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Our Army At War 210
"Death's Promise!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND September, 1969

Story: Unknown Art: Unknown

(Originally Reviewed On 03/18/02)

When the specter of Death comes and points a finger... his victim must heed the greeting and meet The Grim Reaper's scythe. Brett Decker, however, is not such a man, for he has cut a deal with The Reaper... and cannot die... because he has wrested "Death's Promise!" On a battlefield, confederate soldier Brett Decker is tired, with no place to run and hide, feeling the chilling presence of death, but not dying!

The story for Brett Decker began in the hills of Tennessee, where he lived with his granny, and whom he confided his childhood fears. The old woman reassured him that there was nothing to harm them, for she has made a deal, she and Death! Her death has been postponed until the boy is old enough to fend for himself. The Deckers are familiar with Death, for they have the gift, and one day, the boy will be a man and meet Death, as well as strike a deal of his own. Time passes and 14 year old Brett Decker has gotten a job at the saw mill, where he can afford to take care of them. His granny congratulates him, then asks him to get a sack of salt from the shed... alone in the cabin, Granny Decker knows it's time for her to keep her bargain with Death!

Now a memory from his childhood, Brett Decker has joined The Tennessee Rifles and fights for the South in the Civil War. Feeling himself to be on his last legs, Brett Decker keeps moving nonetheless, for the Bluecoats are on his trail. The young man begins to feel numb and dizzy, with the sensation of death in the air, but he doesn't want to die here on a battlefield! He turns from the tree, where he's been bracing himself, and sees The Grim Reaper, welding his scythe through the field of death... and then, Brett remembers his granny's words.

Brett tells The Grim Reaper that he's just like his granny described, and he, too, shares the gift, so he wishes to make a deal, just like the one Death made with his granny. The Grim Reaper recognizes the family resemblance, then asks what sort of deal the young man wishes to make. Brett doesn't want to die in battle, and The Grim Reaper agrees, pointing a bony finger at Decker, and giving his word that the confederate soldier will not die in battle! Brett Decker soon finds himself alone, wondering if he dreamed the meeting, then makes his way to the regiment. It begins to rain, as the confederate soldier strides through the green meadow, where he is spotted by two bluecoats, and finds himself in their sights!

The shot goes awry, for the ledge beneath the two union soldiers breaks off, sending them to a rocky death. Brett is still alive, and figures that perhaps it wasn't a dream after all! Reunited with his regiment, Brett is told by the doctor that they thought he was a dead man for sure. Back on the line, Brett moves as a man without fear, amid the explosions of cannonfire.

He hears The Grim Reaper's voice reassuring him that he won't die in battle... not at Chicamauga... not at Chattanooga... not at Lookout Mountain... for Death always keeps his promise! The Civil War reaches its end, and for Brett Decker, the battle is done, and he can go home... alive!

Setting his rifle against a tree, Brett reclines against another tree, beginnning to realize that after four years, the war has ended, that he hasn't died in battle, not so much as a bullet nor cannonball ever came near him. The Grim Reaper has kept his word, but then he wonders, why was Death smiling... BLAM! The rifle has fallen from the nearby tree, and the shot has taken the life of its owner, who perhaps hears Death's final words of keeping his promise of Brett dying in battle!

From the form of The Grim Reaper, to Hela The Death Goddess, to Death, sibling of Dream. Comic book Deaths are a fact of life, even beyond the Silver Age.

Eric Williams assumed the identity of The Grim Reaper to avenge his brother's death at the hands of The Avengers.

The Spectre would answer to an unseen voice, whose owner is no doubt of a higher authority.

The Mighty Thor would seek to stave off Hela's attempts to claim his immortal life, and only when Lady Sif bids that she die in his place, does Hela relent.

In a fill-in issue of The Invaders, Captain America and Bucky would face an axis agent called The Reaper, who would seek to sow propaganda, and wield his scythe.

Jonah Hex is an example of a DC character who played a part in The Civil War.

A TV show which ran during The Silver Age and was set after The Civil War was The Wild, Wild West.

Steve Chung
"Death's Review!"