Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's not bad to be haunted if the ghost is on YOUR side.

Its not surprising that a book like Weird War Tales would eventually appear on the market. War stories and horror tales really aren't that far apart. In both genres, the main characters have to suffer violent death or some other hideous fate--or at least be threatened with it--in order to move the plot along. So perhaps the two genres go together naturally. They certainly did in the best Weird War stories.

DC's Weird War series from the 1970s was an anthology book. Like most such books, it was somewhat uneven--it certainly had its share of weak stories. It took soldiers--usually just average ground-pounders--and threw them into situations featuring supernatural or science fiction elements. Most of the stories were set in World War II, though an occasional foray farther into the past or into the future was not unusual. Usually, there were two or three short stories per issue, though occasionally one story would be book-length. The series also had some of the consistently best cover illustrations of the decade.

The 14th issue (June 1973) was one of the book-length ones. Featuring clean, solid art by Tony DeZuniga, it starts off at Pearl Harbor, just before the Japanese attack. An American Army Sergeant named McBride discovers his Japanese wife (named Tsuko) has been kidnapped by her father. The father always disapproved of the marriage to an American. Rushing to the father's export-business warehouse, McBride finds the place deserted. The dad confronts him with a pistol and the news that Tsuko has been taken to his yacht to go back to Japan.

McBride jumps the father and two shots ring out. The next thing the soldier knows, he's standing over his own body (Tsuko's dad is dead as well.) Death comes for him, but outside the attack on Pearl Harbor has begun. Yelling that he still has a job to do, McBride runs away from Death.

Soon, poor Tsuko is killed as well, giving her life to save an American pilot from Japanese guns. Are the two young lovers separated forever? Well, one of the many soldiers saved by mysterious appearances of either McBride or his wife during the course of the war is convinced that they are eventually reunited.

It's a good, well-plotted ghost story with several sincerely eerie moments, given added verisimilitude by little details that help set each successive chapter at definite point in real-life World War II history. DeZuniga, who would soon be bringing weirdness to the Old West via the original Jonah Hex stories, also takes care to portray uniforms, equipment and weapons accurately. (Though he does show a Japanese sailor with an American hand grenade on his belt. Oh, well.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...