Monday, March 14, 2011

July 1938: Detective Comics #18

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Speed investigates the murder of a diamond merchant, which is about as bog standard as these mysteries get.  Hint: he was murdered for diamonds!  By the guy who likes diamonds!

'Cosmo' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo heads to Texas for a holiday, and ends up investigating a murder for which a friend of his is the prime suspect.  Cosmo has a foolproof investigation method: find the nearest shifty-looking Mexican and beat him until he confesses.  Guaranteed to work every time.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): Larry was falling into a pit trap when last we left, having been captured by some kidnappers.  The rest of the strip is as paint-by-numbers as it gets.  Larry escapes, sends a friend to call the police, then stalls the kidnappers until they arrive.  Just once it would be nice to get something with more than a single dimension.

'Fu Manchu' (by Sax Rohmer and Leo O'Mealia): Petrie encounters a mysterious girl who hands him a message to deliver to Nayland Smith.  This strip still has an eerie, otherworldy quality that I'm enjoying.  Normally I dislike the strips that are told in nothing but narrative captions, but this being an adaptation of a novel makes it feel more authentic that way.  It also helps that the quality of the writing is well above the usual comic strip of the time.  I'm pretty sure they're lifting the text directly from Sax Rohmer.

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Bart and Sally keep trying to propose to each other while investigating the theft of a giant ruby.  Which is weird, because as far as I recall they've been engaged since the first issue.

'The Golden Key' (by Gardner Fox): This is a prose story about an art thief who steals a painting by rolling it up inside his hollow cane.  As is often the case, what we have here is a mystery story which is absolutely impossible to solve; the protagonist is privy to a whole lot of information that we are never shown.  I suppose there's only so much you can do in two pages, though.

'Bruce Nelson and the Coolie Smugglers' (by Tom Hickey): This story continues from last issue.  In the first part, Bruce had been framed as a smuggler, and was on the run in his plane with his native buddy Ungi.  In this chapter, they find the hangout of Del Rio, the actual smuggler, but their plane runs out of gas during the inevitable dogfight.  During the crash Nelson is injured and Ungi nurses him back to health in a cave (there's a lot of massaging, oil, and calling each other "big boy" at this point). A somewhat pointless fight with a snake takes up a whole lot of time, before Nelson and Ungi make their move against Del Rio.  And are promptly captured.  As usual, Bruce Nelson holds my interest more than most other strips.  There's nothing particularly outstanding about this one, but it does have a certain air of authenticity that's lacking elsewhere.

'Steve Malone, District Attorney' (by Gardner Fox and Artist Unknown): This is a new strip that is written by Gardner Fox.  It's a mystery as to who pencilled it; I certainly can't find anything on the web.  The eponymous hero investigates the murder of an ambassador in this story, which was adequate enough, but I found it harder to follow due to some weird placement of the word balloons.  They were often placed to be read from right to left in each panel, so I found myself reading the dialogue in the wrong order.

'Slam Bradley' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Slam and Shorty are embroiled in a whole lot of shenanigans involving an experimental plane.  I've never read a strip before with so many swerves and double-crosses.  There's really no comic relief to speak of (usually the life-blood of any good Slam Bradley story) but it makes up for it by being one of the most unpredictable reads so far.  Also, it has a mad scientist, and at this point Shuster draws the best damn mad scientists in the biz.

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