Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Shogun Warriors, Part 7

Wow. Shogun Warriors #16 (May 1980) is a surprisingly brutal issue and a game-changer for the title.

I will get one complaint out of the way right up front. We know before we even read the story that the Shogun Sanctuary is destroyed and the Followers of the Light all killed. We know this because THE DARN COVER TELLS US SO! I know that covers sometimes lie, but this one is telling the exact truth. Gee whiz.

The story starts in California, where the Shoguns are getting in some practice near Richard Carson's house. Carson's gal Deena is still feeling some jealousy towards Genji, but she recognizes this as irrational and is actually going to get a few Crowning Moments of Awesome in the upcoming story.

This is an effective bit of characterization. Deena is given enough flawed humanity to make her seem like a real person, but she's still likable and the character moments enhance rather than hinder the main plot.

That main plot involves the "men in black" guys who had been seen sneaking around Carson's home in previous issues. They return with a vengeance, hitting the heroes with a gas that weakens them and taking the pendants that allow them to communicate with the followers. The "men in black" guys" turn out to be robots and the three pilots (along with Deena, who wields a mean shotgun) manage to take a number of them out and get to their robots.

They quickly fly to the Sanctuary, but the bad guys have gotten their first and destroyed the place, killing the Followers. Abruptly, the Shogun pilots are on their own.

It is indeed abrupt. But it works in terms of effective storytelling. The appearance of the Men in Black in previous issues let us know something fishy was going on. This provided enough foreshadowing to give the plot twist dramatic viability without taking away the shock of what happened.

It's showing the stupid plot twist on the stupid cover that takes away the shock. Though I guess I might be a little unfair--experienced comic book readers would have known that covers often distort or mislead for dramatic impact, so perhaps this cover is a sort of double-bluff, causing readers to assume the event was really just an illusion or a holographic training program.

Anyway, a dragon-like alien shows up. This is the creature responsible for destroying the Sanctuary--it now tries to talk the Shoguns into simply abandoning their robots. It's logic is that humanity is advancing technologically too quickly. They might be heading into space too soon, bringing death and destruction with them. Their motivation is very similar to Klaatu's mission in the film The Day the Earth Stood Still, but their methods are more overtly aggressive. The alien has destroyed the Sanctuary, but also plans to kill Reed Richards, Tony Stark and pretty much every other really smart guy on the planet.

The Shoguns defeat the the alien, but now they are on their own, without a safe place to store the robots and without anyone who knows how to do maintenance on them.

From a really good issue, we now arrive at what is so far the only really weak link in the series. The pilots need a new place to store their robots. Savage can store his in an underwater cavern near his lab in Madagascar. Genji, who is relocated to San Francisco, and Carson make the bizarrely dumb decision to store Combatra in an abandoned tenement building--a completely unsecure location--and Genji doesn't even bother to turn off the "shimmer tube" that allows access to the robot's flight deck. Genji has been presented as an intelligent woman for 16 issues, now she metaphorically leaves the car keys in her unlocked Giant Robot of Death. It is a rare instance of poor storytelling from Doug Moench and Herb Trimpe.

So when a family of migrant workers decides to sleep in the tenement, the kid in the family stumbles into the shimmer tube, ends up on the flight deck and accidentally causes Combatra to take off. Carson has to follow in Raydeen and spend most of the issue trying to force Combatra down without hurting the kid.

It is a weak and uninteresting issue. It also brings up an interesting point about the future of the Shoguns. The kid keeps accidentally firing off Combatra's weapons, many of which are missiles and rockets. With the Sanctuary destroyed, how are the Shoguns' getting ammo reloads? I would give them a pass on their fuel--we can assume that the advanced tech of the robots includes power plants that last a long time or perhaps can refuel by solar energy. But they are going to need a steady supply of missiles. Remember that I'm reviewing these as I read them for the first time, so I'm curious to see if this is becomes a plot point. To be fair, there is only a few issues left, so the story might come to an end before ammunition shortages become an issue.

Next week, we'll see the first of two "Comic Books Take on Real Life" with a look at a comic book biography of Crazy Horse published in 1950.

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