Acquired: Strikeforce: Morituri #31

Price: $.25
Where: Future Dreams, Portland, OR

Chalk this one up to a guilty little pleasure. Because, man, this is not a good comic.

If this was the '60s Marvel, that would be 'Chief Wampum'

Strikeforce: Morituri was a nifty little sci-fi / super-hero title that started in 1988 (I believe) that centered around an alien invasion of Earth. The aliens, vastly superior to us humans, easily put down the initial resistance and have spent years looting the Earth. Not of resources, but of trinkets. Buttons, old movies, action figures and the like. They were basically a race of interstellar super-collectors. Maybe they worked for Wizard. Or Toybiz.

Humanity's salvation comes when one scientist discovers the Morituri Process - the ability to create super-heroes. The process comes at a cost, however, as it puts such an immense strain on the subjects' metabolism that they will - sometime in the near future, but usually within a year - burn out and die. Usually they explode. It's cool. The process is also limited to very few genetic matches, and the powers the volunteers get are totally random. One lady got the power to make flowers bloom. Sucks to be you, babe!

The call goes out for volunteers, and those that were willing to sacrifice themselves for a chance to bash some alien butt are put through the process. During the comic's run, many characters would die (Ka-Blooey!) and get replaced by other characters. But the end of the series, there were no original characters - in fact, I think the rotating cast was well into its 4th generation.

I loved this concept when I originally read it and collected every issue as it came out. Though not a brilliant comic (far from it), at times it was a very fun read. I liked it enough to keep my original complete run to this day. I even created a series of Champions RPG modules based on this concept - players would each create 5 characters each and at certain times during the game, I would make a random (and hidden) roll, and if a certain percentage came up, somebody's character would explode. Then they'd move on to the next character they created.

Yes, I'm a geek. This surprises anyone reading this far?

So, imagine my horror when I realised that I didn't actually have every issue. I had every issue but the last one. How odd. Luckily, I was able to find one in the cheap bin for $.25. And brother, I gotta tell you: it's worth at least half that.

At the time of this issue, the hoarding aliens have been defeated (by other, even more powerful aliens in one of the biggest cop-outs to a series finale I've ever read), the surviving Morituri have found a "cure" that lets them live indefinitely, and things are returning to semi-normal. Except that behind the scenes the Morituri process is being used covertly to (wait for it....) create killers loyal to a shadow government in order to overthrow the legitimate government. I could've written this. Even back in '89.

It's fairly obvious that this issue has to wrap everything up - and quickly. It's pretty jumbled and forces endings .. when it's not letting them go. The issue opens with the uber-aliens giving us a synopsis (this issue's real heavy on synopsis' - it uses one at three different times. Not a good sign.) that leads up to the four surviving Morituri on their way to the secret bad guy base to put a stop to the evil government's plot. Things aren't going so well at the bad guy base at the moment. One of the bad Morituri has it in his head that he's some kind of god and is running around slaughtering people at super speed. Ah, loyalty! Thy fickle mistress!

One of the two other evil Morituri makes his ghostly way to the base, figuring out that he's on the wrong side. Evil M#3 figures it out, too and decides to just go back home to India. Screw it. Issue's only got so many pages, you know.

So, all the evil guys you recruited for use on your side have all turned on ya, huh, Mr. Government Guy? Seemed like a good plan at the time? You paying attention, Mr. Stark?

The Morituri get to the base and it only takes them six pages to break in. Really. Six pages. The upcoming big fight scene with speedy guy was complete in 4 1/2. Masterful pacing there. Fight with speedy guy begins, and after he takes out half of them, we get to something I like to call "The Dr. Light Moment!"

No, Sui! No!Inter-racial romance. Marvel: Ahead of the times...

The thought of having another mini-series with the word "Crisis!" in it spurs our final Morituri to kill speedy guy and we wrap up everything pretty quickly. How, you ask?

The uber-aliens are behind everything - AGAIN!

I specifically remembering groaning at this when I was 18. Again?!?

The aliens do some mind-mamajama on the boss, he surrenders - surrenders, mind you - and the comic finishes the issue setting up the scenes for a few quarterlies that were set to run after this issue. I've read them - and whoo-boy! are they stinky! This issue has a few pages from what will be the first one, Y'know, to whet your appetite. With pages like this one:

It's been 10 years. Page done in 4 words

Along with this page, which basically says, "It's been 10 years and the government's new, and we have new stuff now." all of the "sneak preview" pages are exposition pages. All of them. Nothing new is presented at all. Now, I gotta say - if I was pushing this book in a new direction and wanted to ensure that old, series-long readers are going to want to see the direction I'm going to be taking it in the last issue of the series - man, I'm definitely going to show them a sneak preview consisting of nothing but recaps. Because, Y'know, nothing says innovative like a flashback to things they already know. They'll be lining up to buy that sucker.

This issue's penciler is credited as John Calimee, with Mark Bagley on the cover. I suspect that Bagley had more than a passing influence on the interior (or vice-versa), however - check out this bit:

Ultimate Spidey-Shock!

That's a Bagely sequence, right there.

Strikeforce: Morituri will always have a place in my heart as a great concept to base a series on, however passable the execution turned out to be. I really loved this series (especially the early issues) and now I have a complete set. Except for those quarterly issues. Don't miss those at all. So long, you crazy doomed-to-die alien horde bashin' heroes!

What? No beer?

Nah, I'm good.

EDIT: One real spiffy thing about this issue that I completely forgot to mention is that you get to read the whole 25 pages of story without getting interrupted by a single advertisement. The only ads in the book are between the main story and the preview and then after the preview itself - and there's only 3 pages of them. Imagine that. It was real refreshing, actually - Thesedays I'm so used to having my fight scenes broken up by Heroes promos, car ads, or that damn Wii kid.

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