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Strikeforce: Morituri

Strikeforce: Morituri was a comic book published by Marvel Comics from 1986 to 1989. The series was created by writer Peter B. Gillis and artist Brent Anderson.

The premise is that aliens have invaded Earth and nearly succeeded in conquering it and stripping it of its resources. A scientist discovers a process which can provide humans with superhuman powers, effectively creating a group of defending superheroes. However, the process would also ensure that the empowered humans would die within a year of being empowered. The series thus focused on the heroism of the main characters in fighting the invaders, while living with the knowledge that their fates were sealed regardless of whether or not they prevailed.

The title comes from the Latin phrase: "Morituri te salutamus" (We who are about to die salute you!), a proclamation gladiators made to the emperor of Rome before they would battle in the arena. The subtitle of the comic was "We who are about to die".

Gillis and Anderson left the series within two years. The series was eventually ended after 31 issues, under the tenure of writer James Hudnall and artist Mark Bagley.

Plot summary

In 2069, an alien race called "the Horde" arrived in Earth's solar system. (It was later revealed that the actual name of the race was the 'Va-Shaak'.) Although they were technologically advanced far beyond humanity at that time, they were extremely savage. Examples of this savagery include the retaliatory slaughter of human slaves (this was shown after the victory of the Black Watch), the nuclear destruction of San Diego (also in response to the Black Watch's assassination of the Earth Commander of the Horde Forces), and the decapitation of children (especially by literally ripping their heads off) in order to establish dominance over newly captured human slaves. (One particularly brutal terror-tactic favored by the Horde early in the war was to capture large numbers of humans in order to take them just outside the Earth's atmosphere and then eject them from the ships, allowing them to burn up in re-entry so watchers on the ground could see the streaks representing their burning forms. This tactic became known to humans as 'a Highdive'). It was later discovered that they had stolen their technology from a kindly alien race that visited their planet. The aliens were slaughtered by the Horde. The Horde traveled the galaxy in order to steal resources, food, and technologies, since they had no knowledge of how to fix the ships they used. They viewed the Earth as a resource to be plundered. If the Horde had wanted to completely conquer mankind, then they would easily have done so. Instead, they contented themselves with brutal raids that left the Earth functioning, but reeling under the impact. The Padeia Institute which then ruled the planet began to organize Earth defenses against these attacks.

Humankind's best hope was discovered in 2072, when Dr. Kimmo Tuolema perfected the Morituri Process. This allowed people with a specific type of genetic structure to have a new metabolism implanted over their original one, granting them unique superhuman powers. However, there were three mitigating factors inherent in the use of the Morituri Process:

  • The process was compatible with very few persons; the estimate was that fewer than 5% of all humans had a compatible physiology for metahuman conversion through the Morituri Process.
  • The optimal age for subjects for the Morituri Process was between 18 and 21; older subjects who underwent the process would suffer a significantly reduced lifespan than expected from optimal subjects (measurable in weeks).
  • The nature of the energy-based metabolism was such that, within one standard year, the human body would reject it. The rejection of the Morituri metabolism by the human body is 100% fatal. In most cases, the subject's death was indicated by massive upsurges in the subject's power and ability levels.

The first group of test subjects, later known as "the Black Watch", were volunteer soldiers. Of the five members, two died before seeing active service during a power activation exercise in a specialized testing area known as 'Biowar Facility Alpha', (but nicknamed 'The Garden'). The remaining three had their first field test in Cape Town, taking on Horde forces there; though they were successful in battle, none of them survived. (One was killed in battle, another succumbed to the Morituri Effect as they were escaping, and the last was killed with a Hordian nuclear device moments afterward.) Tuolema later deduced that the older the subject, the quicker their system would reject the process, It was found that Morituri recipients between 18 and 21 were the optimal choices to maximize life expectancy.

The Morituri Process consisted of two distinct phases: In the first phase, candidates underwent a procedure which granted them an enhanced physicality (in some cases, Morituri gained physically impressive forms), as well as enhanced physical strength and endurance, which made it easier to endure the second phase of the Morituri Process (designed to grant actual metahuman powers). After completing this stage, the volunteers would be placed in 'The Garden', a booby-trapped test facility designed to heighten stress levels and precipitate the emergence of each candidate's powers (Dr. Tuolema based 'The Garden' off vids he had seen of the X-Men's Danger Room). In 2073, the first of the new Strikeforce: Morituri entered active service.

As was to be expected, the Morituri saw many deaths in their ranks during the war, sometimes from enemy action, but mainly from the Morituri Effect, the term given to the body's rejection of artificial metabolism implanted by the Morituri Process. In spite of membership being a death sentence, the threat of the Horde meant that there was never a shortage of volunteers willing to give up their lives in the defense of mankind. Right from the start, the Morituri showed a propensity for disobeying orders in order to grasp opportunities to attack the enemy; knowing their time was short, they resented being kept out of action for any length of time.

