DC Showcase (Part 6): Sgt. Rock

Hello, my friends.  It’s been in the trenches for the previous five years, but it’s time for the unexpected resurrection of what was originally a five-part series.  As such, let’s march into the surprising return of a particular streak of reviews known as…

DC Showcase!

In March 2015, I reviewed the original five DC Showcase shorts.  In those particular adventures, we saw a Spirit of Vengeance (minus a flaming skull head) tackle a 1970s era murder mystery, an Old West Era Bounty Hunter go up against a devious lady in order to retrieve a felon’s body, an Emerald Archer protect a young girl of royal connection from an assassination plot, a little boy gain incredible superpowers & team up with the Man of Steel in order to fight a powerful figure and a Feline Fetale stop a two-pronged operation involving diamonds and women.  Now, it’s time for other lesser known DC heroes to get some much-deserved attention.  For this entry, we’ll be tackling a particular character who’s usually associated with a particular time period, similar to how Jonah Hex is relegated to Late 19th Century America.  It’s time to tackle World War II upon a different kind of battlefield as we bring back the DC Showcase series with…

Our Title Card!

Debuting on July 20, 2019, this particular entry was also featured as a Blu-Ray bonus feature for “Batman: Hush”.  If you wish to know my full thoughts on that film, click the link and find out for yourself.  For everyone else, here’s the low down for this short.  Not only was this written by Tim Sheridan and the legendary husband-and-wife comic book creative team of Walter/”Walt” and Louise Simonson, but Bruce Timm serves as the director.  So, what kind of enemy awaits us?  Let’s fall in and move out in order to see for ourselves.

We open during a fierce battle in World War II as Allied troops are engaged in a firefight against opposing Axis forces.  One particular group of men who’re about to face the fierce might of the Nazis is Easy Company, led by Sgt. Franklin John Rock (voiced by Éomer, Dr. Leonard McCoy, Judge Dredd, Skurge and William “Billy” Butcher himself, Karl Urban).  They split up into small groups as Sgt. Rock leads a few of his men towards some nearby cover while enemy bullets rain down around them.  Shortly afterwards, Louis Kiyahani a.k.a. Little Sure Shot manages to shoot three Axis soldiers.  However, the third infantryman was able to toss a grenade before getting hit as Franklin and his men are forced to retreat.  However, Little Sure Shot got caught in the blast.

Meanwhile, Phillip Mason a.k.a. Ice Cream Soldier loads up a bazooka as his fellow brother-in-arms Zack Nolan manages to get a shot off before they’re forced to fall back.  However, Zack gets shot in the back as Phillip attempts to carry him to safety.  Sadly, they both get blown away by an enemy attack.

During all of this, Jackie Johnson and Harold Shapiro a.k.a. Wildman are running around and taking out the Axis soldiers with precise aim.  Before too long however, they soon find themselves getting surrounded by several Nazis.

Back with Sgt. Rock, he manages to reach his fellow comrade named Horace Canfield a.k.a. Bulldozer who’s fending off the enemy.  Just then, Franklin notices the Axis side approaching with a tank as he orders his men to fall back.  However, the Nazis manage to get a powerful shot off as Bulldozer get flung towards the ground.  As he attempts to get up, his head is ringing as he sees his fellow soldiers falling in battle.  Just then, the enemy tank approaches and prepares to finish him off.  Just then, Sgt. Rock appears as he climb up, opens the hatch and drops a grenade inside before jumping off to evade the explosion.

Suddenly, he wakes up from his nightmarish revisiting of this horrid battle.  The Nurse (voiced by Audrey Wasilewski) tells him that the medics found him half-buried within the rubble and that his men are unfortunately dead, officially listed as Missing In Action.  As the opening credits roll, he’s then met upon by an official who tells him to head out alongside him.  Franklin says that he has to get back out to the battlefield, but the official confirms the nurse’s claim that the entirety of Easy Company has been wiped out.  Not only that, but he tells Sgt. Rock that he’s been reassigned and that their lieutenant needs to speak with him.

From there, Franklin meets up with Lt. Shrieve (voiced by Bloo himself, Keith Ferguson) who proceeds to assign him for an upcoming mission.  He explains that the Nazis’ scientists are about to complete a “Doomsday Weapon” over within a “Medieval Fortress” that’s deep in enemy territory as Lt. Shrieve tells him that those scientists are to be brought back alive.  From there, he tells Sgt. Rock that his new comrades are “unlike any soldiers” that he’s led into combat before handing over a file as Franklin is stunned by whom he’ll be working with.

