Wednesday, January 18, 2012

April 1940: Top-Notch Comics #6

Cover by Edd Ashe

'The Wizard, the Man with the Super Brain' (by Edd Ashe): We're back with the modern day Wizard, who is still foiling plots by the Mosconians. First they try to kill him with a bombing raid on his rocket car, then they try to destroy Boulder Dam in Colorado. Both sequences are action-packed, and I found myself quite impressed to see the Wizard hold up the breached dam all by himself. It's the sort of thing I wouldn't bat an eyelid over in a modern super-hero comic, but over the course of this blog I've become accustomed to the very low key powers of the Golden Age.  I think that I prefer it this way.

'Galahad' (by Harry Shorten and Lin Streeter): Galahad must retrieve the stolen Golden Chalice from the Earl of Pellam. There's plenty of derring-do and sword-fighting to keep me entertained, but it all feels a little hollow. There's a plot strand about the Earl's wife wanting the Chalice so that it can make her more beautiful than Queen Guinevere, and that's a set-up for a proper story if ever there was one. But it goes nowhere, and what we get instead is pages and pages of Galahad fighting other knights.

'Shanghai Sheridan' (by Joe Blair and Irv Novick): Sheridan meets an American named Scary Dee, saves the crew of an American yacht from the Japanese, and survives an attack from the evil Wu Fang's men. This is very piecemeal, and never gels coherently. It also has some terribly primitive speech patterns for the Japanese. I don't mind this so much in situations where they are obviously speaking in English, because a lot of people have trouble speaking foreign languages. But when they're talking amongst themselves? It's unforgivable.

'Streak Chandler on Mars' (by Harry Shorten and William Wills): The tyrant Kalox was deposed by Streak Chandler in the last issue, but in this story he steals a powerful radium crystal, capable of destroying planets. Not that he does much with it; Kalox spends most of the strip fleeing from Streak, before Streak destroys his ship with a disintegrator ray. It's always disappointing when a villain doesn't live up to the hype.

'Wings Johnson of the Air Patrol' (by Joe Blair and Ed Smalle): Having finally killed his mortal enemy Von Schiller, Wings is reassigned. He helps fight a naval battle against the Nazis, then helps defend attacks on South American military bases. I appreciate his dedication in having two adventures in one issue, but it does make things very cramped and unsatisfying.

'Dick Storm' (by Harry Shorten and Mort Meskin): In this story Dick topples a South American dictator who has taken over a region in Honduras. One of the central points of the story is that the dictator has no ammunition for his guns. And I'm supposed to believe that he led and maintained a successful coup? It's preposterous.

'Bob Phantom, Scourge of the Underworld' (by Harry Shorten and Gerry Thorp): The villainous Ah Ku is back, leading an opium smuggling operation. Bob Phantom takes down her operation in a terribly average story.

'West Pointer' (by Harry Shorten and Ed Wexler): This strip is supposed to be about army cadets, but somehow it always ends up as a sport comic. In this story Keith Kornell is chosen to pitch in a baseball match against Midvale, but ends up getting in a fight with the opposition's star hitter. Later on he saves the same guy from a fire, then goes on to pitch a winning game despite an injured leg. I'm just happy that there were no crooked gamblers involved.

'Kardak the Mystic Magician' (by Harry Shorten and C.A. Winter): Kardak goes up against Hindu mystics who plan to release a plague of locusts in the Mississippi delta for reasons that are not entirely clear. The cliffhanger ending has Kardak and his fiancee trapped in quicksand, which is about as exciting as the rest of the story.

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