Monday, November 21, 2011

February 1940: Marvel Mystery Comics #6

 Cover by Alex Schomburg

'The Human Torch' (by Carl Burgos): Some crooks set a forest fire, and rob the local bank while everyone is distracted trying to put it out. The crooks steal plans for a bomb, and plan to sell them to foreign agents. The Torch tracks them down and destroys the plans. It's not a great story, though it's far from short on incident. The strangest bit comes when the Torch has been knocked unconscious, and the forest fire comes to his defense. Is fire sentient in the Marvel Universe?  Probably not, but it's an intriguing scene nonetheless.  It's exactly the sort of thing that the Official Marvel Handbook would spend a paragraph explaining away.

'The Angel' (by Paul Gustavson): The Angel rescues a woman named Mary Edwards, who has been kidnapped for her valuable necklace. It's a perfectly adequate story, but that's the extent of it. Mary comes across as a rounded character, which is unusual for the token hostage, so it does have that going for it.  We also learn the Angel's real name (Tom Holloway) for the first time.

'Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner' (by Bill Everett): Despite his best efforts to prove that he is not a menace to humanity, Namor is placed on trial for murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death. His food is drugged to make him weak, but his stint in the electric chair only serves to return him to full power. Which is great, because it brings us back to a point where Namor can be an enemy of mankind. He escapes to the ocean, vowing to return, and I'm really looking forward to it. This is an exciting, compelling read that gets the character back to his roots.

'The Masked Raider' (by Al Anders): The Masked Raider takes on a crooked rustler who has stolen a ranch that borders the Rio Grande, so that he can send cattle across the border to Mexico. Not only were rustlers a menace to the US cattle economy, they were responsible for hundreds of shitty westerns for years afterwards.

'The Shrinking Spy' (by Andrew McWhiney and Frank Thomas): Two FBI agents put a stop to a foreign agent who has invented a shrinking formula. This prose story features the absurd notion that American spies are all about fair play and sportsmanship: "We prefer to do our spying in a nice, clean, healthy way!" It would be amusing if I believed for a second that this was tongue-in-cheek.

'Electro, the Marvel of the Age' (by Steve Dahlman): Professor Zog decides to destroy America's dope trade, so he sends his operatives out to investigate. In each major city, they are to find the head dope peddler and summon Electro to take him out. Normally I'll take any excuse to watch a robot smash things, but this is pretty lacklustre. It doesn't help that the villains only appear for a few panels each. It's hard to make the reader care about their defeat when they barely qualify as characters.

'Ferret, Mystery Detective' (by Stockbridge Winslow and Irwin Hasen): The Ferret investigates the murder of the head of a cosmetics company. The killer then masquerades as the victim's brother in order to collect a lot of money, but the Ferret figures out what's going on with some very dodgy evidence.  Apparently, the brother of the head of a cosmetics house could never have a bad complexion.

'Adventures of Ka-Zar the Great' (by Ben Thompson): Ka-Zar takes on an evil ivory hunter, arranging it so that he gets trampled by an elephant herd. This story is notable only because it depicts a tribe of Africans in a positive light, and not as man-eating savages.  I'll take the small victories.

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