Sunday, February 19, 2012

April 1940: Smash Comics #11

Cover by Gill Fox

'Espionage starring Black X in Finland' (by Will Eisner): Black X, carrying top secret papers, is on a train heading for Finland. The train is full of Russian prisoners, who mount an escape and try to take over the train. The Black X escapes, and is saved from a harrowing ordeal in the snow by his telepathic servant Batu. Again this is very good, and it treats the war in Europe with far more maturity than any other strip around. The Russians are ostensibly the villains of this story, but they're presented as soldiers doing their duty, not as evil men.

'Chic Carter, Ace Reporter' (by Vernon Henkel): Chic Carter goes up against a thief who has invented a radium solution that allows him to become intangible. He defeats the thief by trapping him inside a room with lead walls. Except that the guy walked into the room, so at least part of it can't be lead-lined. Also, the police have to open the door to go in and get him, so why can't he just escape then?

'Abdul the Arab' (by Bob Powell): There's a new creator on this strip, and suddenly Abdul has gone from an ineffectual hero who frequently needs to be saved by his sidekick, to a complete bad-ass. An English woman is kidnapped by Prince Kartuk to become his unwilling wife, and Abdul must save her. Which he does by killing Kartuk in a knife fight, knocking five guards from a wall with a single punch, and swinging from a palm tree onto his waiting camel. Abdul, you're the best.

'Captain Cook of Scotland Yard' (by William A. Smith): Captain Cook must stop a hybrid chimpanzee with surgically implanted owl's eyes who has been trained to steal green things, with the ultimate goal that it will steal the crown emeralds. Seriously. I can't even figure out why someone would bother with the owl's eyes, but it certainly adds a pleasantly weird touch to an already weird story.

'Wings Wendall' (by Vernon Henkel): Wings tackles a foreign spy named Regi Tashkim, who is using his operatives to weaken America's defenses. After beating Tashkim, Wendall helps the US army defend its shore from an attack. It's a solid, unremarkable action story.

'Invisible Justice' (by Art Pinajian): Invisible Justice tackles a robber known as the Green Ghost, the twist being that there are actually two Green Ghosts working together so that they always have an alibi. It's not great, but at least the villains have some sort of a plan.

'John Law, Scientective' (by Harry Francis Campbell): This seems to be the final chapter of the long-running Avenger serial. Law goes to the mental asylum to see to the release of Albert Lewis, who the Avenger has been posing as since the beginning of the strip. The Avenger intervenes in an attempt to kill Lewis, but Law captures him with the help of his assistant June and some maple syrup in the Avenger's gas tank. This is tightly plotted and quite enjoyable, but if it is the finale it does feel a little anticlimactic.

'Chief John's Legacy' (by Robert M. Hyatt): While pondering a clay cube sent to him long ago, James Christian relates to his nephew the story of his trek into the Ecuadorian jungle, and how his brother was supposedly killed by a native chief. They discover the brother's shrunken head inside the cube,and so the mystery is solved. It's quite well told.

'Clip Chance' (by George Brenner): The team has a new star in left field, and the old left-fielder McSnort gets revenge by using a mirror to distract the new during the game. Clip wins the game anyway, then beats up McSnort in the locker room. Terrible.

'Flash Fulton, Newsreel Ace' (by Paul Gustavson): Flash Fulton helps rescue a girl in a fire. I do enjoy the way Flash puts himself in harm's way with a cheeky grin, but the story itself is nothing special.

'Hugh Hazzard and his Iron Man' (by George Brenner): Hugh must rescue a police commissioner who has been kidnapped by racketeers. Their leader is named Smooth Kazar, which is about the best thing this story has to offer.

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