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WAR! What is is good for? Absolutely nuthin'!
Well. . .unless we're talking about DC's Weird War Tales, THEN war is good for some cool stories and great art! Let's keep the 2023 Longbox Junk Halloween Party going with a dip into one of my favorite comic series of them all. . .Weird War Tales!
Ready, let's do this!
WEIRD WAR TALES #80
COVER: Joe Kubert
What a cover! The late, great Joe Kubert hits a home run with THIS Bronze Age beauty! The detail, the bold colors, the. . .everything! There's nothing I don't like about this cover. Joe Kubert is in my top 3 favorite comic artists and stuff like THIS is the reason why! Such a great piece of work.
Let's get inside!
Three stories and a one page filler. Not bad for four thin dimes!
Let's check them each out in their own turn, shall we? WE SHALL!
But first. . .
Normally I don't do this, but BAM! Page One. THIS!
Star Trek fans that weren't around when these ads started popping up simply DO NOT understand the excitement. Looking at this ad even all these years later gives me a little thrill of anticipation. Okay. I'm old. Let's get into the comic.
AN OLD MAN'S PROFESSION
SCRIPT: Steve Gerber
PENCILS: Josh Jodloman
INKS: Josh Jodloman
Sometime in the future, in a crumbling city, heavily-armed street gangs are slowly taking control from the government. Once such gang, The Mongol Savages. . .calling themselves "The People's Army", confront a defiant old man while establishing a piece of territory.
The old man stands up to their leaders' demand for respect and the enraged gang leader shoots him.
The old man survives the attempt on his life, and after an extended period in a coma, wakes and immediately heads to the Mongol Savages' headquarters. When the old man confronts him, he's mocked for a a fool, but he informs the gang that he met some interesting new friends while on the edge of death. . .REAL warriors.
He somehow summons forth a small army of ghostly warriors from many different time periods. After the gang is decimated, the old man confronts the leader of the gang in single combat and kills him with a baseball bat.
Hmmmm. . .okay. Not a great start. I was a little excited to see Steve Gerber as the writer on this opening tale, but it just sort of falls flat. It feels like not much effort was put into it. There's no explanation as to HOW the old man was suddenly able to summon ghost warriors. The ending is abrupt. The whole thing is just sort of confusing.
There doesn't seem to be much of a point at all beyond some sage wisdom I learned when I was a younger man. . .Don't fight an old man. Old man don't give a . Well, at least the art is very nicely done, so there's that.
SCRIPT: Paul Kupperberg
PENCILS: Ruben Yandoc
INKS: Ruben Yandoc
The Vietnam War. PFC Dave Heller is separated from his unit and takes refuge in a cave. When the entrance tunnel is blocked, he goes deeper and finds a dead end with a strange jade idol and a bunch of smaller jade figures carved as if they are crawling on it. . .
As the days pass, the desperate soldier tries to dig his way out of the cave, but with no success. Unnerved by the staring jade statue, he takes his anger and frustration out on it, destroying its head.
To his horror, the tiny figures come to life, crawling on the soldier and swarming him like insects. When we leave the story, we see what has become of the hapless soldier. . .his head has been torn off to replace the one he destroyed. The tiny figures resume their silent worship of the hidden idol.
*sigh* I'm beginning to think the best thing about this issue is going to be the cover and the Star Trek ad. I like that they set a story during Vietnam (which had "ended" only a few years before), but that's really about ALL I like about this little tale. A shame, because Paul Kupperberg is usually a better writer than this. I guess only having two pages to tell a story cramped him a little too much.
Here's hoping the last story will be better than the first two. LET'S GO!
RING OF FIRE!
SCRIPT: Robert Kanigher
PENCILS: Ric Estrada
INKS: Ric Estrada
Every night Lieutenant Gwen Talley has horrible nightmares of her beloved RAF Flight Leader Denny Huntley's gruesome death over the English Channel at the hands of a German flying a black and white-striped Messerschmitt.
When she ferries a new plane to Huntley's unit, the two decide not to waste the opportunity and get married that very night. But before they can celebrate, the siren signal to scramble sounds, and Huntley is off to engage the enemy!
As the battle over the Channel rages, Gwen realizes that she's hearing the same radio calls as in her nightmares. She rushes to her plane and flies into the battle, spotting her love getting shot down by the striped Messerschmitt!
Realizing that her plane is unarmed, she slams into the Messerschmitt. . .but too late to save Denny! As their bodies sink to the bottom of the English Channel, hers comes to a rest beside her beloved. They will now be together forever.
Thank for the late, great Robert Kanigher. When I see his name on a title, I know I'm going to get a good story. Maybe not a GREAT story, but at least it will be good. Kanigher is a solid, reliable writer and I'm rarely disappointed. He manages to save this issue of Weird War tales with a decent story about nightmarish premonition and one woman's attempt to defy fate.
Is it the BEST story I've ever seen from Kanigher? Not by a long shot. But it IS pretty good, and it's backed up by some very nice, detailed art by Ric Estrada. These two creators manage to carry this whole issue on their shoulders.
AND FINALLY. . .
TECHNOLOGY. . .13TH CENTURY STYLE
SCRIPT: Murray Boltinoff
PENCILS: Sid Greene
INKS: Sid Greene
During the Cold War, Soviet spies seek to thwart Americans from intercepting their messages. One of them decides to use ancient methods. . .messenger pigeons. They don't realize that even ancient methods have ancient countermeasures as their pigeon is intercepted by a hawk.
Yep. This one page filler is. . .filler. It's not BAD. It's just sort of there. Doing it's job. Taking up an extra page. It does a great job at that. And we're done.
Weird War Tales is one of my all-time favorite comic series. I've been working on a full run for quite some time (Got about twenty more to go. Seems the later issues are the hardest to find), and I know that some of the issues can be a bit hit or miss.
Unfortunately, this is one of those issues that's mostly a miss. FANTASTIC cover by the great Joe Kubert, and one decent tale courtesy of the reliable Robert Kanigher (and a cool Star Trek ad) are about all this issue has going for it..
Now I sort of wish I hadn't pulled this one at random from my Weird War Tales run and had taken the time to find something a little better. I don't want anyone reading this review to think that this issue is representative of the whole series.
Like I said, the series has a lot of hit or miss to be sure, but there are some REALLY good issues of Weird War Tales, and I highly recommend the series for any comic fan looking for some spooky Bronze Age fun with a bit of a twist.
UP NEXT. . .
Let's get into some Mighty Marvel horror, shall we?
Whoever knows fear burns at the touch of. . .MAN-THING!
Be there or be square.
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