strength -- Hitler's growing super soldiers whose only loyalty lies with him. As Creature Commandos missions go, this one's especially grim.

In the present, the CCs are dropped down a trap door activated by Hitler from a console inside the school. They're knocked out by gas and wake up in an area surrounded by barbed wire fences, where Hitler greets them personally and says they're to serve as his students' "final exam"

Velcro notices that Lucky's body language says he doesn't buy it's really Hitler; Shrieve is positive it isn't, and that it's just one of Hitler's various body doubles (told you). The kids are sicced on the CCs, and the realities of having to fight little kids start to sink in as Lucky can't bring himself to harm them, even as they're about to tear him apart.

Much as I hate to admit it, I think Shrieve is right, though I don't agree with deliberately killing the girl -- if they're young enough to get superbrainwashed they can be super-unbrainwashed.  Velcro is having trouble fighting back himself, as he identifies with them -- he's just like them, turned into a monster for an unfeeling war machine. But in the heat of the moment, his empathy evaporates after catching a vicious punch from one of the little ones, and he adopts a menacing pose, baring his fangs. The child recoils in horror, and in his fear, he finds clarity and understanding. He remembers killing his mother, and he remembers "Hitler" made him do it. He rushes at "Hitler", wrestling him to the ground and strangling the life from him before guards can stop him. "Hitler"s hairpiece falls off, revealing a bald head underneath so as to prove conclusively that he's not the ral deal.

Also, it looks like Griffith is actually not fighting back either, which strikes me as out of character. That's pretty much his only appearance in this scene -- obviously because the alternative to more or less writing him out of the story is showing him claw through dozens of cute kids. Anyway, inspired by their "brother", the other kids rebel against their captors, until what I feel is a dumb last-minute plot twist that you have to see to believe occurs.

What was that? That was probably for the sake of code approval, they couldn't have Shrieve's explosives kill all the kids even off-panel. Oh, and nice of Shrieve to sneak in one of his trademark expressions of bitter contempt towards the monsters he created in the second panel above. Griffith's in human form without explanation, so it's safe to assume he changed back sometime while he was being assaulted by those kids.

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