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“I expect I'll have a few adventures, but adventure is not a good reason to die, just as hate is not a good reason to die. Not even love is a good reason to die... not even life."I really don't know, but I think I'll soon find out.”
"What is a good reason to die?
—Harold "Vyking" Everson
Strikeforce: Morituri was a science-fiction comic book series created by Peter B. Gillis and Brent Anderson. It was published by Marvel Comics from 1986 to 1989.
The series starts off in the year 2072, with Earth suffering under an Alien Invasion by the Horde, a race of barbarian Planet Looters who plunder inhabited worlds for supplies, equipment, technology, and sport. Needless to say, conventional Earth weaponry is all but useless in the face of the Horde's advanced technology.
Humankind's hope comes when Dr. Kimmo Tuolema perfected the Morituri Process, a procedure that turns a select few into literal superheroes -- subjects who undergo the process acquire vast strength, extra stamina, enhanced durability, and at least one extraordinary ability. However, the process also had several major flaws:
- The subject dies within a year, sometimes much less. This was due to the body ultimately rejecting the energy-based metabolism grafted to it.
- Without proper screening, subjects could die during the process, or survive it with a useless power.
- Death from the Morituri effect tends to be spectacularly unpleasant; the ones who explode were the lucky ones.
- There is no way to predict when a subject will die. This can create problems in running operations, and adds a psychological burden on the subjects themselves.
Despite the dangers, the Paideia world government quickly forms a specialized fast-response team around the Morituri. They also serve as a much-needed inspiration for the besieged populace, and the members are promoted as heroes and celebrities, complete with codenames, cool costumes, and publicity junkets.
The series was noted for its character-driven narrative; much time is spent on the psychological burden of the Morituri, each having accepted certain death to become a champion of Earth, along with ancillary issues like celebrity, leadership, and team conflicts. This is accented by the bleakness of the war itself, as the Morituri are not shown to have a major effect in turning the tide of the Horde invasion.
Peter B. Gillis and Brent Anderson worked on the first twenty issues of the comic, after which it was written by James Hudnall and drawn by Mark Bagley. The series ended after 31 issues, soon followed by a five-part limited series, Electric Undertow; it took place ten years later and served as a cyberpunk-flavored coda to clean up the rushed ending of the regular series.
The title is a reference to the Latin phrase "Morituri te salutamus" (We who are about to die salute you), allegedly said by Roman gladiators to Caesar before battle in the arena.
This series exhibits examples of the following tropes:
- Alien Invasion
- Aliens Are Bastards: The only benevolent aliens are seen in flashback; all of the aliens encountered by humans are out to exploit humanity in one way or another.
- Anyone Can Die
- Art Shift: The art for issue #1's "Tales of the Black Watch" excerpt were drawn by Whilce Portacio.
- Base on Wheels: After their mountain base is destroyed by the Horde, the Morituri worked out of a high-speed train that travelled around North America.
- Blessed with Suck: While the Morituri process itself is a form of suck, this trope is especially true for survivors who received a "useless" power, such as Commander Beth Nion, who could make flowers bloom.
- The Blank: One of the Horde's terror schemes involved an alien "healer" plant which killed humans by making their skin grow over their mouth and nostrils.
- Cast of Snowflakes
- Collector of the Strange: Members of the Horde prominently wear souvenirs from their hunts, ranging from bottlecaps, trinkets, and human bones.
- Cool Plane: The Strikeforce use a supersonic ballistic capsule to quickly fly to Horde invasion sites.
- Deadly Upgrade / Power Degeneration: The Morituri process, naturally.
- Death by Childbirth: Inverted with Aline "Blackthorn" Pagrovna; it is suggested that her pregnancy was what kept her alive even after the one-year life expectancy of the Morituri process had passed. She dies soon after the baby is born.
- Deus Ex Machina: The war was abruptly ended when a new race of aliens, the VXX199, entered Earth orbit, destroyed the Horde fleet, and then departed without explanation. It is later revealed that the VXX199 remained hidden behind the Moon, where they were working on harvesting humanity for their own ends.
- Die or Fly: Part of the Morituri Process involves releasing the subjects in Biowar Facility Alpha ("The Garden"), a lethal testing area that tried to induce super-powers under stressful situations.
- Elaborate Underground Base: The Strikeforce starts off with a base hidden inside a mountain. When the Horde discover its location, it is destroyed with a nuclear bombardment.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Deliberately invoked by Pilar "Scaredycat" Lisieux and William "Scatterbrain" Deguchi; they gave each other embarrassing names as part of a dare.
- Evil Knockoff: The Super-Hordians, genetically mutated Horde warriors with augmented abilities for the purpose of defeating the Morituri.
- Government Conspiracy: Unknown to Dr. Tuolema, four subjects were treated to the Morituri Process without his supervision. They ended up as misshapen mutants who simply wanted to die.
- Later, unknown to the heroes, the Morituri process was used on a trio of killers to create assassins to kill the surviving members of the Strikeforce and the Paideia Prime Minister.
- Human Resources: The Electric Undertow limited series reveals that the VXX199 were hiding behind the Moon, modifying mankind's culture to their requirements, then inducing spontaneous combustion in the population to harness the psychic energies released.
- I'm Melting: One of the ways people succumb to the Morituri effect.
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Done by the Horde, as everything they have was stolen from other alien species.
- Insufficiently Advanced Alien: The Horde. All of their technology was stolen from others, and the only reason they got off their homeworld in the first place was by stealing from the alien ambassadors who visited them.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Louis "Radian" Armanetti.
- Jet Pack: The heroes all have personal flight devices for short-term flight.
- Let's You and Him Fight: The double-sized issue #12 features a fight between the current Morituri team and the third-generation recruits.
