This issue's cover sports another sensational Joe Kubert drawing, though the cover does continue a trend of inconsistent hair color for The Balloon Buster - he's been variously a blonde, a red head, and for this one & only time, a raven-haired saddle tramp. Returning to illustrate this Robert Kanigher story is original strip artist, Russ Heath - and Heath delivers his finest work on the character.
This wartime thriller opens up with a visit to the base by the major's beautiful daughter, Constance. She's immediately drawn to Steve Savage, so her father offers a word of warning - Savage is nothing but T-R-O-U-B-L-E! After the major 'conveniently' forgets to introduce his daughter to the man he
hates the most, Constance boldly takes the initiative and sidles up to our saddle tramp - just as a squadron of German Fokkers strafe the airfield.
|Russ Heath's return to The Balloon Buster starts of with a BANG!|
Not one to take an attack like this lying down, Savage jumps into action, quickly taking his plane up to confront the assailants. He manages to take out a couple of planes, but runs into trouble with this issue's German ace - The Executioner. Savage takes some heavy fire from the Executioner, and is forced to do the unthinkable - to survive he must abandon ship! As his plane plummets to the earth, Savage survives a desperate jump from the aircraft into a nearby lake. So Round 1 of this dogfightgoes to the Executioner - but as they say, payback (and The Balloon Buster)'s a bitch!
|Steve Savage seems to spend more time on the outside of his plane than in the cockpit!|
At a dance the following evening, Savage overhears a conversation between Constance and a friend. The major's daughter intends to 'tame the wild animal' that is Steve Savage. To teach her a bit of a lesson, he becomes a little forward after one of their dances - which immediately puts the girl off, and in her mind, confirms her father's assessment of the Balloon Buster's 'character.' After exiting the party, Savage overhears a report of an imminent German raid.
|The un-tame-able Savage proves a point|
|I refuse to go with the obvious 'Is that the plane's stick in your pocket . . . ' joke, but I will say that I cringe a little at the bad phonetic French accent, every time I read it in a comic|
|Again with the outside the cockpit action!|
This is the last time that Steve Savage would be the lead feature in a comic. The last panel promises more Steve Savage soon, but it was not to be. I don't know the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of All-American Men of War, or whether or not there were further adventures of The Balloon Buster planned, but I have to assume that if the book sold well, if the character sold well - it wouldn't have gotten cancelled. The four stories in AAMoW were exciting (if a little formulaic), classic war stories, featuring a pretty unique character, and you couldn't ask for a better creative team on this type a story than Kanigher/Heath/Kubert.
And there WOULD be more Balloon Buster - within the next 10 to 15 years, there would be back-up (co-back-up, really) stints in Star-Spangled War Stories and The Unknown Soldier where Steve Savage would finally meet his match in the ultimate German ace, Hans Von Hammer, The Enemy Ace. I can't wait to get to these stories in future posts!