Daily Archives: January 3, 2020

DC Reviews: All-Out War #3

“Shield of Shame”

Script: Robert Kanigher
Pencils: George Evans
Inks: George Evans
Colors: Bob LeRose
Letters: Gaspar Saladino

Synopsis: Maggie Heywood, a reporter for Life magazine, arrives on the front lines to do a story about Valoric, the Viking Commando. After Valoric tells the story of how he travelled from the 12th century to the Second World War and then rescues Maggie from a surprise Nazi attack, she turns him into a celebrity by making him the magazine’s next cover subject. But a German soldier sees the story, realizes who Valoric is, and vows to avenge his family’s honor.

“Bullet for a Bully”

Script: David Allikas
Pencils: Bill Payne
Inks: Bill Payne

Synopsis: In Fascist Italy, an Italian resistance fighter and an American G.I. are on the run from government soldiers. They beg the Italian’s grandfather to hide them in his cottage, but the old man — a supporter of “Il Duce” — agrees to hide only his grandson: “The Americano must die!” Before the old man can kill the American soldiers, Fascist soldiers break down the door and — after misreading the scene — start beating the old man for being a “traditore” to Mussolini. He shoots one of the soldiers dead in a scuffle, but when a grateful grandson thanks him for his help, the old man spits  back, “I aimed that bullet for you!” Both soldiers leave, heartsick at the hatred leaders like Mussolini spawn in “the hearts of misguided men.”

“Wings for a Blind Pilot”

Script: Robert Kanigher
Pencils: Dick Ayers
Inks: Romeo Tanghal
Colors: Jerry Serpe
Letters: Ben Oda

Synopsis: Hitler angrily orders one of his majors to destroy Black Eagle and his Black Fighter Squadron: “They are an inferior race… mongrels… who spit in the face of us Nazis!” (That’s Hitler for you: an equal-opportunity racist.) Daring aerial acrobatics ensue, along with some discussion afterwards about why the fliers in the squadron are fighting “the Man’s war.” After Black Eagle gives a short speech about how letting the Nazis win won’t make the lives of black people any better, he shows a child blinded by a recent attack around the airfield. When they both end up in the air fighting a German Messerschmitt in a cloud bank, the boy uses his ears to hear the enemy plane’s position and save the day.

“Last Ace for a Gunner”

Script: Murray Boltinoff (as Evan Douglas) Pencils: Mar Amongo
Inks: Mar Amongo

Synopsis: Marine gunner Gene Ellsworth mans his post on Guadalcanal in the South Pacific. While waiting for a patrol to return, he relaxes by dealing himself a poker hand: “I’ve been tryin’ to draw four aces all my life! But I’m gonna make it today! I feel lucky!” When the patrol arrives with Japanese soldiers hot on their tail, he has to put aside his hand to take out the enemy. The job complete, he’s thrilled to find a fourth ace in his hand… but a wounded enemy soldier shoots him dead at the moment of his triumph.

“No Glory for Cooky”

Script: Bob Haney
Pencils: E.R. Cruz
Inks: E.R. Cruz
Colors: Jerry Serpe
Letters: Gaspar Saladino

Synopsis: An American soldier, Cooky, registers his disapproval with his commanding officer, “Scrounger,” while they’re taking food from a German family and, later, off the corpses of German soldiers. “Spoils of war! And the outfit needs chow!” his C.O. barks. Later, after they raid a Nazi field kitchen on Christmas Eve, Scrounger takes a bullet and makes Cooky promise to cook up the wild boar they liberated. Cooky complies, but grumbles that the food will go to feed the “lousy brass” when it should go to the rank-and-file soldiers. After a fight with more Germans ends in the Americans’ favor, Cooky demands the food be used to feed his fellow soldiers… but then a group of freed concentration camp survivors march by in the snow, and Cooky opts to feeds them instead. “As we moved out, overhead a big star was twinklin’…”

“The Dominoes of Death”

Script: Robert Kanigher
Pencils: Jerry Grandenetti
Inks: Jerry Grandenetti
Colors: Jerry Serpe
Letters: Gaspar Saladino

Synopsis: Our story begins in London, where Dickson, an American war correspondent, is about to get married when — uh-oh — a Nazi bombing raid hits the church and kills his British bride. We soon learn it’s a flashback dream, as Dickson is awakened by his Force 3 comrades, Leonidas and Fredric, right before they arrive in Nazi-held Yugoslavia. Their mission: find a key leader of the Yugoslav underground and bring him to London to help co-ordinate Allied attacks against Nazi forces. They find their man, but he proves to be a little more stubborn about fighting for his people than they had bargained for…

Prime Cut Panels: With six stories of pulse-pounding war action, there’s plenty to choose from in this issue. And while it’s tempting to go with one of the double-page spreads displaying all-out war (hey, that’s the title!), I’m drawn more to this final page in the story “Bullet for a Bully.” Partly, it’s because the twist at the end came as a surprise to me… but then, after giving it some thought, I realized it shouldn’t have.

Bill Payne was a Canadian artist who had a brief career in comics. He succeeded Norm Drew on the comic strip The Giants, which depicted the biographies of noted people, and continued it with writer Walt McDayter for the Toronto Telegram News Service from 1968 until at least 1969. Ronn Sutton takes credit for bringing him into the world of comic illustration; between 1972 and 1980 Payne contributed to various DC war and horror titles.

Random Thoughts: Golly! Sixty-eight pages of action for a whole dollar! I mean, sure, that feels like a good deal now, but that dollar price represented a sizable chunk of change to a young whipper-snapper back in 1980. It’s probably a good thing that kid couldn’t see into the future of comic book prices.

War comics were on the decline as the ’80s rolled around, but that didn’t stop DC from launching the anthology title All-Out War in 1979 to appear alongside Sgt. Rock, G.I. Combat and The Unknown Soldier in the nation’s spinner racks. It didn’t last long (six bimonthly issues in total), but it was around long enough to introduce the Viking Commando and Black Eagle to the world. Far as I know, DC hasn’t done much with either of these characters; it’s too bad, as neither would feel out of place in, say, an episode of that Legends of Tomorrow show.

Taken as a whole, these six stories are a good representation of DC’s war output in the ’70s and ’80s: character-driven, plenty of battle scenes, light on depictions of the more gruesome aspects of war, and a surprising number of locales across the world. (I wonder how many comic fans who picked this up even knew Yugoslavia existed, let alone how its people were affected by World War II.) All the stories here take place during World War II, which makes sense — it’s the one good war that everyone can agree on, plus guys like Kanigher and Ayers could draw from their own wartime experiences.

Anthology comics tend to be a tough sell, and I can see why — when it’s 1979 and you’re plunking down a whole dollar for a comic, you want some assurance you’re going to like what’s inside. Luckily, none of the six stories here qualify as a clunker — though “Last Ace for a Gunner” had a predictable ending, and I might need a fighter pilot to weigh in on this idea that a blind person can hear another approaching plane over the sound of his own plane’s engine as put forward in “Wings for a Blind Pilot.” Best of the bunch is “Bullet for a Bully” — a tale of fanaticism trumping family that’s all too pertinent to our modern times.


The challenge: Can I review a month’s worth of DC books from January 1980 in under a month?