Thursday, January 12, 2012

March 1940: Feature Comics #32

Cover by Lou Fine

'The Dollman' (by Will Eisner and Lou Fine): Some spies kidnap a scientist who has invented a deadly gas, and the Dollman must go to the rescue. The whole plot of this story hinges on this gas being deadlier than any other yet created, but when a vial of it is smashed it doesn't kill anybody. Dollman survives it, the spies survive it, even the old scientist survives it. The story was fairly entertaining otherwise, but that's a pretty big logic flaw.

'Captain Fortune' (by Vernon Henkel): Captain Fortune leads an assault on Castle Balomar, to help Lord Essex regain his lands from the villainous Duke Edward. This is quite a good bit of fun. It's full of cliches, but it revels in them. Clashing armies, a kidnapped princess, and a one-on-one duel between hero and villain, this has them all, and uses them well.

'Zero, Ghost Detective' (by Don Zolnerowich): Zero, as it says on the tin, is a paranormal investigator. In this story, a man has returned from the dead as a three-fingered ogre to kill his brothers, due to a pledge they made as children. It has a suitable level of creepiness, and I did enjoy it despite Zero's complete lack of personality.

'Reynolds of the Mounted' (by Art Pinajian): Reynolds gets caught up in the machinations of two unscrupulous fur traders and an Injun medicine man who wants to become chief of his tribe. Wonder of wonders, but I actually liked this. It plays the various factions off each other nicely.

'Spin Shaw of the Naval Air Corps' (by Bob Powell): Spin goes up against saboteurs that are trying to destroy an experimental plane. The plot is cliched, but it has several rather good action set pieces.

'Rance Keane' (by William A. Smith): Rance and Pee Wee must retrieve the stolen money of Rance's murdered friend, which they do with a plan that involves them pretending to be drunk. It's not nearly as entertaining as it sounds.

'Captain Bruce Blackburn, Counterspy' (by Harry Francis Campbell): This new strip has a cracking opening, as Bruce must fake his own death due to his identity having been leaked. After a spot of plastic surgery he resumes his spy-hunting career, and sets about figuring out who is the spy in their organisation. Alas, it gets a little too dry and procedural after the great opening.

'Rusty Ryan of Boyville' (by Paul Gustavson): Rusty Ryan is an orphan with a knack for solving crimes. In this story some crooks organise to become the beneficiaries of a child's insurance policy before causing him to fall from a bridge. Rusty finds them out in a story that is decent enough. I do like the way that Rusty can just get whatever he wants from the local newspaper; he's so trusted that the editor stops the presses on his word, and sets some column inches aside because he knows there will be a story if Rusty's involved.

'Gold of Atlantis' (by Robert M. Hyatt): An adventurer named Perry Scott goes hunting gold in an ancient Atlantean city, and instead finds a golden serpent. It sounds like the basis for a great pulp yarn, but in practice it's mostly the characters sitting around talking, and the snake presents no menace at all.

'The Voice' (by Stan Aschmeier): The Voice is Mr. Elixir, who was stranded on an island in 1790 and has lived for 150 years due to special herbs that also give him super-strength. After returning to New York he takes up crime fighting, using the powers of hypnotism and ventriloquism to take on a daring hold-up gang. It's a decent enough set-up, but the story is mediocre.

'Samar' (possibly by Ted Cain and Nick Cardy): Samar is a generic jungle hero who saves a village from stampeding elephants. The stampede was caused by an evil trader who is after the blood ruby owned by the village chief. The art for this strip is very good, reminiscent of things like the Tarzan newspaper strips.

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