Thursday, January 14, 2010

Read: Mystery In Space #89

Issue: Mystery In Space #89 (Reprinted in Showcase Presents: Hawkman v.1)
Title: "The Super-Motorized Menace!"
Published Date: Feb. 1964
Generation: Silver Age Katar
Retcon Status: Changed Generations

Summary: An armored truck carrying valuable pieces of art to the Midway City Museum is attacked by a tricked out motorcycle, which somehow causes the wheels to fly off the truck.  When the drivers come to and find the paintings stolen, they are happened upon by Midway City Courier cub reporter Jed Barnes, who calls it in to the police.  Barnes then heads to the museum, where he gets the story from Mavis Trent on the paintings (including a picture of the photogenic artist), whereafter Carter and Shiera Hall catch wind of the robbery.

The Hawks meet with Commissioner Emmett, who gives them what little information they have.  He also tells Hawkman that Barnes wants to interview him later.  The Winged Wonders head out to investigate, and find an odd oil slick near the motorcycle's tracks, but little else in the way of leads, so they head to Eagle Valley to get the network of birds to keep sharp eyes open for the thief.  The next day, as Hawkman is heading to police HQ for the interview, the birds tell him that the thief has been spotted, and he heads off -- finding the cyclist about to rob a payroll clerk with half a mil in his car!  The Motorcycle Bandit is ready, though, and traps Hawkman in an artificial tornado generated from his tailpipe!  He then uses an extemely bright headlight to blind the driver, causing him to crash.  The Bandit dumps his motorcycle over the cliff and grabs the loot.  Hawkman, trapped in the vortex, is only able to escape by skillfully tossing one of his boots into the tailpipe, clogging it.

Tracking the oil slicks the Bandit left on the way out to the robbery, Hawkman finds him holed up in a small cabin.  The Bandit readies his defense in the form of a small fan which shoots charged bolts of energy, but Hawkman notices the lights flicker and knows its a trap.  Using the door as a shield, he busts into the cabin and grabs the thief, unmasking him as none other than Barnes, who had hoped to use his position at the paper to throw suspicion off of himself.  Back at the Museum, Mavis vamps to Carter Hall about getting her picture in the paper, while Shiera rolls her eyes dramatically.

Review: It's a testament to Gardner Fox that he can take a silly idea like a punk with a sooped-up motorcycle and make him a viable threat to Hawkman for a 12-pager.  I do have to wonder where Barnes got the know how to make all of these gizmos; the fanboy in me says that he is working for the I.Q. gang.

Anyway, a nice solid but otherwise unremarkable Katar Hol story.  We don't get any ancient weapons or Thanagarian science, but we do get to see the Hawks use their superior vision as well as the Midway City *wheet wheet!* network.  Barnes himself makes for an interesting swerve, as your first thought is "Oh, they're giving Hawkman a Jimmy Olsen character," but Fox twists it.  Murphy Anderson's Hawks have grown on me to the point where, while he won't be able to touch Kubert, his work is always welcome and eye-pleasing.  This kind of story is, by definition, "minor" but these stories were very typical for the period and still fun to read today.  Plus, Hawkman makes the cover.

Image: Mystery In Space #89, 1964, Murphy Anderson.

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