Sunday, October 2, 2011

November 1939: Smash Comics #6

Cover possibly by Gill Fox

'Espionage starring the Black X' (by Will Eisner): Absolutely nobody can set the scene as effectively as Eisner. Admittedly he uses the exact same technique every time, a gripping World War 2 montage, usually accompanied by a burning map of Europe. But it works, and I'm certainly not tired of it yet.  In this story the Black X goes undercover in an Alaskan gold mine, trying to stop foreign agents from stealing the gold for their own purposes. It's pretty good stuff, with an amusing subplot wherein the tough miners think that Black X is a sissy because of his monocle. Speaking of which, we learn that he had his eye put out during a torture interrogation, so all accusations of sissiness are false.

'Clip Chance at Cliffside' (by George Brenner): Clip fails an exam, and has to pass the re-examination to be allowed to play in a basketball match. Of course he does so, and wins the game with seconds to spare. There's also a subplot about the teacher's stolen watch that doesn't ever intersect with the main story.

'Chic Carter, Ace Reporter' (by Vernon Henkel): Chic is accompanying the king and princess of Moravia to inspect a border garrison. When a sudden attack cuts them off, Chic dons an army helmet and starts killing the enemy with abandon. This is standard behaviour for Golden Age heroes, but it's still a little jarring coming from a guy I'd pegged as a high society reporter.

'Flash Fulton, the Ace of Cameramen' (by Paul Gustavson): Flash investigates a group that is deliberately setting fire to oil rigs. He displays a similar facility for violence to Chic Carter above, but even that can't hold my interest.

'Hugh Hazzard and his Iron Man' (by George Brenner): Hugh Hazzard modifies his robot so that he can pilot it from the inside, and goes up against a gang of jewel thieves. The highlight is a panel right near the end, where the robot stands amidst the wreckage of a car, surrounded by corpses, and smilingly declares "Dead! Every one of them!!"

'Captain Cook of Scotland Yard' (by Stan Aschmeier): Cook investigates a group of spies that is trying to stop England from buying helium gas to use in its new dirigible. Now these guys are stupid. Their whole plan involves lighting the dirigible on fire, for which they need it to be full of hydrogen. But they seemingly haven't bothered to find out that England bought and used the helium despite their best efforts. Then they escape by parachuting away, only to land in the middle of the ocean where they are destined to drown. Cook didn't even need to do anything, because these guys killed themselves.

'Abdul the Arab' (by Vernon Henkel): Abdul is framed for murder, by a plan that hinges on him being the only Arab guy around who is named Abdul.

'John Law, Scientective in The Sound of Death' (by Harry Francis Campbell): The Avenger still has wealthy businessmen in his sights, and this time it's Roger Carlin, manufacturer of the ointment Vitasav. People have been dying after using Vitasav, and it turns out the the Avenger has discovered a way to make the ointment sink into a person's bloodstream when a specific sound is played. It's all fairly implausible, and not terribly exciting. And there are still nine businessmen to go, which is not an enticing prospect.

'The Master of Mu' (by Robert M. Hyatt): This prose story is an intriguing beginning. When a scientist investigates some plane disappearances, he is kidnapped by an evil mastermind and rocketed to the moon with his many other captives. I've got no idea where this is going, but I liked it. And it's always charming to read old-school sci-fi that has only the vaguest idea of what the moon is like.

'Invisible Justice' (by Art Pinajian): Invisible Justice goes up against a gang of helium smugglers in an unremarkable story. I suppose that helium was in the zeitgeist at the time.

'Wun Cloo - Him Velly Good Detective' (by Gill Fox): I don't quite know what to make of this. Wun Cloo is a laundry shop owner, but also a detective, and he rather cleverly stops a counterfeiter. His speech patterns aren't horrible, as the title above would suggest. There are some good jokes in here, and none of those are racist. It's just that title that's skewing things. If it wasn't for that, this would be perfectly acceptable.

'Wings Wendall of the Military Intelligence' (by Vernon Henkel): Enforcing the president's strictly isolationist policies, Wings goes up against a group of smugglers trying to take weapons to Europe. Henkel tries a patented Eisner war opening, and doesn't do a bad job of it, but the rest of the story is nothing special.

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