Later, the mission is underway as a small group of Nazi soldiers are hanging out in the middle of a forest with a campfire as their lone light source.  One of the goons heads out to go pee, but he’s then confronted by a mysterious being and gets his throat slashed before seeing Sgt. Rock alongside a small group of unlikely beings.

As such, the Axis sentries are approached by Franklin’s newest comrades: the Creature Commandos.  The Frankenstein-esque monster named Elliot “Lucky” Taylor a.k.a. Patchwork easily crushes one soldier’s head, the werewolf of the group named Warren Griffith a.k.a. Wolfpack leaps out and slashes away at his prey, while the team’s vampire named Vincent Velcoro has captured a Nazi soldier and slowly cuts his neck in order to drink his blood.

The last remaining Nazi tries to run away, but he ends up running into Sgt. Rock and gets stabbed by his knife.  He then tells Velcoro to stand down before tossing his blade into the Axis soldier’s head as Franklin says that their foe is still a human who isn’t food.  From there, they proceed to head out.

Later, they arrive at the castle as Patchwork is about to slam his way in.  Fortunately, Velcoro stops him in time before transforming into a bat and flies inside before opening the front gate for his comrades.  From there, they make their way through the castle and take out the lone Nazi sentry on guard before arriving in the main chamber, where they discover the two scientists.  Velcoro manages to subdue the female examiner, while Wolfpack reaches the male counterpart and prevents him from reaching a particular door.

However, Sgt. Rock is then met upon, disarmed and subdued by the Iron Major (voiced by the Regular Show’s Rigby himself, William Salyers) who compliments Franklin for his “remarkable company” before ordering him to release his fellow scientists.  Fortunately, Patchwork manages to viciously rip through two book shelves and cause enough of a distraction for Sgt. Rock to get away.  Taylor then saves his leader by shielding him from the Iron Major’s gunshots.  Patchwork ultimately endures the enemy bullets before slapping the fiend with enough force to fling him into Velcoro and the female scientist.

Afterwards, he reaches the head fiend and begins to choke him.  As Franklin notices some loud banging over at the metal doors, the female scientist activates a machine to awaken a being that’s on the operating table.

As such, Franklin jumps in and begins to fight the Iron Major while Patchwork heads over to smash up the lab equipment.  After a while, the metal doors are finally broken down as Sgt. Rock notices the familiar figures within the silhouettes.  However, he’s shocked to discover that Easy Company has been brought back as undead soldiers.

Though the group does have its initial struggle, Franklin manages to fend off the undead Wildman while the Creature Commandos manage to slash, pounce and even crush Sgt. Rock’s former teammates.

Iron Major tries to shoot Franklin, but he dodged in time as the undead Wildman takes the hit.  This causes him to direct his attention towards the Nazi fiend as his helmet withstands the gunfire and is about to attack his creator.  However, he’s met upon by Patchwork who proceeds to rip him apart before stepping on the Iron Major’s ankle and crushes it, preventing the fiend from running away.

Afterwards, Sgt. Rock approaches the fiend with the stunned belief that this was the Nazi’s secret plan.  He then mentions that only five out of his six prior men attacked him and his team, but the identity of the being on the operating table is soon revealed as the undead Bulldozer.  He then proceeds to take out Patchwork before attempting to choke his former leader.  Fortunately, Wolfpack intervenes as Franklin is released from the fiendish grasp, but he and Velcoro are easily defeated.

Fortunately, Sgt. Rock managed to reacquire his gun and proceeds to fire away at his former comrade.  Bulldozer attempts to charge at him, but Franklin manages to aim upward before he takes the undead brute out with a vicious headshot.

With their plans foiled, the Iron Major and the scientists attempt to escape.  However, Patchwork manages to throw a table in their path.  As Franklin and his Creature Commandos finally have them cornered, the Iron Major says that they won’t be killed since the scientists are needed to create an undead armada for the American military.  Sgt. Rock lowers his gun as the Iron Major tells him to “follow orders”, “complete the mission” and “implement their war”.  However, Franklin decides to prevent this unethical practice from falling into the United States’ militaristic grasp as he allows the Creature Commandos to mutilate them.

