Sunday, April 3, 2011

November 1938: Adventure Comics #33; Detective Comics #22

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Anchors Aweigh' (by Fred Guardineer): Don and Red rescue Marshall from El Diablo's men, and are subsequently chased by them for the rest of the strip.  There's a train chase, some hiding in swamps, gunfights, shovel fights, and by the end of it Red is believed trapped in the train at the bottom of the swamp, while Don and Marshall are about to be macheted by a native. This isn't bad.  Still, I'm convinced that Marshall is El Diablo.  Everyone is talking about him being innocent, but I'm not fooled.

'Tom Brent' (by Jim Chambers): Brent investigates the murder of a curio collector over a diamond.  There's a ridiculous plot hole in this story: one moment Tom is about to be shot by a henchman, the next he is confronting a group of suspects and revealing the murderer.  It's very poor storytelling, unless I'm missing a page in my scan (and I don't believe I am).

'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): This strip takes an unexpected turn this issue.  The last installment finished with a burning building collapsing on Steve Carson's head.  His fellow agents believe him dead, but he is actually thrown clear, with partial amnesia from a bump on the head.  And because he's carrying a gun, and knows a lot about crime, he believes that he must be a crook.  So Steve becomes a gangster, and spends the rest of the strip helping steal some furs.  Alas, his decency reasserts itself by the end of the strip, and he's about to be shot by the lead gangster.  To be continued!  This was a fun story, if a touch silly. But I always like seeing characters undergo random personality changes induced by head trauma.

'Dale Daring' (by Will Ely): Dale and her friends are being attacked by the workers of their rubber plantation.  The workers have been lied to by the foreman Blakely, who wants the plantation for himself.  This one wraps up a little too tidily, as the heroes just get Blakely to confess to the natives, and they throw down their weapons and beg forgiveness.  Just a page ago they were ready to drink some blood!

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Desmo is still investigating the framing of his friend Col. McAllister.  His methods are dubious at best.  When the man with the evidence they need is murdered, and Desmo finds a scrap of cloth in his hand, he takes it to an alchemist for answers.  An alchemist.  All this guy does is mix some chemicals, and suddenly he has an exact description of the murderer!  Yes, it gets results, but it makes NO DAMN SENSE.

'Don Coyote' (by Stockton): Don got a lot of reward money for the guy he beat up last issue, so now he's taking a trip around the world to Arabia.  There are actually some decent gags in this one, so hopefully Stockton has figured out what he's doing now.

'Cal 'n' Alec' (by Stockton): Cal and Alec accidentally shoot a man's hat, and he forces them to work for him for a month to pay it off.  But when the month is up, there's still more interest to be worked off...  Again, this is a little funnier than Stockton's previous strips.  Either he's getting better, or I'm getting accustomed to his sense of humour.

'Hot Money' (by Whitney Ellsworth): This continues from last month, as an FBI agent captures the fugitive bank robbers.  Honestly, I expect more from a story whose main character is called Ace Diamond.

'Tod Hunter, Jungle Master' (by Jim Chambers): Tod and his friends escape from the bandit chief Hassim, only to hide out in the cabin of an old white dude who collects skulls.  This guy has got to be bad news, but he's a welcome diversion from the boring main plot.

'The Golden Dragon' (by Tom Hickey): This focuses mostly on the villains, as Torgadoff plots to give Doris as a sacrifice to the actual dragon he has in the basement.  Yep, this strip just got a whole lot more interesting.

'Rusty and his Pals' (by Bob Kane): Rusty and his friends escape from the evil counterfeiter Ichabod Slade. Meanwhile, we actually do go back to villainous Asian stereotype Long Sin on the pirate ship, which is about to be wrecked in a storm. I'm glad to see that whole thing hasn't been brushed aside.

'The Lucky Ring' (by Spencer Trent): This is a one-off story about aviator Jim Donegan, and the ring he wears that always seems to bring him and his wife together, even in the Amazon jungle.  It's kind of sweet, but perhaps it just struck me in a favourable mood.

Cover by Jim Chambers

'Slam Bradley' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Slam goes up against an old enemy, a Chinese crime lord called (ahem) Fui Onyui.  I don't know what to make of this, because on the one hand it's rife with casual racism, but on the other it's a tense story that places Slam Bradley in a very tough predicament.  If it wasn't for the former I'd have no reservations in marking this highly.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): Larry Steele fulfills his cliche requirements by getting caught in the rain and seeking shelter in a nearby ominous house.  The house is home to a mad scientist seeking the secret of eternal life, and his insane test subjects. This one is so hackneyed that I almost had to enjoy it for its audacity. To be continued!

'The Crimson Avenger' (by Jim Chambers): The Crimson Avenger is now a fugitive, with a large reward on offer to whoever finds out who he is.  The reward is being offered by the Crimson Avenger himself, in his guise as Lee Travers the newspaper publisher, which seems very counter-productive for a man trying to maintain a secret identity.  It all comes to a head when several different groups fight over some papers that are supposed to contain his ID, but in the end the papers are blank.  It's a perplexing conclusion, and I can't even fathom why they would have no information on them.  Wrong information would make sense, but nothing at all?  It's weird.

'Bruce Nelson and the Song of Death' (by Tom Hickey): This story line ends pretty well, though it's not without problems.  The build-up to Billie Bryson singing the "Song of Death" was quite tense, and made all the better because she's had time to develop into a rounded and likable character.  But the mystery was basically solved last month already, and the clues Bruce follows weren't available to the reader until the very end.

'A Sticky Clue' (by Gardner Fox): This is a prose story about a jewel thief who is undone by his love of chewing gum.  Not bad as these things go.

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Bart and Sally are sent to rescue a missing spy from a foreign embassy, only to find that he has turned traitor.  This one is very funny, as the two spies each try their own methods, and mock each other when they inevitably fail.  The revelation of the agent's treason is pretty well handled too.

'Fu Manchu' (by Sax Rohmer and Leo O'Mealia): The plot jumps forward quite a bit, skipping over a meeting with Fu Manchu's mysterious slave girl in the opening synopsis.  The rest of the strip shows Dennis and Nayland Smith preparing to infiltrate an opium den in disguise.  What we get is still quite good, but I have to say that I would have been much more interested in the scene that was skipped over.

'Cosmo, Phantom of Disguise' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo deals with some jewel thieves who have posed as police to steal a diamond necklace.  And miracle of miracles, he actually uses a disguise this time, which he hasn't done in forever.

'Inspector Kent of Scotland Yard' (by George Newman): Kent deals with a jewel thief who has posed as a policeman to steal a diamond necklace.  Sound familiar?  It should, it's the exact same damn plot from this month's 'Cosmo'.  This the last we ever see of Inspector Kent.  Thanks for stopping by, inspector!

'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Speed solves a murder with three suspects. This one had a pretty ropey clue at the centre of the mystery, so it didn't really hold together for me.

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