My brother Ken went through a period during which he was somewhat enamored of war comics. War comics never did much for me for the most part–I had no aspirations to fly into battle, shooting at the enemy. That seemed like a good way to get hurt–and I was far from an athletic kid to begin with. My fantasies were more abstract, and tended to involve the addition of special cheat super-powers to level the playing field (or tip it in my favor.) In the end, I wound up with the small stack of war books that Ken had collected once he lost interest in them, and this issue of SGT ROCK is one of them.
As much as I didn’t care abut military comics, they always looked good. Editor Joe Kubert was a master of the form, and he was always able to bring in other artists who could execute the stories at a similar level of craft. Even the crummiest of them looked pretty good. Author Robert Kanigher continued to write the lion’s share of this material, and one got the impression that he could do so in his sleep (and sometimes did.) Kanigher often gave the impression that he was slumming in comics, and he would fall back on tried-and-true formulas, but he was also a strong enough craftsman that, especially on the war books, where he maybe cared a little bit more, he could always be depended upon for a solid yarn.
The lead story in this issue opens with Sgt Rock and Easy Company operating behind enemy lines to knock out a radio tower that’s been broadcasting positions to the Luftwaffe. They do so, but not before the Germans get a message out to their nearby forces. Rock orders Easy to split up and make their way back to Allied territory–that together, they’ll be too easy a target to spot. Having done so, the Sergeant begins to make his own way home, and comes across a pair of German soldiers pursuing and firing at a pregnant German girl. Rock can’t sit idly by, so he intercedes, nailing both enemy gunmen.
The girl tells Rock that she is fleeing Hitler’s breeding camps, where the Nazis are supervising the eugenics of creating new, young wolf children loyal to the Fuhrer and the Reich. With her young husband a frozen victim of the Eastern Front, she doesn’t want the same for her child, and so she’s fleeing to a grandmother’s place in the Alps. She pleads for Rock’s help in getting there, and of course the old softy agrees. The two set out, dodging enemy troops and occasionally mixing it up with them along the way.
While making the Alps crossing, it is time for the baby to come, and so Rock must assist with the delivery. Thereafter, he and the recovering mother are set upon by a Nazi search party. But Rock is just quick enough to snatch up his machine gun and mow down all four members of the party before they can get of a sot and kill him–what a guy! The story wraps up as you’d expect, with mother and child safely at grandma’s in the Alps and Rock hiking his way back to Easy’s position. Not really a memorable story, but a perfectly fine diversion for a few minutes of entertainment.
This was followed by a one-page gag strip by Dave Manak. The war, western and mystery books tended to use these sorts of filler bits for years after the super hero titles stopped, mainly because most of the stories that went into these titles could be run in almost any order, and so sometimes hitting the necessary page count required an additional page or two. This was followed by a short story in the Bob Kanigher’s Gallery of War series, this one illustrated by the reliable Lee Elias.
It’s a short six-page mood piece showing how soldiers on both sides of the conflict are all united and inspired by hearing a particular French song on their radios–one that reminds them of what is waiting for them at home when the war is finished and they are victorious. Ironically, the radio station itself has been bombed, killing everybody inside it–but the one record on the turntable has somehow managed to survive, and continues to broadcast.