We who are about to die salute you!
The 1990′s was a weird time. On one hand super hero comics faltered and ultimately spiraled into a haze of prism-covers and over-done artwork, but on the other hand, the major publishers experimented with bold new ideas. One of these was the sci-fi/super hero series Strikeforce: Morituri by Peter B. Gillis (Shatter, the first computerized comic book) and Brent Anderson (Astro City). In the year 2070, humanity is at war with a race known as the Horde. While the Horde themselves are little more than crude barbarians, they have pirated technology from several alien races, making the human race nearly defenseless to their incessant attacks. In an effort to bridge the technology gap, “Morituri Process” is developed. The process vastly alters a test subject’s metabolism, unlocking super-human abilities. The only down-side is that it leads to death within a year. A batch of young raw recruits is subjected to the procedure and then sent to a testing facilty refered to as ‘the garden’ where a series of life-threatening traps activate their new abilities, making them the most powerful weapon against the Horde… for as long as they last.
Traditionally, death in comic books has had little meaning as editorial direction can overwrite it and bring characters back as if they had experienced nothing more horrific than an unpleasant holiday. But in Strikeforce: Morituri it was a wholly different story. Writer Gillis dared the reader to connect to a character that could die at the hands of an opponent or simply explode at any time. It really raised the stakes and created a feeling of suspense that was unusual at the time.
A shockingly brutal series, the first issue features the main cast exploding and an attack of human slaves dropped from high orbit as bombs. As I said, it was a different time for comics and readers were changing. A sophisticated blend of sci-fi in the vein of Starship Troopers and a very modern take on super powers, this series has remained something of a cult hit.
After 31issues the series was canceled. However in 1990 a ‘coda’ of sorts, Strikeforce Morituri: Electric Undertow was released. The comic book was optioned by the Sci-Fi Channel as a TV series entitled A Thousand Days, but disintegrated after legal wranglings between Marvel Comics and series originator Peter B. Gillis.
Unfortunately Strikeforce: Morituri is not collected at present (possibly due to the previouskly mentioned legal issues), but you can usually find it in discount bins of most comic shops. A series before its time, Strikeforce: Morituri is definitely worth a look.