Strikeforce: Morituri is an often overlooked classic of the late 80s. Half of the series was written by Peter Gillis (probably most known for his bizarre runs on Defenders and Dr. Strange) and the other half by James Hudnall (probably best known for his work on Alpha Flight and some assorted Ultraverse titles, if anyone remembers those anymore), both of whom are often overlooked classics of the 80s themselves (also noteworthy is that the later 1/3 of the story contains some of Mark Bagley’s earliest work). While it was published by Marvel, it was not part of their regular superhero universe. This was a story of an Earth without superheroes which was being invaded by aliens. Aliens called The Horde, who incidentally had balls for chins.
Despite their unfortunate faces, they were actually some pretty nasty characters who loved to creatively slaughter and/or experiment on anyone that got in the way of their hedonistic plundering. Earth had no real defense against advanced aliens, so the Morituri program was created, which used an experimental process to give people powers. The catch was that this process was still unstable and so would cut the recipient’s lifespan down to one year or less. They had a tendency to violently explode when their bodies finally had enough of the stress of superpowers. So despite the fact that these people were dressed up as colorful superheroes (for propaganda purposes), this was a surprisingly dark story where characters could die at any given moment, and oh did they die. I won’t go into too much detail there, but let’s just say, don’t get attached to anyone. Aside from all the death and destruction the series also often gets into the panicked thoughts and feelings of these people who have literally given up their lives to fight for their planet and how they deal with the knowledge that their deaths are just a matter of time. The plot undergoes some pretty drastic changes when Hudnall takes over, but the quality remains the same, and the series ends on a high note with an odd and interesting sci-fi/cyberpunk/thriller storyline.
Looking back, this may not seem as dark and gritty compared to the comics we see coming out today, but it was pretty intense stuff for its time, especially with it not even being a “mature readers only” book. It definitely had a fascinating premise, which was admirably explored, and which still holds up well after all these years. I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates classic 80s comics and/or very different takes on the superhero genre.