- Meaningful Name: If you change the first letter of Dr. Tuolemas surname from T to K, his name would mean "death" in Finnish.
- Mercy Kill: Happens to the Mutant Morituri.
- Mood Whiplash: Happens sometimes due to the unpredictable nature of the Morituri effect. A notable example occurs in issue #4, where the team stops a Horde raid during a media junket, and the post-fight celebration ends with the sudden death of Snapdragon.
- Multinational Team: The members of the Strikeforce are drawn from different backgrounds, nations, and cultures.
- Mythology Gag: In issue #2, Dr. Tuolema describes the deathtraps in "the Garden" as being inspired by a training room in a comic book he had once read.
- Nakama: The Morituri team, much of the time. As existing members died and new ones joined, however, the dynamics of the team were often tested.
- Obviously Evil: The Horde, often bordering on Complete Monster status. They deliberately avoid quickly conquering Earth for the fun of terrorizing the populace and think nothing of slaughtering helpless slaves and children. An early terror tactic was to eject large numbers of captured humans outside the Earth's atmosphere, allowing them to burn up in re-entry so people on the ground could see the streaks representing their burning forms.
- Oh Crap: several, for both sides. One of the saddest happens when the Horde stop tormenting humanity for sport somewhat after the heroes have a conspicuous success and get down to serious carnage.
- One World Order: At the start of the series, the nations of Earth have been united under a single government called the Paideia.
- Organic Technology: The VXX199.
- Planet Looters: The Horde.
- Possession Implies Mastery: Played straight by Adept, who could analyze and understand anything she touched. Given the Horde's use of scavenged technology, this was very useful.
- Proud Warrior Race: While the Horde play this straight with each other, it's subverted in their treatment of humans, where they act as savage bullies from a position of strength. They have no qualms about slaughtering human slaves and children for petty reasons, and resort to terror tactics to intimidate humanity when the Morituri begin to become more dangerous.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Radian is killed by fellow Morituri Shear when the latter believes he became a traitor to the Horde. In reality, Radian had feared that succumbing to the Morituri effect would be tantamount to the mortal sin of suicide, and he wanted to die in battle instead.
- Screw the War, We're Partying: A coping mechanism for some of the Morituri.
- Show Within a Show: Types 1, 3, and 4. There is a comic and TV program about the Morituri themselves.
- Type 1: In issue 4, Harold "Vyking" Everson meets Greg Mattingly, who portrays Vyking in the show. Much later, after Harold Everson's death, Greg Mattingly discovers he's eligible for the Morituri process, and acquires an energy redirection power quite similar to Vyking's, but more accurate. He takes the codename Backhand.
Harold Everson: Well, Greg, it's too bad you couldn't get a more permanent role than playing one of us...
- Type 3: The first issue includes excerpts from "Tales of the Black Watch", a promotional comic book about the first team of Morituri volunteers. When Harold Everson/Vyking joins, his briefing includes watching a video of what really happened to the Black Watch.
- Type 4: The in-comic comic series portrays a glorified version of actual events, and the in-comic TV show, while not mentioned to be based on actual events, uses film from battles against the Horde as "green-screen" backdrop and stock footage.
- Soaperizing: A regular occurrence in the comic, due to the character-driven narrative.
- Special Snowflake Syndrome: Lampooned by Gillis and Anderson in the backup feature, "How Peter & Brent Create (& Destroy) Strikeforce Morituri", where they create new characters by throwing darts at a board labelled with character traits.
- Spice of Life: The Horde find chocolate to be a powerful intoxicant.
- Spontaneous Human Combustion: In the "Electric Undertow" limited series, this happens to random people due to psychic harvesting by the alien VXX199.
- Starfish Aliens: The VXX199. The ship which arrives in Earth orbit, destroys the Horde, and then hides behind the moon (itself being half the diameter of the moon in length but doesn't affect its orbit whatsoever), is itself a giant conglomeration of living tissue, home to millions of completely alien lifeforms of varying intelligence, including the ship's own biological AI. It's like if Terry Gilliam directed a cyberpunk thriller with H.R. Giger as the art designer.
- This is later subverted and lampshaded when a group of retired Morituri arrive on the ship, and one of them points out how completely ludicrous it is that the atmosphere within the ship merely smells horrible, instead of being completely unable to sustain (super-)human life.
- Superpower Lottery: The powers received through the Morituri process were completely random. The powers of the characters who apear in the series were more useful than not; justified in that character with useless powers would not survive the deathtraps in "the Garden."
- Was Once a Man: The Mutant Morituri, four subjects treated to the Morituri Process without the supervision of Dr. Tuolema. They ended up as horrible deformities who were euthanised to put them out of their misery.
- Why Am I Ticking?: The Morituri called Revenge had the ability to touch something and make it degrade into energy at varying rates and intensities. When confronted with the Super Speed Morituri assassin Wind, he simply allowed Wind to punch him... whereupon he exploded moments later.
- Earlier in the series, as the Morituri become more successful at repelling the Horde, they retaliate with a terror campaign by secretly implanting bombs into humans and detonating them in public.
- We Have Reserves: Averted; due to their small numbers, the Morituri are trained to stop Horde raids quickly.
- Wrap It Up / Post Script Season: The "Maximum Ride" miniseries is part-way between these tropes. The original series wasn't fully Left Hanging, but the ending was rushed and there were a lot of loose ends.
- Your Days Are Numbered: The fundamental concept of the series. Notably highlighted when the Morituri are reprimanded by the Paedia Council for attacking the Horde without authorization; in response, Ruth "Toxyn" Mastorakis administers a poison to her teammates, then explains it as the desperation the Morituri feel every moment they are kept away from active duty.
- Zeerust: In one issue, the Horde secretly pass a message to the Morituri via videotape.