Later, Sgt. Rock and company are outside as the castle has become engulfed in flames.  From there, Franklin orders his Creature Commandos to line up and tells them that Lt. Shrieve’s been “coddling them” and that this is their last “vacation”.  And so, the film ends with Sgt. Rock telling them to head out before looking back at the burning castle one last time.

Sgt. Rock-Me & My Creature Commandos!

The story naturally contains supernatural elements within its World War II setting and it’s well-implemented for the fun comic book-style action.  Seeing a well-seasoned man of war fighting opposing Nazi forces alongside a Frankenstein-esque monster, a vampire and a werewolf is lavishly ludicrous, but in all the right ways.  Ultimately, this short is about how one uses this kind of otherworldly power.  While Sgt. Rock is greatly experienced and uses his time on the battlefield to proper guide his Creature Commandos, the Iron Major (and potentially the American Military, if they had their way) uses his undead soldiers in a manner in which he’s been corrupted by ultimate power.  This ideal seems to come from their respective positions as Franklin is a leader in the field, but he fights alongside his men and constantly has to risk his life in order to fight off opposing forces.  As for the Iron Major, it’s likely that he used to be on the battlegrounds.  However, his high-ranking position has mainly stagnated his thoughts towards that particular aspect.  Sure, he doesn’t have an opportunity to show that side off since he’s trying to stop Sgt. Rock & the Creature Commandos from interfering with his operation and I can only go off from the informative dialogue that he gives.  The Iron Major seems to have a mentality where because he’s in a position of major importance within the Nazi regime, it’s given him the mindset where he can give orders to lower ranking members and come out untouched.  Sure, he doesn’t seem to lord his power over the scientists since they’re necessary for the Third Reich’s undead advantage.  However, he seems to believe that every position that’s below his ranking means that they’re automatically prone to following their superior’s orders and must do so, no matter what their mission’s ultimate endgoal turns out to be.  Because Franklin isn’t corrupted by the position of power, he’s able to think clearly on the morality of what his superior has ultimately ordered him to help facilitate.  Now yes, he does have supernatural beings at his side, but he doesn’t let this kind of control over the undead soldiers get to his head.  Not to mention, this kind of metaphysical trooper feels more sane when they were initially made and their creators didn’t have the insane notion of building this up towards tyrannical numbers.  Karl Urban delivers a rock-solid performance as he gives Sgt. Rock the right levels of gruffness, toughness, mental sanity and wartime experience needed for this short.  His tones makes him clear that while he’s not overly harsh towards his comrades, he still presents himself with enough leadership to expect his men to get the job done.  While he is the most notable performer within this small cast, everyone else performs their parts in a respectful fashion to help him stand out and give some well-earned attention to this lesser known DC character.  Coupled with some good animation, some nice action & some fluent pacing, this is absolutely one of the top entries within this particular series.  The only complaint that I have is that the members of Easy Company and the Creature Commandos aren’t given their rightful names.  The closest is when Bulldozer is brought back to fight Franklin and his supernatural comrades and Sgt. Rock recognizes him by simply saying “‘Dozer“.  Sure, I had to look up their names for the sake of this review, but it was ultimately worth it and it never deterred from my enjoyment of this short story.

Sgt. Rock-Going In!

Overall, this is a five-star general of entertaining proportions.  The animation is smooth throughout, the pacing flows at a good clip, the action is exciting and it presents its central character in a well-deserved, rough-&-tumble and respectful light.  The grim World War II setting is balanced out with some nice colors, thrilling fights and the beautifully outlandish comic book details involving the tale’s supernatural elements.  While it’s not for children due to the contents within this story, everyone else from teenagers to adults should get a good amount of enjoyment from this.  It allows its titular character to get some spotlight attention in a tale that doesn’t stray from his comfort zone and allows him to fight in a different kind of battle while still getting to duke it out against Nazis (which we always like).  Either way, it proudly serves the DC Nation and gets a Medal of Honor-sized approval from me, so rise up for this fight whenever you get the chance.

Next Time: An artist with some personal baggage is about to receive some creative help from an unlikely source in order to reach his finest and final hour.  She’s breaking out from the pages of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and onto the small screen, so be here when this series gives its dues to “Death”.

Sgt. Rock (created by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert) and the Creature Commandos (created by J.M DeMatteis and Pat Broderick) are owned by DC Comics.

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