Doomsday Warrior #15: American Ultimatum, by Ryder Stacy
February, 1989 Zebra Books
I had a tough time drumming up much enthusiasm for this fifteenth installment of Doomsday Warrior. In the past I’ve said that this series was like an R-rated ‘80s cartoon, but at this point it’s lost the R rating, so it comes off just like a cartoon. A lame ‘80s cartoon at that, like Challenge of the Go-Bots or something. While I’ve applauded Ryder Syvertsen’s dismissal of reality in the past, American Ultimatum really takes things to ludicrous levels…which itself would be fine if there were more bite to the tale, as there was in the earliest installments. Now everything’s basically G rated.
It’s three months after the previous volume and as ever Syvertsen picks right up on things without much setting up the scene for series newcomers. The book opens with a prefigure of the goofy stuff we’re going to be encountering throughout the narrative: Colonel Killov, now a “god” in Egypt (which is populated by Egyptians who harken back to Ancient Egypt), wields a sonic wand (the Qu’ul) which emits an antigravity beam…which he uses to raise the Great Sphinx and then carelessly smash it onto the side of the Great Pyramid. The assembled priests – again, all of ‘em decked out in Ancient Egypt finery – wince a little at the destruction but shrug it off given that Killov is the promised god who would fall to them from the skies, as he did in the memorable climax of the previous volume.
All this of course harkens back to that “goofy cartoon” vibe I keep mentioning…in fact I think there even was an episode of G.I. Joe where the gods of Ancient Egypt actually appeared. And it is very ludicrous, in a (hopefully) intentional way, as if the few past centuries never happened and the Egyptians at heart are just worshippers of animal-headed gods…not to mention that there’s an entire caste of high priests who are privy to all this secret sci-fi weaponry the Ancient Egyptians possessed. But then Syvertsen’s already in another plane of reality, given his off-hand mention that the Sphinx has a nose. In reality it fell off (or was shot off by Napoleon’s men, per the legend) centuries ago. At this point though the element of outrageousness is just old hat, and there’s no bearing of “reality” at all throughout to ground anything…every reader knows the main characters will survive unscathed, and despite what happens in the climax the next one will open with them all safely back at Century City.
Which is what’s happened this time, of course. We meet Ted “Rock” Rockson, aka the Doomsday Warrior himself, as he’s back in Century City, with no pickup from the previous book…the same sort of series reset that occurs at the opening of every volume. The year is still 2096, and we’re told Rock first arrived at Century City “as a teen” 25 years ago. Periodically Syvertsen will drop references to previous books, telling us how long ago they were – like that Rock flew a MIG “about two years before” (an incident that happened in #9: America's Zero Hour) – but I get the impression he’s just making it up as he goes. I mean it was 2096 in the last volume, and maybe the volume before that, but then maybe 2096 just happens to be an endless year, sort of like 2020 was (and 2021’s shaping up to be). I mean, I’m still trying to cope with how Rock’s still riding the same faithful ‘brid, Snorter, which he’s been riding since the start of the series…despite the fact that he’s lost the damn thing multiple times, with no explanation how he ever gets it back.
It's almost kind of impressive how Syvertsen sticks to his series template no matter what, sort of like how James Dockery stubbornly did the same thing on The Butcher. Each volume opens with a brief bit of Rock in Century City, then putting his team together (pretty much always the same guys), then leaving Century City to endure some rigorous post-nuke flora, fauna, or weather, and then finally arriving at their destination where Rock will get lucky with a local gal before killing a few Reds. But man this is the fifteenth volume, and we’ve already seen all this happen, uh…let me get my calculator…fifteen times already. At this point it seems pretty evident Syvertsen is just going through the motions. There are none of the fun topical touches even in the Century City sections, other than a previously-unmentioned “Sky Lounge” built high atop the city, a restaurant which affords diners a view of the surrounding mountains.
This is where Rock takes girlfriend Rona for dinner; it’s her birthday, and once again Rona will be cast aside in the narrative – after that other series template, a roll in the hay with Rock. Which happens off-page, comrades, another indication of the increasing blandness of the series. Gone are the over the top, purple-prosed boinks of the past. As I say, we’re in lame cartoon territory here. And also Rona continues to be minimized; she was once a main character in the series, but now she’s essentially “the girlfriend,” never allowed to go on any of the missions and always stuck back at Century City. This time her going on the mission isn’t even brought up, and last we see of her she’s “bawling” when Rock leaves her bed next morning. And once again Kim, Rock’s other girlfriend, isn’t even mentioned, so I’m sticking with my assumption that we’ll never hear about her again.
