Friday, March 27, 2015

Steve Savage, The Balloon Buster: The Unknown Soldier #264 (June 1982)

The 1st time Steve Savage's face has graced a cover in over 15 years
Written by Robert Kanigher & drawn by Dan Spiegle, this final chapter in the 3-part 'Balloon Buster' serial in The Unknown Soldier #264 (June 1982) is light on plot, but heavy on action: Savage awaits word on the fate of his young friend, Rene, who'd previously been taken behind German lines by Hans Von Hammer, The Enemy Ace.  Rene was to meet with a doctor who, it was hoped, would restore the boy's sight.

Waiting for the news, Savage blows a bunch of stuff up.

Attacked by a couple of German planes in the cliffhanger of last issue, Savage and his Spad make short work of his assailants.  In between taking down enemy aircraft and exploding German observation balloons, Savage kills even more time with a couple of animals: a stallion, which allowed him to relive his youth in the Old West, and a lone eagle with whom he identifies with much more than with his Air Service comrades.

Savage finds it much easier to bond with members of the animal kingdom
Savage returns from a balloon bustin' mission, to find American anti-aircraft fire taking shots at Von Hammer's unique tri-plane, which is looking for a safe place to land.  Eager to hear the news, Savage escorts his uneasy ally to the ground, just as Rene hops out of Von Hammer's plane - the procedure was a success!

Special delivery - courtesy of The Enemy Ace
The maverick ace fires on his own American comrades to provide Von Hammer the opportunity to drop, run & live to duel another day.  Witnessing this, frankly, treasonous altercation, commanding officer Major Michaels threatens to watch Savage hang for the stunt - but Savage can only smile, as his patron general rolls up behind the Major.  Though we won't see the results of the proceeding discussion, with the general's intervention, The Balloon Buster will most likely avoid the gallows and continue his role as the Allies' top killing machine.

Firing on his own men to cover Von Hammer's escape - at the risk of the gallows
Taken together, I can't help but think the 24 pages of this story, which is essentially a Balloon Buster/Enemy Ace team-up, would've made a heckuvan issue of The Brave & The Bold back before that Bat-Guy took it over.

Though Steve Savage, The Balloon Buster would go on to guest in a handful more stories, this serial finale would be his very last appearance in a feature of his own.

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