Sunday, August 21, 2011

September 1939: Feature Comics #26

Cover by Ed Cronin

'Jane Arden' (by Monte Barrett and Russell E. Ross): Jane, still on the trail of a notorious jewel thief, outwits him at a staged robbery to gain his confidence. I was on board for this story at the beginning, but at this point it needs to pull the finger out.

'Captain Fortune' (by Vernon Henkel): In the last issue Captain Fortune went ashore, and the mutinous Severish fired the ship's cannons into the town. This installment is all a big buildup to Fortune sneaking back onto his ship to confront Severish, and the result is probably the most anti-climactic one-panel fight scene ever.  In one panel they're squaring up, and in the very next Fortune has his sword through Severish's chest.  It's the "One Punch!" of the Golden Age, for all of you JLI fans out there.

'Big Top' (by Ed Wheelan): Everyone is distressed because Hal's plane disappeared last issue, but it turns out that he's okay, and he and Myra get married. I guess it's the old "throw complications at young lovers who want to get married" story, which has never been a favourite of mine, mainly because I think that marriage has no bearing at all on the legitimacy of a relationship.  So for me the dramatic stakes are virtually meaningless. (Also, I could not give two shits about any of the characters in here.) We're promised that next issue will bring us a "New and better Big Top". Ooh, maybe Neil Gaiman will be writing?

'Ned Brant' (by Bob Zuppke): Ned plays gridiron, gets clobbered, and the team wins the game for him. This story is followed by a subscription form, and on the basis of this story I say "No thank you, please do not ever send me any copies of Feature Comics."

'The Clock Strikes' (by George E. Brenner): The Clock has been framed for robbery, and I was all set to dismiss this one as another formulaic story. But when the Clock captures his framer and threatens to make a rat eat through his abdomen I certainly perked up. Nothing like a bit of hardcore torture to make a story memorable.

'Rance Keane, The Knight of the West' (by Will Arthur): Rance stops some crooks from forcing a rancher to sell to them. It's off to a bad start already, and to top it off Rance beats them by sending a letter to the marshal. It's almost like the creators are trying to personally annoy me at this point. The rancher, a guy named Pee Wee Lee who is fixated in his own moustache, joins Rance as his sidekick, but he hasn't shown much either way to indicate how his addition will affect the strip.  (Admittedly, he does have a cool moustache.)

'Reynolds of the Mounted' (by Art Pinajian): Reynolds goes up against an Indian tribe that is buying guns from a smuggler for an uprising against the mounties. The villain, Chief Red Hawk, really lacks commitment.  One minute he's all "We gonna kill them mounties!", but as soon as Reynolds is pointing a gun at his back he's "We only wanna live in peace!" He should be true to his Mountie-killing ways.

'Slim and Tubby' (by John J. Welch): After knocking out the champ last issue, Benton reluctantly becomes a boxer. After a few week's he's ready to chuck it in and return to being a cowboy, but there are some convenient shenanigans that result in him losing his ranch... UNLESS HE CAN RAISE $10,000 REAL QUICK! Cliche-riddled and boring.

'Cove of the Beasts' (by Robert M. Hyatt): In this prose story two kids and their uncle go to Skull Island looking for treasure. Instead they find a big guy with a bung leg, a scared daughter, and a hunch-backed servant named Ivan. I'm not sure where this is going, but it does have a mysterious vibe going for it. To be continued!

'Charlie Chan' (by Alfred Andriola): A rudimentary investigation into deaths in a mine is livened up quite a bit at the end when the culprit holes himself up in a barn and starts throwing dynamite at everyone. It's still fairly boring, but the end just about redeems it.

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