Monday, November 6, 2017

Doomsday Warrior #12: Death American Style

Doomsday Warrior #12: Death American Style, by Ryder Stacy
November, 1987  Zebra Books

The Doomsday Warrior series gets back to its original template, jettisoning the Endworld-esque vibe of the previous volume, which as we’ll recall was lacking in the series-mandatory “Red” villains. Ryder Syvertsen brings them all back, including – unsurprisingly – main series villain Colonel Killov, whom we were led to believe was dead. As if! 

Speaking of the series template, the events of the previous volume aren’t picked up on, or even mentioned – Rockson and team when last we saw them were at the Earth’s core, hanging out with some fairy-type gal and a giant bat. Well, forget about all that. While Syvertsen does as usual refer to previous volumes, giving the series a sort of epic feel, it must be admitted he’s rather lazy about it. Practically every time Ted “Doomsday Warrior” Rockson reflects on the events of an earlier volume, Syvertsen states that the events were “several years ago.” So it would appear even the author was having a difficult time keeping track.

At any rate we are informed it is now June of 2095, meaning we are about six years out from the first volume, which was in 2089. The lack of Russians in the previous book is quickly addressed; we meet up with Rockson and his girlfriend Rona as they are out hunting a mutant bear, and a “Red drone” soon flies by, searching for Freefighters. Rona by the way is Rockson’s sole “conquest” this time around; his other girlfriend, Kim, is AWOL again; last time we were informed she’d gone to another Freefighter city, but this time she isn’t even mentioned.

The mutant bear hunt takes care of the “monster menace” sequence we must have each volume; after much struggle our two heroes manage to kill it and haul it back to Century City, where it is to be studied by the scientists. Here they see the Russian drone, which drops leaflets, begging any and all Freefighters, particularly Ted Rockson, to come to Washington within a few weeks for a peace conference, one that will be attended by President Zhabnov and Premier Vassily. Rockson figures it’s a trap, but it needs to be put to the vote to see if a party will indeed venture to DC to see if it’s legit. 

Along with the Russians, Syvertsen brings back something else that’s been missing: the purple-prosed sex! Rockson and Rona engage in the usual explicit-but-goofy tryst, back in Rockson’s room in Century City, a scene that isn’t as explicit as some that came before, but at least it’s there – not to mention featuring lines like, “The fur triangle between [Rona’s] thighs was like a forest after a rain. A rain of her own desire.” But poor Rona’s given short shrift – she bangs Rockson and then is cast aside, Rockson refusing to allow her to go along on the journey to DC. This has happened a lot lately; whereas Rona used to be a member of the “Rock team” in earlier volumes, more and more she’s now kept on the sidelines when “the boys” go out into the radiated wasteland to kick Commie ass.

It wouldn’t be Doomsday Warrior if we also didn’t get to see some of the politics in Century City; after too many pages elapse in various debates about whether they should or should not send a party to DC, Rockson stands up and says he will go, taking full responsibility as military leader of Century City. This leads into the other recurring element – the journey out into the blasted US, complete, as ever, with an encounter with nuke-freaked weather. This time it’s a sandstorm, and even Syvertsen sort of jokes through the narrative that the sandstorm strikes almost immediately after Rock and team leaves Century City so as to “get it out of the way.”

All the other stuff happens, right on cue – the team comes across a small town outside of destroyed Kansas City, where htey feast and party with the corn-worshipping citizens. But sure enough they’re all drugged and bound, doomed to be burned at the stake as offerings to the god. Only dimwitted giant Archer, with his practically-inhuman tolerance levels, is able to fight off the tranquilizing drug long enough to free Rockson – who guides dumb Archer via the telepathy Rockson learned back in the third volume (as we’re reminded via a footnote). Soon they escape the “damned place,” capping off a bizarre bit of Kansas-bashing that runs through the first half of the book. Even Rona, before having that “lusty but loving sex” with Rockson, is wearing a t-shirt with the proclamation “I’ve seen Kasas and it sucked!”

Speaking of that Rockson-Rona bit, there’s a healthy heaping of sleaze in the opening quarter of Death American Style. Whereas most other volumes will have an arbitrary bit where we see life through the eyes of an American suffering beneath the Red yoke in this nuke-ravaged future, this time we instead take an arbitrary tour through the sex-slave pens of a slavemaster who is selling stock to the Russians for the upcoming peace conference. Here we see disgusting, mutated “she-things,” as well as three-breasted mutant babes, whom we are reminded are incredibly valuable.

On the mutant topic, Syvertsen seems to want to make a bigger thing than usual out of the fact that Rockson himself is one, and in fact the “only member” of his team who is one. This is more Rona-neglecting on the author’s part, as Rona is a “star-pattern mutant” same as Rockson. But this time around it’s harped on quite a bit that Rockson is different from his buddies, and also there is the interesting element that Rockson, the “Ultimate American” is fighting for the America of the past – an America that Rockson never was a part of, given the fact he’s a mutant. In fact he broods a few times over the fact that, soon enough, only mutants like himself will be left in America, and at that point what sort of country will it be?

Meanwhile all the Russian characters are back in force: there’s decadent and obese Zhabnov fretting over the arrival of his uncle, Premier Vassily, who himself mostly relays orders through his black manservant, Prince Rahallah. Vassily this time wants true peace, unlike the unacceptable offers he made Rockson back in the fourth volume. Then there’s Colonel Killov, last seen in volume #9 (“over two years ago,” we’re informed), where it was implied he died in the climax. In backstory we learn he struggled like a “rat” for life, and eventually made his way to the Middle East, where he hired a group of radical Islamic terrorists led by Dhul Qarnain, “the Hand of Allah.”

So with Death American Style Syvertsen gives us one of the few things so far missing from Doomsday Warrior: Muslim terrorists. However Dhul’s people don’t amount to much, despite much buildup; they spend most of the narrative on a massive oil tanker as it makes its way to the US, an executioner beheading two members who attempt to steal extra food. But in the climactic action scene they don’t put up much of a fight, no match for the battle-hardened Freefighters, and Rockson pulls an Indiana Jones cheat when he’s confronted by a sword-bearing Dhul Qanrain in the final pages.

Rockson and team spend almost the entire trip on an appropriated diesel tractor trailer, stolen from the Russians. When they get to DC, Rockson splits the team up to scope the place – and then promptly announces himself to the Russians. Here Zhabnov again makes a fool of himself, and an increasingly-sickly Vassily pleads with Rockson to consider terms for peace, as he stresses that once he, Vassily, is dead, chaos will overtake the world. But right on cue Killov attacks as the peace conference is just starting, decimating the attendees from afar via combat helicopters.

The finale is a bit rushed; Rockson and Rahallah escape, discovering that their comrades have been captured – Archer and Zhabnov now prisoners of Killov, who will use them as barter. Hooking up with Rockson’s team and Vassily’s surviving imperial guard, they launch a two-pronged attack, Rahallah leading some scuba divers and Rockson driving that tractor trailer right onto the deck of Killov’s oil tanker. The sporadic action is nearly as gory as ever, but nothing outrageous. And Killov, of course, escapes once again.

Overall Death American Style gets the series back on-track after the sort-of experimentation of the previous couple volumes, and I appreciated how Syvertsen this time around tried to get in the heads of his characters a bit more. That being said, he’s taking no pains to make the series more literary, or even better-written; this one’s written in an even more juvenile sort of tone than the others. For example, at one point we’re informed that some fish, feasting on the bodyparts thrown into the water during Killov’s attack, get so full that they swim back home and “take the phone off the hook!” But then this goofy, bizarre vibe is part of the Doomsday Warrior charm.

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