Monday, May 25, 2009

Single-Issue Review: All-American Men of War #73

Hmmm, given that the Amerikaner has a better grip on the rope, with his right hand instead of his left hand, I'd guess that he can hang on longer than the German. And I don't get what's going on with the GI's helmet strap. Unless it has just now come loose, wouldn't it be hanging down, and wouldn't the helmet be falling from his head?

The cover story, No Detour, opens the issue and is a real page turner. Two soldiers named Mac and Lee find themselves facing detours every where they go, both literal detours that take them longer to get to the action, and figurative detours, where they are being shot at by an German 88 tank, and duck into a nearby house, only to find it occupied by a machine gunner. Later they make it to the roof of one building only to find it being blasted by a mortar crew across the way.

Through it all they survive by their wits and courage, as here:

In the climax, the soldiers are climbing a mountain to reconnoiter the area, when a German fighter plane blasts at them. Check out this picture-in-picture:

But even after defeating the pilot, there's still one roadblock up ahead, and no detour:

But Mac saves Lee by tugging on the rope, a pre-arranged signal for Lee to come down. The German is unprepared for the sudden movement and falls to his death.

Comments: Excellent story by Robert Kanigher and superb art by Joe Kubert. Look at the menace in that smile by the German; that's really quite perfect. I particularly like the detours theme being used to frame the story.

The second story, Tanks Don't Cry, is about three brothers. One is a pilot, and he swears that his plane is human and that he heard it cry when it was almost shot down, but it got him home safely. The second is in the Navy, and recalls the time that his aircraft carrier was almost sunk, but though it cried it refused to sink.

Of course the third brother, a junior tank officer, thinks this is silly. His tank is just a bucket of bolts, a mechanical marvel to be sure, but not human. But in a tough situation, caught in a tank trap, the tank somehow escapes and crashes into a German pillbox, rescuing the men but destroying itself in the process. And in the end:

I was pleased to recognize Mort Drucker's style in the artwork; I am getting a little better at identifying artists without looking them up these days. Of course, this panel was a pretty big hint:

Comments: Very neat and tight little story. Humans do tend to anthropomorphize pieces of equipment, like cars, so it's not surprising that a tank man would get emotional over his "bucket of bolts". I did think it was a little bit of a stretch to say that the plane and the aircraft carrier were crying, but obviously that was needed to give the ending some punch.

The finale is Nobody Owns a Medal. A green soldier eyes with some envy the Bronze Star of his corporal, but the non-com insists that he's just holding the medal temporarily until somebody comes along who deserves it more. Sure enough, the kid proves his resourcefulness and courage in the next skirmish, knocking out a machine gun nest, and the corporal hands over his Bronze Star.

But sure enough, when he goes out on patrol with a rookie and things look grim:

And at the end of the action, he gives the rookie his Bronze Star, with the title admonition.

Comments: Another terrific short form tale from Bob Haney (who also wrote the second story), with fine art by Jack Abel. It strikes me reading this entire book how terrific the writing was, and yet it was done by two writers who are probably more remembered for the cringe-worthy work they did on Wonder Woman and Brave & Bold/Teen Titans. Yet another reminder that not every person is suited for every genre.

Have a healthy and safe Memorial Day, everyone!

Update: Other Memorial Day posts:

Easily Mused has the first appearance of the Ice-Cream Soldier in Sgt. Rock. Not to be missed!

Mark Engblom reflects on the reality of the soldiers as compared to the comics versions and recommends a book of letters from servicemen.