Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blackhawk #246 (May-June, 1976)

“Chopper, alone among the Blackhawks, never met Boris before… for it was he who took Boris’s place in the Blackhawk line-up… Yet even so he was told many times of the fateful battle against a so-called ‘mad’ scientist…” Boris had been caught in an explosion caused by an electrical overload in Professor Distov’s island lab, and despite Chuck’s protestations, was left for dead by Blackhawk. The force was so devastating, the very island was rendered “an ash-strewn wasteland.” However, Boris managed to survive, with strange new powers and a thirst for revenge, soon to redub himself “Anti-Man!

As we entered the issue, most of the Blackhawk Squadron was chained by the wrists in a dungeon, captured by a man formerly among of their number. Years prior, the team had a short term “brooding Bolshevik” member named Boris, who in flashbacks we learned had become a close friend to Chuck during their early days. The pair engaged in tough love patter while gunning down Nazis, or as Stan put it, the all-American “Chuck always seemed to be over-compensating for his natural distrust, trying too hard to give Boris the benefit of the doubt.” Stan recalled a time when Boris “accidentally” tripped Chuck near a landmine, for instance, which prompted him to keep an eye on the Soviet.

The team had come to these straits after Hendrickson’s daughter had been dropped into the sea near Blackhawk Island, as a warning against their involvement in the Santa Culpa Rebellion. As her father watched over Elsa’s peacefully sleeping form, he thought, “After all she’s been through, I wouldn’t be surprised if she tossed and turned for weeks! But thanks to her hard childhood, I suppose no situation is going to faze her for long!” While Hendrickson remained with his adult offspring, Andre flew to Switzerland to investigate the disappearance of Olaf at a ski lodge. Initially skeptical, the Frenchman cursed himself a fool when he uncovered the Swede’s trashed hotel room, and his plane hidden in a hanger secret to all but the Blackhawks. “Unlike us, Andre remains unaware that it was Boris who took Olaf captive… and that Olaf had been reunited with the Blackhawks… in a dark and dismal Latin American dungeon.”

As Olaf regained consciousness, he was brought up to speed on the Squad’s capture by Stan. Blackhawk then ordered, “Enough, Stan! If Olaf can’t figure the rest out, he’ll just have to wait!” Blackhawk had managed to stall the vindictive Boris by goading him into plotting a fate worse than death for his former comrades, and that time was precious. “You appear to have regained your strength… Do you think you can break your chains?” Old and rusted, the mooring eventually gave way to Olaf’s muscle. “Yiminy! If this building ban not as old as it ban, I would’ve broken myself, not the chains!”

While Olaf set about freeing his compatriots, Boris sent for Professor Ortega, to hold a private meeting. “You are the only educated man in this backward country! Thus you must explain these strange powers I possess. Today, for example, I again felt the urge to go to Mount Sebastion!” Ortega had done some computing, and determined that location was exactly half a world away from Distov’s Island. It seemed that all those years ago, Distov had been experimenting with anti-matter energy that’s true source was powerful enough to emanate on the other side of the Earth, though it rested in Mt. Sebastion. “For some reason, the energy clung to you in the lab-- protecting you from the explosion-- and transforming you! And now the mountain acts as a recharging battery for your power-- !” Anti-Man was pleased with this explanation, but killed Professor Ortega all the same to keep it a secret.

Back in the dungeon, a plan had come to fruition. Water jugs in the cell were poured out under a locked door, and electrical wires pulled from a light were used to electrocute the guards outside. Olaf knocked down the wooden cell door, and Blackhawk continued barking orders. “Olaf, get back in here and free Stan, before our financial wizard has a coronary! Chuck, you stay here too! Once Stan is free, you three try to rally the government forces! There’s still a chance to defeat the rebels! Chopper, you’re coming with me!” Blackhawk had deduced that they were near a sub-basement of the presidential palace, “A perfect place for that turn-coat… to meet secretly with Anti-Man!” Boris had been leading the rebellion from the safety of the government’s very heart, but as the worm turned, el presidente cleaned out his office and escaped.

Government forces waged conflict above ground, but their resolve was wavering in the absence of leadership. The Great White Hope was provided to them at the arrival of Olaf, Stan and Chuck to the scene, guns blazing. “Fighting like the well-oiled team they are-- the three Blackhawks drive forward-- breaking the rebel line!”

Anti-Man heard the fighting, and reckoned that since his rebels should have taken the palace with ease, something must have gone seriously wrong. Boris entered a hidden passageway under the palace with the intention of taking the government forces from behind. However, Blackhawk barred his path. “I don’t know how you got free, but you should have run like the coward you are-- for now you will surely die!!” Anti-Man began firing energy blasts, mostly at the also present Chopper, who evaded them with his expert tumbling and kung fu skills. “Stay still, you little fool! I hunt only Blackhawks-- not a non-entity like you!”

“One problem, friend! I am a Blackhawk-- even if you aren’t-- traitor!! Leader-man-- he’s all yours!” Blackhawk began pounding Anti-Man, having used Chopper’s distraction to even the odds with Boris by keeping him to dazed to use his powers. After knocking Boris out, Anti-Man was bound up. However, the former Blackhawk wasn’t willing to go in quietly, and instead caused the anti-matter in Mt. Sebastion to overload explosively. “Anti-Man almost finished us all with that explosive suicide!” The only thing saving them was the fact that Boris had already drained so much power from the mountain’s load.

After the explosion, the rebel forces backed down. “With their corrupt president gone, they’ll be free to have a new election… and maybe, even a worthwhile government! In any event, our job here is finished! The rest is up to the people of Santa Culpa! Come on, Blackhawks, it’s time for us to fly!” As their sleek jets streaked away, Chuck thought, “No matter what Boris became, he was still once my friend! And that’s something you can never forget… NEVER!”

"Death's Deadly Pawn" by Steve Skeates, Ric Estrada & George Evans. Not a great story, but a cute way to resolve the fate of an early Blackhawk of the 1940s. However, for the record, Chopper (by the name Chop-Chop) made his first appearance in Military Comics #3, when Boris was still a part of the Blackhawk Squadron. If anyone, Chuck replaced Boris (and Zeg) as a permanent member once the roster solidified.

No comments: