Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Honor of Veteran's Day

Our Army at War #240 (January 1972)
"Another Time Another Place"
Bob Haney-Neal Adams

Doug: Today we honor all veterans, whether they served in conflict or peacetime. The sacrifices you've made in the name of freedom and democracy are appreciated. Thanks for your service to the United States of America.

Doug: I was never a fan of military comics when I was a kid. As an adult I have acquired a small appreciation for them, but remain a super-hero zombie at heart. But today I wanted to delve into a story to reflect on the service of our men and women in the armed forces, and what better guide for that than the master of all comics genres, Neal Adams? I'm using DC Universe Illustrated by Neal Adams as my resource. While there are several "war stories" to choose from, I opted for the only one that is actually in the Bronze Age -- doing so caused me to pass on an Enemy Ace story by Bob Kanigher, Adams, and Joe Kubert... but I didn't think a tale about Germany's WWI flying ace was appropriate for November 11th in the States. So instead we'll take a look at a "timeless story".

Doug: This tale is actually set far in the future (you'll notice some hype for it on the cover above), and I'll be darned if the soldiers don't resemble the Science Police from the Legion of Super-Heroes of the early Bronze Age. In a nod to the United Planets, three soldiers from the United Earth Armed Forces (and not coincidentally a Caucasian, and African-American, and an Asian-American) are on a space planet known only as Easy Fox. They've come on a mission to face down hostiles, and find out what happened to their comrades who'd come before.

Doug: Throughout the story, one of the soldiers keeps wondering when HQ will send "the weapon". The boys have just engaged and dispatched a large dragon-like creature, and question whether or not it was an animal or one of the locals. As they argue, with claims of recklessness charged, they are attacked again -- but this time by small mines. As the mines open and release gas, it becomes apparent that each man is hallucinating, seeing what he wants to see. One sees rabid dinosaurs running at him, but another sees small pink fuzzy guys. They eventually figure out that they need only to close their eyes until the gas dissipates.

Doug: Upon opening their eyes, they are alarmed to be attacked by yet another monster. After vanquishing this one with a futuristic mortar, Mac (our main character) is unhappy to be told that it was a plant. He declares that sending a man-eating plant is no way to fight against humans; Luke, the conscience of the group asks in turn if using "the weapon" is any less lousy a strategy. And as if on cue, appearing out of nothingness is what they've been hoping for: the weapon.

Doug: The weapon is actually a small device that I suppose would resemble a CD player or DVR. Our guys set it up, and then hunker down, awaiting the next attack. They don't have to wait long. Mac gets antsy -- if you have this thing, you may as well use it, right? As they come under fire, Mac moves to trigger the weapon, with power enough to destroy half the planet. The rules state that in the absence of the high command, the non-comms have the authority to use the device. But as Mac moves, he's stunned and dropped. Suddenly a voice emanates from the mechanical construct that had attacked -- the soldiers are asked to stand down, and are offered peace. And striding from the construct is... a man. A man who looks as human as those who were his adversaries.

Doug: This was obviously a morality play by scribe Bob Haney. Wrapped into this short 8-page story were cautions against chemical and biological weapons, the dangers of any sort of ultimate device and of decision-making powers resting in the hands of the very few. Bigotry and prejudice are also touched on, and in the end Haney lets us know that we are in fact our own worst enemy. While I wouldn't argue any of the above, I do understand that our men and women are faced with these dangers as well as incredibly difficult decisions on a daily basis. At times, they have to deal in choiceless choices. At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, two of the largest groups they train regularly are police cadets and the plebes from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD; it should go without saying that each of us is a free moral agent and able to withstand the mandate of any questionable command.

I thank our men and women in the armed forces for their willingness to stand up for what we as Americans hold dear. Today's your day.

1 comment:

Goldenrulecomics said...

I missed this issue of Our Army at War, but from your review I would say that the story you focused on was very atypical. I remember the comic being much more of a ground-level view of war (in contrast to the over-the-top antics of Sgt. Fury or the missions of the Losers). The stories seemed very realistic. I too was more into superheroes but would pick up Our Army of War every now and then.

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