It was the fourth generation of Morituri who saw a real change to the process. In fact, there were two sets of fourth generations. One was created without the input of Tuolema, with disastrous results, and the victims chose suicide over life in the twisted bodies they ended up with. But one of Tuolema's fourth generation of Morituri proved to be the group's salvation; Revenge, who had been a captive of the Horde prior to becoming a Morituri, carried a virus which eventually proved to be the counteragent which stopped rejection. When this was discovered, the surviving Morituri regained a chance to live a full lifespan (too late for the first and second, and all but one of the third generation).

The war with the Horde was unexpectedly brought to a close. A new race of aliens, dubbed the VXX199, entered Earth orbit, destroyed the Horde fleet, and then departed without explanation. Other problems soon arose: the Morituri process being performed on a trio of killers with the intent to assassinate the surviving members of the Strikeforce and the Prime Minister, and the fragmentation of the Paideia back into independent nation-states due to the exposure of the conspiracy (by a high-ranking government minister) to kill the Prime Minister in order to seize power.

Electric Undertow

From December 1989 to March 1990, Marvel published an additional five-issue miniseries, Strikeforce Morituri: Electric Undertow. This took place ten years after the events of the last issue and dealt with the fate of the VXX199. They were waiting behind the moon, slowly modifying mankind's culture to their requirements, planning to induce spontaneous combustions in the population and then harness the psychic energies released. The four remaining Morituri learned of this, thanks to some bizarre allies (including the sentient A.I. hologram of dead Morituri Scatterbrain), and travelled to the VXX-199's base, where they destroyed its CPU, ending this second alien threat.

Characters

The Black Watch

  • Aaron Ray Leonard - died in the Garden before manifestation of powers
  • Patricia Lynne Sobrero - died in the Garden before manifestation of powers
  • Clinton Brian Rogers - Strength; killed by the Horde after killing the First in the Field
  • Bruce Higashi - Speed; supposedly killed in a nuclear strike; Radian was shown someone who resemembled Higashi months later (this person presumably died when the Horde fleet was destroyed)
  • Woodrow Joshua Green - Energy Projection (from eyes); died from the Morituri Effect
  • Commander Beth Luis Nion - Nion went through the Morituri process at about the same time as the members of Black Watch. She gained the power to make flowers bloom; died from the Morituri Effect.

The First Generation of Morituri

  • Lorna Leigh Raeburn (Snapdragon) - plasma blasts; died from Morituri Effect.
  • Harold Carl Everson (Vyking) - Energy projection, lifeform detection (referred to as 'imaging'; could detect primarily other Morituri and alien lifeforms); died from Morituri Effect.
  • Robert Greenbaum (Marathon) - Strength grew the longer he refrained from using it, charging up as time passed; also carried a defensive shield; willed himself to die from Morituri Effect.
  • Jelene Anderson (Adept) - Hyper-invention and hyper-intelligence (limited to physical contact with object to be examined), Chemical Mimicry/Creation (can create objects and organic substances beneficial or harmful to the object analyzed. Was developing cosmic awareness before death due to the 'Morituri Effect'.)
  • Louis Armanetti (Radian) - Full spectrum E-M emissions. Used 'focusing sleeves' on his uniform to concentrate his emissions effectively; killed by Shear for supposedly turning traitor.
  • Aline Pagrovna (Blackthorn) - Disrupt molecular bonds, causing things to melt and break; her pregnancy allowed her to live longer than the one year deadline although she died from the Morituri Effect shortly thereafter.

The Second Generation of Morituri

  • Pilar Lisieux (Scaredycat) - Projecting Empathy (limited to fear projection), superhuman speed; died from the Morituri Effect
  • William Deguchi (Scatterbrain) - Telepathy (initially could only use to project to all individuals in a given area and only thoughts; later could project mental states - drunkenness, perfect clarity, etc. After encounter with the Fourth Generation Morituri telepath, his power began to expand into clairsentience (if not for the 'Morituri Effect' Deguchi may have achieved cosmic awareness). Because of neural damage sustained during training session in The Garden, Deguchi wore a leg brace.
  • Ruth Mastorakis (Toxyn) - Produce beneficial/harmful biochemical agents capable of affecting organic/inorganic materials and lifeforms, but had to make skin to skin contact to develop a species specific toxin; died from the Morituri Effect

