Into the back issue box #5

What could it be? The masses gnash their teeth and rend their garments in anticipation!

Eternal Warrior #40 ("Body Shop") by John Ostrander, Jackson Guice, and Randy Elliot. Published by Valiant (a division of Acclaim Comics), September 1995.

A first-time comic book reader would not know that John Ostrander is one of the best comic book writers around. A first-time comic book reader would not know that Guice can be a very good penciller. A first-time comic book reader would not know that Valiant is one of those mid-1990s companies that tried to cash in on the speculator boom and crashed hard. All a first-time comic book reader would know is that the Eternal Warrior is sporting some hot pants on that cover!

Our story begins with a six-page flashback, in which Gilad, the Eternal Warrior, explains to someone named Migdalia in narration that back when he was a "savage" in his tribe, he became arrogant because he was always unhurt in battle. This led to his tribe's ruination, as he led his armies against a vastly superior force that beat him and then went after his tribe's women and children. Then we're in the present, and Migdalia is some chick (naturally) and she tells him that he was "a creature of his time" and that there is no way he could have been more enlightened. Gilad, the "Eternal" Warrior who is immortal for some reason that is not explained in this issue (perhaps Sean Connery could tell us), tells her that he needs to repent for his actions. Really? The story he tells her is from a time "before men counted the years or recorded what we call history" - he's been repenting since then? Wow.

In order to repent, Gilad goes on a mission to South America, where bad people have built farms to "grow" children so their organs can be harvested. The kids are runaways who have been snatched from the U.S. or bought from poor families. Gilad is going to close one of them down. And yes, he puts a head band on and takes his shirt off, not unlike John Rambo. At least he's indestructible, so why the hell does he need a shirt anyway?

The rest of the issue is, well, ass-kicking. Gilad busts into the camp all silent-like, kills some guards, then finds a woman whose son has been taken just recently. She tells him how many people are in the camp, and then it's time for more killin'! He breaks in as the doctor is about to kill the boy and tells the boy to look away. The boy, manly as ever, says "Not if yew're gonner kill him." What kind of accent is that, I wonder? Gilad stabs the doctor and leaves the boy with him, and we see the boy about to do some serious desecrating of the doctor's corpse with a big-ass machete. I suppose we can forgive him if he has some pent-up rage. Gilad kills some more people, gets the name of the doctor in New York who is running the whole operation, and then, back in New York, scares the crap out of said doctor and gets him to confess. (He scares him by showing him the head of his flunkie. You know, I'd probably confess to the Kennedy assassination if someone showed me the head of my flunkie - in fact, I have to go get me some flunkies, because that would be cool to have flunkies.) We end the issue on a somber note, as the cop says he should be proud because he shut the farm down, and Gilad says, "This is the one I caught. How many others are there?" Cue dramatic music and fade to black!

There's nothing very wrong with Eternal Warrior #40, but it's kind of dull. It's a silly action movie with a veneer of social consciousness - Gilad is trying to atone for his violent past, and he does so by killing a bunch of people. Yes, he's saving the children, and he's atoning for getting his women and children killed in the first few pages of the book, but he also claims he's trying to become less violent. He kills at least 17 people in the present, plus a bunch in the flashback. Good job, Gilad!

There's very little here that indicates Ostrander can do anything resembling subtlety (I know he can, it's just not in evidence here). It's a fine, straight forward smash-em-up, and although Ostrander tries to throw a few things in there that deepen the story, it's like Sylvester Stallone's (great) speech at the end of Rambo: First Blood Part 2 when Richard Crenna asks Sly what he wants, and he says, "For our country ... to love us ... as much as we ... love it! That's what I want!" You know, it sounds good but isn't all that deep. That's fine, though - we're not here for depth, we're here for the slaughter.

It's not surprising that we don't learn why Gilad is immortal, but we learn enough to suspend our disbelief and go along for the ride. This is not a great comic book, but it's not horrible. Ostrander, who has done a great job on so many other titles, writes a paint-by-numbers story, and Guice's art is fine, although it only looks like Guice a few times. It often looks like Gulacy's cover art, actually. Was he trying to copy Gulacy? I don't know. This was pretty early in Guice's career, wasn't it? Maybe he hadn't settled on a style yet.

You could do a lot worse than Eternal Warrior #40. Especially if you like a lot of killing for your comic-book dollar!

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