Sunday, April 17, 2011

Retro-Review: Zago, Jungle Prince #1, Part 3!

Now, it's time for an adventure of the original Blue Beetle, in “The Cobra's Kiss!” It's the final story in this comic!

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Credited to “Otis,” the story opens with the news that a series of eerie murders have been striking the city, and Dan (Blue Beetle) Garrett and his partner Mike Maddigan (both uniform cops) and reporter Joan Mason decide to o something about it! Joan, of course, is looking for a scoop; Mike seeks a promotion; and Dan thinks it's time for the Blue Beetle to turn loose on this crime wave (apparently it takes four mysterious murders to get his attention)! Meanwhile, in a swank apartment crosstown, a man asks a woman named Cynthia, “...haven't I done everything you asked me to do?” She assures him he has, and now he'll get his reward for taking care of his sickly cousin. That reward is a kiss that leaves him giddy! Later, they plan to have supper to celebrate their engagement, but Cynthia has other plans, apparently! Cynthia is a death-defying stage performer billed as “The Cobra Woman” or “Cobra Queen” (both phrases are used in this story), and she doesn't expect her boyfriend to keep his supper date. The following morning, there's been another murder, and as Mike and Dan have breakfast, Dan opines that they should check into Bertram Mottram, the beneficiary of the latest victim. Mike doesn't think it's worth following.

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Apparently Joan figures that's the proper lead, too... and that evening, Mike, Joan and the Blue Beetle separately approach Bertram's apartment. Inside, Cynthia is collecting her cut of the inheritance from Bertram. Bertram plans to kill Cynthia, but she's wise to him, and offers to kiss him to seal their bargain. Again, this kiss leaves the recipient dizzy, and Bertram collapses. Jean's seen this all from the skylight, but before she can report it, she loses her balance and tumbles through the skylight! Fortunately, Cynthia has already left. Mike shows up shortly after that, having heard the crash, follows closely by the Blue Beetle! The Beetle tells them that they could be arrested for murder, although he doesn't believe they're the killers. He enjoins them to call the police right away, and then leave the scene.

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Minutes later, the Beetle follows the lead Joan's given him about Cynthia, and suspects she's been working for people who wanted relatives killed. He doesn't believe that her kisses kill, however. Meanwhile, Joan and Mike have decided to pursue the lead themselves at the same theatre! While Joan tries to use her feminine wiles on the stage manager, Mike has his own plans. Cynthia enters her dressing room (where the Beetle is hidden), and then there's a knock at the door – it's Mike, posing as Homer Zebbs, and asking her to dinner, his arms laden with gifts. She starts to turn on the charm with Mike, but the phone rings, and she's tipped that “Homer” is really a cop!

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Playing along with Mike, Cynthia invites him to her home for a snack, and Mike's been so flattered by the attention she's giving him that he figures the Beetle and Joan are wrong about her! Outside, the Beetle and Joan have also come on the scene, and they discover that Cynthia is about to kiss Mike! They can't let that happen, naturally, so the Beetle busts down the door to stop the kiss, and wants to take a look at Cynthia's ring! Mike tries to stop him, so the Beetle clocks him, but in the meantime, Cynthia climbs out of the window to escape!

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Cynthia tries to cross a bridge by the cables, the Beetle in pursuit, but she trips and falls to the water below. The Beetle tries to rescue her, but she's already dead. It turns out that the ring she's wearing is a trick ring, filled with a rare tropical poison, which Cynthia would use on her victim while she kissed them. This time, however, the trick was on Cynthia, as she'd accidentally injected herself with it! The next day, the full story comes out, and Joan vows to never disobey the Beetle again.

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OK, just a few short comments on this one... I don't really get why the emphasis on Cynthia being a “Cobra Queen” was made when that had pretty much nothing to do with how she committed her killings! I did half-expect that she had lipstick impregnated with a cobra poison which she'd become immune to, although that is kind of a cliché (if it wasn't then, it is by now).

I almost have to think that the original Blue Beetle tales were intended to be kind of a comedy, what with Mike, Joan and the Beetle always following the same lead in a case, and Mike never following proper police procedure. There's really no reason in this story that Dan couldn't have accomplished dealing with the murders as himself, as opposed to doing it as the Azure Avenger! Oh, well...

This is followed by a one-page filler, “Plaid Clad Terror,” told as a very short type of “true crime” tale, about a guy named Hall who committed murders and robberies, eventually confessing and getting the gas chamber.

Next time around: Startling Comics #10!

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