Tuesday, August 03, 2010

If you don't want to see Sgt. Rock punch out Solomon Grundy, I don't think we can be friends.

Would you recognize Sgt. Rock and Bulldozer here, out of context?
We just looked at some misinformation from Nick Fury, but that one's going to seem clear as day next to this one: from 2002, Suicide Squad #10, "Time Passages," although the cover title is better: "The Rock that Time Forgot!"

The death and life of Easy Company's Sgt. Rock is something of a debate: some people, including his creator Robert Kanigher, firmly take the position that Rock (and probably the rest of Easy) do not get out of World War II alive; dying in battle before the war ended. Others believe Rock survived, and went on to appear in Brave and the Bold, the Our Worlds at War crossover, and in this incarnation of the Suicide Squad. (Not unlike Hawkman's continuity, Crisis on Infinite Earths may not have helped here; Earth-1 and 2 versions of Rock may have made more sense.)

I don't have all the issues of this one, but accompanying Rock was his Easy Company compatriot, Bulldozer. Bulldozer was currently wheelchair-bound; but both he and Rock were in far better shape than eighty-year-old veterans should be. As a dinosaur movie (conveniently) plays in Bulldozer's apartment, he and Rock remember why...maybe.

In 1959, the ex-Sgt. Rock is receiving his third visit since his discharge from agencies trying to get him back to work. This time, although he never says his name, who he works for, or who's in charge, it appears to be King Faraday. Faraday comments on the comics and magazines on Rock's coffee table, noting that Rock doesn't care for super-heroes, and may have had either a minor scuffle or drag-out brawl with Wildcat. Rock claims that was blown out of proportion, but Faraday tells him, more than once: "You're a resource going to waste. You need purpose." Rock doesn't have much of an argument for that. I mean, can you see him joining a bowling league or something?

At Area 51, back in uniform, Rock catches up with an old friend:

Rock is unenthused that Bulldozer apparently threw his name around as a good prospect for the "Suicide Squad." Bulldozer apologizes, but he hadn't really expected them to drag Rock back in. Besides, Rock really is the best man for the job, as seen on the next page:

That "KERPLOP!" you just heard was the Rock-purists keeling over, but I would probably have read a book of Sgt. Rock fighting aliens, giant insects, and/or Solomon Grundy. (It isn't clear if these missions were before or after Rock signed back up. Possibly from during wartime, since Bulldozer's nose isn't broken, and it still is later this issue.)

Their next mission is to accompany Dr. Rip Hunter (apparently not calling himself Time Master as of yet) to the ever-popular Suicide Squad destination of Dinosaur Island. Hunter is going to try to close the temporal rift on the island; Rock and Bulldozer are there to keep him from being eaten by something straightaway.

By this point, Rock and Bulldozer have been shot at so many times and seen enough weird crap that they're less fazed about a time rip than that the doctor's name is Rip. Using the Time Sphere, they arrive in the late Jurassic era, where Bulldozer promptly throws up. In kind of a dick move that's probably right, Hunter makes Bulldozer clean up his puke, so it doesn't contaminate the timeline or something; and everyone knows raptors are like sharks for the smell of vomit, so...

Bulldozer ends up falling through the invisible time rift, and Rock goes in after him; which gets them back to the present the hard way, without any time spheres or protection or anything. Rip finds them when he returns, and takes the unconscious pair back to Area 51, where they eventually wake up. A visiting Faraday tells them nothing: are they OK? Was the rift closed? Without ever coming out and saying so, it's strongly implied, this incident kept Rock and Bulldozer from aging completely normally. Possibly.

This version of Suicide Squad would end with issue #12; with Bulldozer getting up from his wheelchair and walking away with Rock. Or, "Rock," as he unmasks, leaving behind a rubber face Mission: Impossible style. A caption reads, "Frank Rock died in 1945." But did he really, or is that the official version? Who was that masked man? Nemesis? Someone else? If Rock was Nemesis, who was Bulldozer? And if they weren't really Rock and Bulldozer, did that flashback really happen? And if it didn't, why make John Severin draw it?

Suicide Squad #10, written by Keith Giffen, art by John Severin (flashbacks) and Paco Medina and Joe Sanchez (present). The letters page implies Severin stepped in to help out; and I don't know if Giffen wrote the flashback specifically for Severin or not...I want to guess, not; since I would've gone all-out guns-a'blazing action then. Oh, and nice Mark Texeira cover as well.


Ron Hogan said...

Severin might have "stepped in to help" in the sense that there's a similar flashback sequence earlier in the series that Russ Heath drew, and maybe he wasn't available the second time around. But I don't know; I'm totally winging it here.

Actually, now that I think of it, that issue Heath drew was all about Rock's encounter with the Unknown Soldier, which led me to believe back in 2002, when the series ended, HE had been impersonating Rock, not Nemesis.

chiasaur11 said...

Of course, Rock has been the Unknown Soldier a time or two.

Or more accurately, an "Unknown Soldier" has been Rock. WWI, Revolutionary War, Civil War, thanks to time travel Frank Rock served in all of them.

Man, that was a weird issue.