The mission at hand is Rock has received a coded radio broadcast from Rahallah, the African servant of Premiere Vassily in Moscow, ie the ruler of the world. Rock and Rahallah met back in #4: Bloody America, when Rock and team made their way to Russia, and apparently he and Rahallah came up with an agreement that if they ever needed to talk to one another, they would broadcast a code that could be deciphered via a copy of War And Peace. So Rath, the security honcho at Century City, picks up the broadcast, and then there’s the belated realization that there are multiple copies of the book in existence. Thus Rahallah’s code – which is based on certain letters on certain pages – might not be decipherable. However the problem is quickly overcome with “the computer,” and the deciphered code humorously runs two pages…again, there isn’t even the barest attempt at any realism, and the juvenile tone of Syvertsen’s prose doesn’t help add any.
Rahallah has learned that Killov is alive and well in Egypt, and has come upon some weapons of mass destruction; Rahallah learned this in a mystical way, having seen in a dream his cousin’s African tribe being wiped out by a falling mountain or something. Basically Killov has ancient Egyptian technology which allows him to levitate anything, and he’s throwing mountains and whatnot on various tribes that don’t pledge fealty to him. Rahallah himself will be going to Egypt to put together an army to stop Killov – there’s vague mention that Vassily is too busy with internal riots to send any Russian troops – and he begs Rock to come help him.
For once Rock doesn’t take the full team; he whittles it down to Chen, Archer, and Sheransky, the latter due to his being Russian and all and thus able to help them steal a MIG and fly it to Egypt. Otherwise Sheransky kind of comes off like a bumbling fool, the red shirt who would typically be killed in an earlier installment. We get the usual “journey through hostile terrain” setup, and Rock and team’s theft of the MIG from a Red airbase is ridiculously easy. Even more ridiculous is that Rock has to quickly read the flight manual to remind himself how to fly the plane! And not only is he able to complete a quick takeoff, but he also manages to pick up Chen and Archer and take out a few fighter jets that are scrambled after them! The plane eventually runs out of gas, conveniently right over Egypt, leading to Rock and pals parachuting into the Nile and fighting a couple sea monsters.
Eventually they come upon the “Neo-Egyptian Army,” which is decked out in ancient Egyptian finery and the warriors of which ride elephants with lasers on their trunks. (Cue Dr. Evil.) Their leader is even named Tutenkamen. Rahallah, who is among them, explains that it’s a crazy story, “as so many are in our post-nuke world,” which led to the Egyptians of a hundred years before becoming the ancient Egyptian flashbacks of 2096. Whatever; Rock is soon making eyes at lovely “coca-skinned” Neferte, who makes a priority of tending to him. Their inevitable shenanigans occur off-page, it pains me to inform you. More focus is placed on Rock and team learning how to ride those elephants. Then the village is destroyed in a sneak attack of “falling mountains,” courtesy Killov’s Qu’ul; the only thing that can stop Killov’s weaponry is even more advanced ancient Egyptian tech: the “Ra sticks,” which we’re informed are two “levels” beneath “the Cheops pyramids.” Indeed, they are in “the level beneath” the level in which the Qu’ul was discovered!
But honestly, just try to go along for the intentionally goofy ride, ‘cause later on Rock muses to himself that “just before the Nuke War” a McDonald’s was opened inside Grant’s Tomb, where customers could purchase “The McGrant.” Killov manages to capture Rock, the first the two have been face-to-face in I don’t know how many volumes, but not much is made of it. Instead Killov takes Rock back to his headquarters, aka the Great Pyramid, and puts him on a “sacrificial altar,” threatening to crush him with a six-hundred ton slab of rock, guiding it with the Qu’ul. It gets real goofy here when a “mysterious figure” in a black cloak comes out of the shadows and puts a knife to Killov’s throat, ordering him to move the slab away from Rock. Killov does so, manages to escape…and the “mysterious figure” turns out to be none other than Chen, anticlimactically enough.
It all leads to a massive battle between Tutenkamen’s men and the “Amun Army,” ie Killov’s Northern Egypt warriors. This takes place along the Aswan Valley, and Syvertsen tries to go for a Biblical finale, with a flood taking everyone out, hero and villain alike. Even Rockson’s fate is left in question. (As if!) We do however, unsurprisingly at that, learn that Killov survives…now with a burning desire to get revenge on Rockson and kill him. This is kind of goofy too, as what else has been fueling Killov all these volumes? Pretty lame. But then “pretty lame” aptly sums up American Ultimatum, surely my least favorite volume yet in the series.