Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Thunder in the Desert

Initially, DC Comics various war comics were anthologies without featuring any regular characters.The eventual introduction of Sgt. Rock, the Haunted Tank and other mainstays of the Second World War has without question made the world a better place in which to live.

But many of the stories featured in the early issues of books such as Our Army at War were very good.  Issue #44 (March 1956) had a number of good ones, including the cover story written by Bob Kanigher and illustrated by Jerry Grandenetti.

It's a simple 8-page story. As I mentioned when I reviewed a Charlton 8-pager a few weeks ago, this is sometimes all that is needed to tell a story effectively.

We join an unnamed soldier sitting in a foxhole in the Sahara desert. It's night, the sky is overcast, and the darkness is absolute. The soldier is supposed to be watching for the enemy, but he can't see anything.

But he certainly hears the machine gun that opens fire on  him. (Actually, a small criticism of the story comes from wondering how the Germans found him in the dark.) He fires back at the muzzle flash until the machine gun stops. But then he strafed by an enemy plane.

This time, he's forced to track the target entirely by sound, but he scores a hit and sees a fireball crashing into the desert.

Keep in mind that so far, we haven't seen anything the soldier doesn't see. All we see is the muzzle flash of the German machine gun--not the machine gun itself. All we see of the plane is the fireball after its hit.

This, plus the immediacy of the second-person narration, make this a very tense and edge-of-your-seat tale.

The climax comes when he's blinded by a searchlight and then hears a tank approaching. Without anti-tank weapons to use on a target he can't even see, he instead pushes a box of ammo forward, then fires into this in a desperate attempt to destroy the tank.

The last panel is epic. The sun finally rises and the soldier is finally able to see that he's won the fight.

It's a clever idea for a story, well executed in both script and art.

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