Monday, November 28, 2011

March 1940: Pep Comics #4

Cover by Irv Novick

'The Shield, G-Man Extraordinary' (by Harry Shorten and Irv Novick): The Shield must stop a plot by Mosconian spies to destroy Pearl Harbor, but he has a little help: The Wizard! And Keith Kornell, the West Pointer! This is a good adventure story in its own right, even without the crossover cameos. The Wizard's appearance is disappointingly short, and Keith Kornell's is inexplicable. What is a cadet doing leading rescue missions in Hawaii? But the novelty of the whole affair outweighs any such concerns, and the crossovers continue in the next issue of Top-Notch Comics.

'The Comet' (by Jack Cole): After his killing rampage while mind-controlled last issue, the Comet is a wanted man. He spends the first half of the story on the run from police and angry mobs, but the second half diverts into a plot about miners being denied adequate ventilation by their unscrupulous boss. It's a decent enough story, but has little relevance to the Comet's mission to clear his name.

'The Press Guardian' (by Abner Sundell and  Mort Meskin): The Press Guardian takes on a graft ring that has threatened his father's newspaper. This is solid stuff, although it's let down a bit at the end when the main villain commits suicide off-panel.

'Fu Chang, International Detective' (by Joe Blair and Lin Streeter): Fu Chang goes up against Princess Ling Foy, a black magic sorceress. First she attacks with an army of brass robots, then she resorts to sticking knives in a voodoo doll. In the end it is Chang's fiancee Tay Ming who saves him, with the help of Chang's magical chessmen. This is fairly enjoyable, but the stereotypically honourable nature of Chang gets a bit tiresome after a while.

'Sergeant Boyle' (by Abner Sundell and Charles Biro): Boyle foils a Nazi plot to destroy London, saves a cornered battalion, and kills a shitload of Nazis.  In the Archie universe, I'm pretty sure that this guy marched on Berlin all by himself.

'The Midshipman' (possibly by Bob Wood): It's crossover time again, as the Wizard makes a cameo to help Midshipman Lee Sampson foil a Mosconian plot to destroy the US naval academy. The law of diminishing returns is setting in already, because I wasn't particularly thrilled to see these two characters meet. More likely it's the characters themselves, because I don't care at all about Sampson.

'The Rocket and the Queen of Diamonds' (by Lin Streeter): The Rocket and the queen befriend a Hawkman, and are pursued through the Dark Forest by an army of Lizard Men. What follows is a story of survival, as the three are threatened by giant monsters, the environment, and the Lizard Men themselves. It all falls apart at the end, though, when a hitherto unmentioned tribe of Ape Men comes out of nowhere to defeat the Lizard Men. Weak.

'Kayo Ward' (by Bob Wood and Phil Sturm): Kayo Ward takes on some crooks who are collecting protection money from his father. The story makes a big deal about Kayo having been shot in the arm last issue, but it never plays into this story.

'Bentley of Scotland Yard and the Hunchback Horror' (by Joe Blair and Sam Cooper): The Earl of Crackenthorpe is killed by a legendary demon from an old family story, but the demon turns out to actually be his cousin, trying to get the Earl's title for himself. I enjoyed this while I was reading it, but on closer scrutiny it falls apart. The cousin's plan hinges on someone investigating the legend of the demon, but that is done totally on a whim, one that he has no part in encouraging. And I have to say that the Earl's fiancee is pretty fickle. She displays no emotion at his death, and within hours is shacking up with his brother.

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