The Third Generation of Morituri

  • Greg Mattingly (Backhand)- Redirect energy; willed himself to undergo the Morituri Effect to kill the Super Hordians
  • Domenica Contreras (Brava) - Superhuman strength; killed by the Tiger after the Horde War ended
  • Burke O'Halloran (Hardcase) - Molecular control (limited to enhancing the molecular density of any object to make it nearly indestructible. Could perform this on living beings, but rendered them immobile - and was possibly fatal if they closed their mouths so they couldn't breathe); killed when the Horde activated a microwave cannon.
  • Walther Feyzioglu (Shear) - Slice through objects on the molecular level with a range of one meter; killed by Scanner after murdering the Strikeforce commander.
  • Akiya Bandaranaike (Silencer) - Vibration Control (could nullify vibratory patterns to inhibit sounds). Also used this power to induce fatal heart attacks in members of Fourth Generation Morituri (as one member was an energy-based being, there was indication that her power was progressing into an EM-controlling ability similar to Radian's); killed when the Horde activated a microwave cannon.
  • John Crenosa (Wildcard) - Power Duplication (limited to other Morituri); died from the Morituri Effect

The Fourth Generation of Morituri (aka the Morituri Monsters)

  • 4 members, including Carol Rayweick, Victor Leroy Long and Macintire Kenlin, who were euthanized by Silencer

Unidentified Morituri #1 - massive psionic powers, including telepathy and psionic energy blasts.

Unidentified Morituri #2 - unknown, but appeared to have growth or super-strength.

Unidentified Morituri #3 - unknown, but appeared to have some sort of avian/aquatic growths.

Unidentified Morituri #4 - unknown but energy-related; mutated into unstable energy form contained in special shielded area.

The Fifth Generation of Morituri

  • Jason Edwards (Revenge) - Energy conversion - on touch, could cause solid objects to convert to any chosen form of energy.
  • Dan Baker (Scanner) - Clairsentience (believed at first that he had 'superhuman senses')
  • Yoko Watanabe (Burn) - Pyrokinetic
  • Fiona Windsor (Lifter) - Telekinesis, telekinetic flight

The Sixth Generation of Morituri (aka the Morituri Assassins)

  • Tam Van Ok (Ghost) - Invisibility (limited to the EM spectrum; could be detected by psionics); whereabouts unknown
  • Zakir Shastri (Tiger) - Energy claws capable of cutting through most objects; returned to India
  • Julio Gonzales aka Red Cougar (Wind) - Supersonic speed; killed by Revenge

The Seventh Generation of Morituri (aka the New Breed Morituri or Morituri Clones)

  • Zed - Energy projection; killed by Szell's Army
  • Hassan - Freezing ability; killed by Lifter
  • Olga - Telepathy; killed by Szell's Army
  • Several unnamed members that possess a variety of energy-based and physical powers; killed either by Strikeforce: Morituri or Szell's Army

The Eighth Generation of Morituri (aka Kimmo Tuolema's Morituri)

  • Paula Tuolema - teleportation
  • Hans - unclarified physical powers

It should be noted that this series was unique in that it did not have a set "roster" such as the X-men, Avengers or Justice League of America. With members dying routinely, the mixing of generations was gradual and tragic. Several issues feature the last of a previous generation mixing with the new guard.

Bibliography

  • Strikeforce: Morituri #1-31 (December 1986-July 1989)
  • Strikeforce Morituri: Electric Undertow #1-5 (December 1989-March 1990)

Notes

  • While the setting of Strikeforce: Morituri resembles no future seen in any other Marvel title, the Horde appear to have gathered trophies from residents of the Marvel Universe, including the Silver Surfer's board and Galactus's helmet. This appears to be an in-joke rather than a serious plot point.
  • In an issue of Strikeforce: Morituri, there's a statue which reveals Nelson Mandela died in 1989.

Creators

Writers

  • Peter B. Gillis - Strikeforce: Morituri #1-20 (December 1986-July 1988)
  • James Hudnall - Strikeforce: Morituri #21-31 (September 1988-July 1989); Strikeforce Morituri: Electric Undertow #1-5 (December 1989-March 1990)

Art

  • Brent Anderson - Strikeforce: Morituri #1-9, 11-15, 17-20 (December 1986-August 1987, October 1987-February 1988, April 1988-July 1988)
  • Whilce Portacio - Strikeforce: Morituri #10, 16 (September 1987, March 1988)
  • Huw Thomas - Strikeforce: Morituri #21 (September 1988)
  • John Calimee - Strikeforce: Morituri #22, 24-25 (October 1988, December 1988-January 1989)
  • Mark Bagley - Strikeforce: Morituri #23, 26-31 (November 1988, February 1989-July 1989); Strikeforce Morituri: Electric Undertow #1-5 (December 1989-March 1990)

Non-appearance in other media

Television

In 2002, the Sci-Fi Channel announced that they were going to bring Strikeforce: Morituri to television under the name A Thousand Days, obviously changing the length of time a Morituri could live. Although targeted for 2003, nothing ever came of this, because ownership of the property proved to be in question. Marvel and original creator Peter Gillis are currently in dispute over the matter.

References

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