02 03 Nerd Lunch: Shadowmasters: Rebooted 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Shadowmasters: Rebooted

We've been winding down our series of Reboot articles, but I just saw Captain America: The First Avenger over the weekend. Soooo good. For the longtime Marvel fan, one of the real treats was seeing the Howling Commandos on the big screen. Lots of the details were changed --- most notably, taking Sgt. Fury out entirely and making the Howlers Captain America's squad --- but the spirit of the group was preserved: a multiethnic (and later multinational) team of grunts, with one boot in "Band of Brothers" territory and the other kicking Nazi supervillain butt, Lee / Kirby - style. They made a big impact in just a few scenes, and I hope they return for a sequel.

One interesting change was the inclusion of Jim Morita as a Howler. I just happened to have the old Sgt. Fury comic where Morita made one of his very few appearances --- not as a full-fledged Howler, but as a young Japanese-American solider overcame prejudice within the ranks and joined an all-Nisei Ranger squad, also commanded by Howlers C.O. Captain "Happy Sam" Sawyer. Unlike the Howlers, who had enough adventures to fill every day of the war, the Nisei Squad's missions have gone largely undocumented.

My reboot idea? Same thing, more ninjas. I'm borrowing the name "Shadowmasters" from an equally obscure Marvel miniseries from the late 1980s, about a family of ninjas in Japan from WWII onward. Truthfully, it was a pretty weak comic, but there was an early scene of a white-clad ninja with a demon mask taking out enemy soldiers that has stayed with me all this time.

So the rebooted Nisei Squad were recruited because the OSS had secured the services of a genuine ninja grandmaster, who moved to America after a falling out with Imperial Japan. Ezaki-San is a cranky, bigoted old killing machine (a la Chuin from the Remo Williams franchise), but he has developed a certain fondness for the Andrews Sisters and Gene Kelly, and he really hates Nazis.

Despite all being Japanese-American (maybe with an Okinawan thrown in for flavor), the recruits are a diverse bunch, with combat specialties ranging from ancient kenjitsu to state-of-the-art SAS close-combat training. Ezaki made them ninjas, Sawyer made them Rangers, and the Nazis never knew what hit them.

As a bonus, this reboot leaves the door open to develop Marvel's secret 70 year history of American ninja special forces. It writes itself, people.

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