Sunday, December 12, 2010

Retro-Review: Daredevil #9, Part 2!

daredevil09_010The second feature of this comic is 13 and Jinx in “Crippled Vengeance: Chapter 4,” by Dick Wood and Bernard Klein. I have to admit to some surprise that any story in this book was continued from a previous issue, as that was a rarity back in the Golden Age of Comics! But we get a decent summary (more or less) as to where the last part left off... King Questionmark had thrown a lit bomb at 13 and Jinx, but a maniac named Goebells catches it!

Goebells runs with the bomb back to King Questionmark's fleeing armored truck, and then there's the expected explosion!

daredevil09_012And this is only two-thirds of the way through the second page of the story! Usually, this would be the end of a tale, but this is just at the beginning! We join Harold (13) Higgins and Darrel (Jinx) Creg the next day as they board a train to Florida. Darrel notices one of their fellow passengers is carrying an odd-looking cane. An hour before their train is due in Florida, the train suddenly stops, and a group of men with tommy guns board the train to steal the mail! Harold and Darrel change into their alter egos and take on the robbers!

After the robbers are dealt with, 13 and Jinx confront the engineer, who explains that something came over him, like a spell, forcing him to stop the train. After the gunmen are bound and loaded on the train, the journey is resumed. Later, in Miami, Harold and Darrel visit a casino, where they spot Professor Venom (the guy with the weird cane from the train) is doing well at the tables. Harold notices that the dealer seems to be hypnotized, and realizes that Venom might be responsible for the train robbery (because the name “Venom” didn't raise any red flags for them in the first place, apparently). Venom cashes in his chips and leaves, unaware that he's being followed by 13 and Jinx! Venom heads to the waterfront, boarding a fishing schooner, where we learn that the head of his cane contains Venom's own eye, which he can use to hypnotize anyone. We also learn that Venom is a Nazi spy sent by Hitler to destroy the US Navy! That's all 13 and Jinx need to know, and they wade in, attacking the spies... but all does not go well for the bad luck for crime battlers!

Under the hypnotic spell, 13 and Jinx are unable to stop the spies from throwing them into the water! The spies then start shooting at the ripples in the water where the duo were thrown to finish the job. But they're unaware that the cold water has snapped the crimefighters out of it, and they swim under the schooner and board it from the other side. The two begin to systematically knock out or capture each off the spies! But in the pilot house of the schooner, Venom has hypnotized the pilot of a US battleship that is passing nearby, forcing the pilot to run the battleship around, but 13 and Jinx arrive in time to take out the spy and stop the trance!

They then force Venom to hypnotize first the spy crew and then himself to confess to the police of all their crimes (which has got to be a violation of some rights, even for spies, I'd imagine). Shortly afterward, Darrel and Harold are back to their vacation!

Wow, what a weird tale this was... I can't help but wonder if the first two pages of the story (wrapping up the King Questionmark adventure) were supposed to be in the previous issue, but were cut for whatever reason, especially since the only connection between the two adventures was that the first prompted 13 and Jinx to want to take a vacation. And why were there two stories with trains involved in the same comic book?

daredevil09_015The third feature of this book is Sniffer in “Brush-'Em-Off Syndicate,” by Biro and Carl Hubbell. Sniffer had appeared in a previous issue of Daredevil, and according to the splash of this story, the readers demanded he get his own strip, sending “thousands of letters”! The splash tells us that Sniffer (who looks for all the world like Moe Howard of the Three Stooges and Flattop from Dick Tracy combined together) was pretty much a bad guy from the beginning... but today, he's in business for himself, offering to do jobs from giving someone a black eye (for 30 cents an eye) all the way up to rubbing someone out (for $100)!

A telegram arrives at Sniffer's office, asking him to meet “X” at 10 am at the lobby of the Hotel Biltdorf. Sniffer pulls on his coat and arrives at the hotel, only to not be let in by the doorman! Sniffer goes in through the service entrance, and waits in the lobby as requested. Shortly, a mysterious man introduces himself to Sniffer!

daredevil09_017The mysterious “X” has a Chico Marx Italian accent, and we see that he'd already engaged the services with another gang to do a job for him, but if Sniffer's prices are cheaper (they are – the gang wanted a thousand for killing someone), he'll go with Sniffer. The target is the former Presidente of Nicarentinia, a man by the name of Hernandez (yes, despite the target being of apparently Hispanic origin, X's dialogue is still written as if he's an Italian). Unfortunately for X, the other gang he'd hired overhears him talking to Sniffer, and so they start to beat the crap out of X while Sniffer goes after the target, who's staying at this same hotel. Sniffer “borrows” the clothes from a hotel waiter to gain entry into Hernandez' room, and then offers Hernandez a gun so they can shoot it out, giving his victim an even chance. But before the duel begins, Sniffer sniffs out another gang (the Picatelli mob), who's hiding under the bed! The three mobsters draw their weapons on Sniffer... and the bullets start flying!

daredevil09_018When the smoke clears, the rival mob is all dead, the room is trashed like a hard rock band had a party in it, and Presidente Hernandez has split! Sitting down on one of the corpses, Sniffer tries to figure out a way to get something out of this situation. He calls Spizola, head of a rival gang to the Picatelli mob, and offers to rub out the whole Picatelli gang. Spizola offers him five grand to do this, unaware the job is already done! At three o'clock, Sniffer shows up at Spizola's hangout to collect his fee, but Spizola's already planning to double-cross Sniffer! Turns out that Spizola heard about the Picatelli mob on the news ten minutes after the call. Dejected, Sniffer starts to head back to his office. He passes “X” on the street, who taunts him (ending up in a garbage can), and then he overhears that Presidente Hernandez has decided to return to Nicarentina. Frustrated by this turn of events, Sniffer amends his pricing and policy, so that rubbing someone out will not cost a grand, and he will never give his victim an even break! The story closes with a call to the readers to write if they want more of Sniffer!

So... what do I think about this feature? I suppose if I'd read the previous appearance of Sniffer, I might feel differently, but this story really fell flat to me. Here's a guy who in the course of the story took on an assignment to kill one man, and actually killed three or four other men... and it's supposed to be funny? In a comic book that was supposed to be aimed at children? Perhaps if he'd bungled his way through this story more like a criminal version of Inspector Clouseau, somehow thinking he'd succeed, and succeeding despite his best efforts, I might've been more impressed by it.

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