16 Nov 2019


While we spend a great deal of time engrossed in the current crop of comic books, let us not forget those fantastic tales from the past that still sit in amongst our collections and are always worth revisiting...

Writer: Peter B. Gillis
Art: Brett Anderson, While Portacio & Scott Williams

Mike S: Set in the near future on an Earth not part of the Marvel Universe, Strikeforce: Morituri (certainly the first 20 or so issues) was a hidden gem of the 1980s. The basic premise is invasion fiction – the monstrous Horde have invaded Earth and are subjugating mankind until brave volunteers sign up for the Morituri process which grants each surviving volunteer a random superpower with which to battle the alien oppressors. Think Terrigen Mists and you’re almost there. However, where this concept differs is that this gift comes with a price: each volunteer’s life span is drastically reduced allowing only a maximum of a year to live before their powers flare and destroy them. And the creators certainly deliver on this tragic situation as they kill off character after character, replacing them with the second and then third generation of Morituri subjects. Herein lies the beauty of this collection: you get great alien invasion stories, heavy with action and drama, but countered with some real humanity and an insightful and poignant reflection on both media celebrity status (long before the age of the vlogger) and of course mortality, offering the reader a mature, intelligent look at war and pragmatism in the face of overwhelming odds.

For me, however, the real appeal of this book has always been that this was one of the earlier comic books to allow the writer (Peter B. Gillis) to really dig into the characterisation of the main cast as sometimes reluctant ‘superheroes’, used to inspire a downtrodden and subjugated population.

Among the often faceless, interchangeable typical comics populace, it was refreshing to find three dimensional, powerful heroes and, for me, the greatest of these was Jelene Anderson, a woman of faith with the ability to analyse any device and given time reproduce it or devise a countermeasure. Jelene is one of the most beautifully written characters I have read in comics, especially given that, due to the nature of the Morituri process, her time was limited. Gillis achieved more depth and beauty for Anderson in the limited time of her existence than some lesser writers have managed in character arcs into the 100s of issues. And all of this while allowing her to show true Christian values and beliefs in a way that never becomes stereotypical or preachy: a real achievement!

It is a tragedy that more people didn’t pick up this title when it was first published. Possibly, this is because Strikeforce: Morituri was appeared alongside Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns and so failed to garner the publicity of those epic titles when in reality, it is equally original and equally as grittily realistic and so maybe deserves greater recognition.

The stories here are full of philosophy, heroism and of course sacrifice. Strikeforce: Morituri is the Suicide Squad if that title actually had the balls to live up to its name and actually produce a story where NO ONE is safe! In conclusion, it is an absolute hidden gem of a book. I really cannot recommend it enough.

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