Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Creature Commandos! Part 6 (Weird War Tales #108)

 This is the big time -- both the Creature Commandos and G.I. Robot graduate to full headliner status starting with this issue. Also of note: CC stories start to have a continuing plotline.

And, I'm gonna be honest with you, the story that kicks off is somber as all get-out. The CCs are in a London war hospital, where Lucky is being treated. What happened to him? Oh, well he tried to kill himself with a razor blade. Personally I'm concerned about the hospital staff's ability to treat him, due to his size and unique physiology. As Lucky is wheeled away, Velcro assaults his CO, saying that if Lucky doesn't make it, neither will Shrieve.

 You know that I think is interesting? When not in wolf mode, Griffith takes Velcro's usual role of the voice of reason/everyman the reader relates to. Oh, and I was expecting a scene like this since the first appearance of the CCs; of the group, Velcro seems to bear the most resentment towards Shrieve, and the two are constantly at odds. Lucky's suicide attempt was the last straw, we're to assume, as Velcro has a flashback to a few weeks ago to fill us in with the details.

They were on a mission that took them to a concentration camp! I'm inclined to believe they're there to liberate it, but little is ever what it seems to be in these stories, I've learned. Incidentally, Griffith's unreliable transformation problem may be a thing of the past due to Army Intelligence scientists tweaking the formula that gave him his powers. Naturally, the transformation still carries with it a dramatic change in personality, from innocent farmboy to bloodthirsty lunatic.

As the CCs go at it, Velcro thinks about what got them there, and we get the obligatory origin recap that I'll spare you. Hey, every issue is somebody's first. They tear through guards as Velcro ponders why he and the other CCs even do this, before admitting he knows exactly why -- because of people who build and run camps like this one. Speak of the devil, a German officer pops out of the blue, armed with a large cross-tipped staff to cow the monsters before him.

Obviously, the CCs are playing along. Especially Velcro, since crosses are actually supposed to ward off vampires. None of these guys are "real" monsters (unless you count Lucky), just simulacra created through scientific means; Velcro drinks blood instead of eating regular food, but can probably stand a little garlic.

So the captured commandos are dealt with in different ways. Griffith is kept in a cage, where guards laugh at him and throw rocks; the caption calls this degradation worse than anything his twisted mind could come up with. Velcro is subject to endless scientific testing, Lucky is put to slave labor (complete with whippings),

Shrieve is simply interrogated, and admirably he refuses to divulge anything. I actually kind of respect the guy for that.

Lucky collapses from the strain of the tireless labor and is taken in by a kindly, elderly doctor, who seems to have some pull around the camp as the guards don't make anything out of it. She tends to him, saying that she saw in his eyes that there was a man inside the monster's body. Her name is Marie, and she's a French scientist, forced to defect else her family be killed. She designed an experimental nerve gas, which she's still working on. As she reveals this, it's clear she knows exactly what Lucky's going through -- what it's like to be turned into a monster.

Just as she and Lucky embrace tearily (for real), an officer and some guards burst in and take Lucky away, berating Marie for harboring him. Turns out they only let her do what she wants because she's not finished with her nerve gas, and she keeps nearly all of the information on it in her head.

A few days later, the CCs are tied to posts, ready to face a firing squad. The execution will be filmed, and is sure to become the biggest propaganda hit since Triumph of the Will! I have to admit, this is fairly clever -- what better way to demonize the Allied forces than to portray them as monsters, after all?

Shrieve whispers to Griffith, saying they learned what they needed to and can now escape, confirming my suspicion that their capture was intentional. Griffith concentrates, turning back into a human -- a scrawny human who slips right out of those chains. At the same time, Velcro frees himself with his own quick change act, turning into mist and thereafter a bat. Griffith refuses to change back, determined to prove himself as a human, and fights like a man possessed. Velcro manages to hurt people in bat form without biting or scratching them, and I'm just going to accept that. Anyway, Lucky breaks free of his own chains and frees Shrieve, and then things get CRAZY.

Naturally they fight off guards easily enough. Marie sees the display and cheers on Lucky, who comes towards her, grabs her head, and cracks it against the ground before silently wailing in despair. It turns out, that was the mission: Marie was actually the real Dr. Renee Frederique, whose impostor you might remember from WWT #97. They had to eliminate her before her deadly nerve gas was completed, and it was agreed before the mission that whomever identified her first would be the one to do her in. Lucky's suicide attempt was brought on by the guilt he felt for killing her.

Lucky turns out to be alright, though; owing to his, uh, condition, he can be "repaired" all but endlessly. The doctors have even fixed his vocal chords somewhat, though he still can't speak intelligibly. Velcro and (human) Griffith visit him, and for the first time I really get the sense that these three are friends -- they care about Lucky, and he cares about them.

In the end, Velcro says it takes more courage to live than to die, and that he knows Lucky has that courage. Shrieve commends Velcro on his inspirational speech, and I have to say, even Shrieve came out of this story looking alright, he didn't really do anything wrong for once. Anyway, on a shot of the sun coming up, Velcro remarks that if Shrieve's handing out compliments, there might be some hope for this world after all.

I think this was a great way to establish the CCs for their new headlining deal, and it brought a lot of new stuff to the table for once. We got to see the human side of Griffith, whose wolf form is pretty flat, we got to see the tragic side of Lucky in more detail than usual, and even the heroic side of Shrieve during the interrogation scene. If I had read this when it was coming out I like to think I'd be hungry for more.

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