War Is Hell #14 (1975)

Long before he was a star, Chris Claremont was a comics scrub, grabbing work where he could, just like everyone else starting out. He wrote text articles for Marvel’s magazines and wrote various fill-in issues of comics. Claremont’s first series was the long-forgotten series War Is Hell.
War Is Hell comes from that odd period I love so much, when Marvel would throw literally anything at the wall to see if people would buy it. In fact, it’s kind of part of two cycles. First Marvel threw all kinds of reprint books onto the stands, and then, feeling remorse or when a new editor-in-chief took over with new rules or whatever, they converted these comics to new material. Therefore Jungle Action went from having reprints of awful jungle comics to having new adventures of the Black Panther. Dead of Night went from horror reprints to a new character called the Scarecrow. And War Is Hell went from being war comics reprints to a very odd war comic with a slight supernatural edge.
War Is Hell told the story of John Kowalski, an American killed in the first day of World War II and fated to take over the body of a dying man in order to do right. I’m not sure if Kowalski was an evil dude and thus forced to this fate, or if he was noble and therefore would redeem the souls of others, but he was basically led all around Europe by Death or something like Death and forced to walk in other peoples’ shoes.
Yeah, it was contrived, damn contrived, but it also had the virtue of being dumb and corny, too. In WIH 14, Kowalski takes over the body of a Nazi hotshot as his soldiers parachute into Norway. Somehow Kowalski gets the idea in his head to save the Norwegian civilians from the Nazis by helping them to escape. There’s some allusion to the Norwegians being Jews, but that point is actually really muddled. Instead, Kowalski-as-Nazi saves these civilians by starting a gunfight with the very people who made up his unit, only to be killed in the end:
"Mueller, answer me one question before you die. Tell me way. Why did you do this?"
"Duty. My Duty."
"What duty? Your duty was to your fuhrer. To the fatherland. What duty, damn you!?!"
"The… duty of a man! To other men. To treat them as men. to help them in their hour of need. To help them be free!. Freeeee–*"
Yeah, it’s hiudeously overwritten and doesn’t make a lot of sense, but, hey, Claremont was just starting out and it was nice that he had an out-of-the-way comic like this to work out his chops. And the George Evans art, even hacked out as it was, isn’t too, too bad.
For the dollar I paid for this one, it’s well worth it.

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