Tuesday, April 19, 2011

February 1939: Adventure Comics #36

Cover by John Flanagan

'Barry O'Neill' gets a new creator this month in Ed Winiarski, who replaces Leo O'Mealia.  The story picks up where it left off, with Barry fighting a mind-controlled Inspector LeGrand. He manages to inject him with the antidote and free him, and then he tries to go undercover again, only to be recaptured by Fang Gow.  I was enjoying this strip before, but it seems to have lost something in the switch to a new creator. There was a certain sense of authenticity that's been replaced by more simplistic storytelling and characters.  It's just a little less interesting all around.

'Cotton Carver' (by George Newman) leaves the underground land of Mayala, looking for a path back to the surface. He ends up captured by the White Warriors and taken to their city, where their queen throws him in the arena to fight a giant bull.  Carver escapes, and there's a frankly bizarre chase scene where everyone is inside a red tornado that responds to their will.  This strip is chock-full of ideas, and rolls along at a good clip.  It's fun.

In 'Federal Men' (by Siegel and Shuster) Steve is still a crook.  One of his men starts plotting against him, and tries to frame him for killing an FBI agent. But when the agent recognises Steve his memory comes back. It's all set up for the finale next issue. I've enjoyed this story, but the inevitable switch back to Steve as a good guy has come at the right time.

From one amnesiac to another, 'Tod Hunter' (by Jim Chambers) lost his memory last month and was captured by cannibals. His old enemy Paul is there, but after Tod helps the cannibals fight off a rival tribe he is sent to meet an old sorcerer, while Paul is to be fed to a volcano.  Tod hits on the sorcerer's wife, and the strip ends with the sorcerer getting jealous.  As you may have guessed from my description, there's no logical flow to this story.  Things just happen out of nowhere, and Tod himself is a complete nonentity at this point.

'Don Coyote' (by Stockton) was rescued by a knight last issue, and in this installment it turns out that he's a time-traveller from the 20th century.  Okay, now I'm interested.  Stockton gets some good humour out of this guy's huckster routine, and this is easily the best thing that he's done yet.

'Dale Daring' (by Will Ely) is still dealing with ivory smugglers.  I zoned out of this one a little, and I don't feel like I missed anything.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski) is hired by woman to find her father, who disappeared in the Himalayas while searching for a hidden civilisation. Most of the strip is Desmo flying his plane through a snowstorm, and climbing mountains.  He finds the hidden valley by the end, but it's a pretty tedious journey in getting there.

'Stowaway' (by Jack Anthony) is a prose story about a stowaway who is told of all the awful things that happen to people at sea, only to discover that they aren't so bad after all.  I've read worse.

'Tom Brent' (by Jim Chambers) has been hired to find a necklace and return it to Chinese authorities. Which he does, despite the interference of some bandits. This is terribly dull.

'The Golden Dragon' (by Tom Hickey) ends its staggeringly long run in a very satisfying manner. The dragon priests are dispersed, the dragon itself is shot dead, and every character gets a little denouement to round out their story. The only thing I didn't like is that everyone stops to explain how the ancient prophecy from a few issues ago was fulfilled; things like that ought to be left ambiguous, I feel.  But for a strip that I couldn't be bothered following at the beginning, this one got better as it went and ended in fine style.

'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane) were rescued by an old man last issue, and in this installment he tells his origin story. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, and the old man's tale about washing up on the island, meeting Ichabod Slade and being double-crossed helps to enhance the reality of this world.

In 'Anchors Aweigh' (by Fred Guardineer) Don and Red escape from El Diablo in an absolute bloodbath.  Seriously, these guys kill everyone in sight with rifle, bayonet, and plane-mounted machine-gun.  Now I'm all about this sort of carnage in my golden age stories, but this story needs to wrap up already.

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