Tuesday, February 28, 2012

May 1940: Adventure Comics #51

 Cover by Creig Flessel or Chad Grothkopf

'Presenting Tick-Tock Tyler, the Man of the Hour, as the Hour-Man...' (by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily): A mad scientist uses his power to animate wax dummies to bring some notorious gangsters back to life. The Hour-Man must stop them, which he does by melting them with acid. The story's premise is just goofy enough to work, but it falls down at the end when Hour-Man doesn't capture the mad scientist. He's acting like the trouble is finished, but that guy is out there and could quite easily continue his plan. It's an unsatisfying conclusion.

'Barry O'Neill' (by Ed Winiarski): Fang Gow has been captured and is scheduled for execution. Barry seems to have forgotten all the times that Fang Gow tried to murder him, because he seems regretful at the thought of his death. He needn't have worried, because a page or so later Fang Gow has escaped, and is using a thought projection machine to send messages to the Nazis. Barry stops him and blows up his machine, but the old geezer escapes again. His continued survival is getting absurd at this point, but every ridiculous escape just endears him to me even more.

'Steve Conrad, Adventurer' (by Jack Lehti): The pirate known as Singapore Sally plans to steal some pearls from a recently sunken ship. Steve's plan to stop her is to waylay Sally's Chinese cook and have his sidekick Chang impersonate him. Which should work out fine, you see, because all Chinese people look alike. This is actually a relatively well put together action story, but there's a lot of stuff in here (i.e. Chang) that could get people riled up.

'The Sandman' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): The Sandman investigates the theft of some emeralds, only to find out that the crooks hid it in the home of Wesley Dodds, the Sandman himself. The Sandman steals the emeralds from himself and leaves his calling card, but later the prime suspect for the theft turns up dead in Dodds' home, and the police believe the Sandman did it. I was getting terribly into it at this point, but the rest of the story falls completely flat. The Sandman tracks down the real thieves, gasses them, and runs away as the police arrive. There was a lot of potential in the set-up, but in typical Gardner Fox style it fizzles out.

'Socko Strong' (by Albert Sulman and Joseph Sulman): Connolly, a crook posing as the legitimate head of a trucking company, is running a racket that involves covering the warning beacon on a sharp corner so that trucks going around it will crash, and he can steal their goods. Socko figures out that Connolly is the culprit, because he finds a cigar with Connolly's name on it. While making his getaway, Connolly crashes and dies because the beacon was still covered. It's a mediocre story saved at the end by a nice ironic ending.

'The Red Metal' (by Gardner Fox): Terry Mallory searches for a lost comrade and a hidden city in Africa, only to be captured by strange white savages. To be continued! It's an adequate set-up.

'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and Chad Grothkopf): A political radical named Robbel is stirring up "Nastonian" sympathisers. Steve Carson gets him convicted for tax evasion, but still has to beat the hell out of him before bringing him in. I didn't enjoy this one, and haven't really enjoyed this strip in a long time. In the very early days it was my favourite, but that seems like a long time ago now.

'Anchors Aweigh!' (by Bart Tumey): A pirate crew steals a submarine, which is quickly dispatched, forcing the pirates to flee to a nearby island. Don and Red go after them, are captured, but then everything gets sorted out by a convenient hurricane. At least I think it's Red; I got confused, because there are several panels where he is drawn to look like a woman. Anyway, this story doesn't work. I guess you could interpret the hurricane as God/nature sorting out the sinners from the good guys, but it just comes out of nowhere. You need more set-up for this kind of thing to work.

'Rusty and His Pals' (possibly by Bill Finger): Rusty and his pals race the villainous Unholy Three to the hidden treasure, only for natives to pop up and capture everyone. There's certainly no shortage of incident, it's just that those incidents are dead boring.

'Cotton Carver at Grips With the Wolf Men' (by Gardner Fox and Jack Lehti): In yet another strange land, Cotton and his friends defend some priests from the Wolf Men of Morra and their queen, Lupa. Cotton captures Lupa, but must defend her from a bloodthirsty mob, until she summons... something. This is an average adventure story, and it ends with one of my least favourite types of cliffhanger: the characters react in awe to something the reader can't see. Sure Gardner, that's bound to get me back next month.

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