Thursday, May 5, 2011

April 1939: Adventure Comics #38

Cover by John Richard Flanagan

'Barry O'Neill' (by Ed Winiarski): Having disposed of Fang Gow last issue, Barry starts a new adventure. His investigation of the murder of a French major leads him to be captured by a spy ring led by the villainous Count Guniff. As I feared would happen, this strip has become frighteningly generic now that Fang Gow isn't in it. I'm holding out hope that Count Guniff is a vampire, but I don't like my chances.

'Inspector Kent of Scotland Yard' (by George Newman): When his old enemy The Raven steals secret plans for the Volker Line, Inspector Kent is called in to help. What follows is a straightforward spy story where Kent retrieves the plans without much difficulty, but the spectre of World War 2 hovering in the background gives it a little more tension than it otherwise might have had.

'Federal Men' (by Siegel and Shuster): Steve Carson investigates the murder of a judge, in which the culprit is a man the judge sentenced to life in prison. This man had escaped years ago, disguised himself with plastic surgery, and set himself up as the judge's business partner, which is a pretty elaborate revenge scheme right there. But it's blatantly obvious from the first panel he appears in that this guy is the murderer. Carson doesn't even do any detective work, he just gets handed the relevant information by his colleagues. It's a pretty weak story all around.

'Tod Hunter, Jungle Master' (by Jim Chambers): In the last issue Tod was caught up in a battle between two wizards, and found himself allied with the one named Torog. In this installment he helps overthrow the other wizard in a very offhand and anti-climactic manner. After returning to the surface he comes across some murderers who can lead him to his friends, but when the local authorities catch up with them they arrest Tod as well. There are all sorts of problems with this. The evil wizard from the last few strips isn't even defeated, he just vanishes between panels.  And didn't Tod have amnesia? He remembers the names of his friends just fine now. This serial hasn't had a logical flow for months, but it doesn't matter now because I'll never have to see it again.  Tod was shot trying to escape in the final panel of the story, so I have to assume that he is dead.  Hooray!

'Don Coyote' (by Stockton): Don and his time-travelling friend from the 20th century depose the king and take over. I'm still reasonably amused by this, and there's even a little bit of world-building going on.

'Steve Malone, District Attorney' (by Gardner Fox and Don Lynch): Steve Malone goes after a gang of crooks who have robbed an armoured car and escaped to sea. There's a bit of action as Steve infiltrates their ship, but it's still a pretty dull affair.

'Emergency Case' (by Jack Anthony): This prose story is about a doctor who has to drive his car over an icy river to get to a little girl who needs an operation. This isn't much better than the usual fare for these stories, but at least the situation and genre isn't one I've seen in this project before.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): On the way back from his last adventure, Desmo sees Tartars attack a village and kidnap a girl. Of course he goes to her rescue, and ends up fighting a knife-wielding Tartar on top of a cliff.  That bit of actions livens things up a bit, but the rest of the story is not very good. I just want to know why Desmo wears that helmet all the time.

'Tom Brent' (by Jim Chambers): Tom is still undercover, investigating the mysterious destruction of a number of ships. He ends up captured by the culprits, and forced at gunpoint to pilot a ship to Hang Kow, but he has a Cunning Plan: crash the ship into a dirty big rock. This being the Golden Age, such a stupidly direct plan actually works, and the authorities are along shortly to arrest the crooks.  That doesn't mean it's not a boring story, though.

'Skip Schuyler' (by Tom Hickey): Skip goes down to the fake South American country of Vendazia to deal with the revolutionary leader Pancho Velez and his cool sombrero. As is usual with Tom Hickey's stuff, there's a sense of authenticity that's missing from a lot of other Golden Age strips. There's even a scene where Skip gets tied up and whipped in the face. The plot is nothing out of the ordinary, but the little details make it just a bit better than average. It's a rare Golden Age story that would feature a line like this one: "All I've got to do is nip a revolution in the bud and save the good old government of Vendazia for the American bankers and industrialists."

'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane): Long Sin and his pirates finally arrive on the island, and within a couple of pages he has thrown a knife into the throat of a mutineer, captured Rusty and his pals, and allied with the counterfeiter Ichabod Slade. Now that's an effective villain. I still don't care much about this strip, but it's much better when he's in it.  Yes, he's a terribly racist portrayal, but it's taken so far over the top that it almost works as a parody.

'Anchors Aweigh' (by Fred Guardineer): Wow, this strip doesn't mess about. Don and Red are in Shanghai on the trail of bandit leader Wang Ku, and the sheer amount of plot in this story is insane. In the space of six pages we get bandits ambushing and capturing Don and his soldiers, Red rescuing the soldiers, Red rescuing Don from Wank Ku's boat (including some gunfighting), and a battleship blowing that boat to smithereens. This story won me over with sheer breakneck pace.


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