Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bitter Fruit#4: "Margo Lane's Honeymoon!"

Previously on "Bitter Fruit," we examined the first story in the Shadow#2. Although the cover promised the Shadow would don a super hero costume to save Margo Lane from Shiwan Khan, the first story continued the super-spy format from the 1st issue and had no Margo Lane. With this second story, there's a chance for redemption! Perhaps the Shadow's super hero costume will make its debut!

Or, perhaps not. On the other hand, we finally have an appearance by Margo Lane! The series' supporting cast seems to be comprised of just Shrevy, Weston and Margo Lane and so far all three have appeared in each issue. The introductory splash is one of those images frequently found in 60s comics, designed to make the reader wonder how this situation arose, such as that Superman cover where the hero is in a desert, taunting Jimmy Olsen with a canteen of water. Here, we see Margo and Lamont on their honeymoon, with Margo assuming the role of gun-toting hero instead of Lamont. It's a little early, but I'm pretty sure I can call shenanigans on this premise - I doubt Margo & Lamont are getting hitched in a mere back-up tale.

We open at Lamont Cranston's town house office, where Margo has just finished sending out some letters on behalf of her millionaire boss; she's happy to be paid on overtime, but Lamont tells Margo no amount of money equals her value as he kisses her on the cheek. Margo is surprised by this display of affection, telling Lamont "Maybe you don't realize how attractive you are!" Lamont is flustered by this and departs; strange how when Lamont was faced by an icy woman who wanted nothing to do with him he forced himself on her, but here a woman shows interest in him and he flees. Once he's gone, Margo reflects at how he's a "confirmed bachelor." As you can see above, she also uses the phrase "flicker of romance," even though comics of the 60s supposedly avoided using words like "flick." Margo rests her eyes and a moment later, Lamont is back and tells her after kissing her he realized there was no sense pretending any longer - he wants Margo to marry him!

I think we all know what's really going on, but let's take the story at its own pace. Before long, the duo are honeymooning on the beach in Waikiki, Hawaii. So we just skipped over the wedding? Lamont confides to Margo how dangerous his work is, but she promises to bring him good luck. However, a gang of three men spy on the couple from a cluster of nearby palm trees. That evening, a helicopter with no pilot comes flying directly at Lamont & Margo's honeymoon suite! It's like a stunt from Touch of Evil gone horribly wrong!

Lamont supposes the helicopter is full of TNT placed by his enemies so he and Margo leap from the suite into a swimming pool below. The helicopter smashes into the suite, exploding. Margo believes this affirms her status as "good luck," which is the optimistic way of viewing the affair. However, she does suggest they leave Hawaii to escape the killers, but Lamont wants to capture their enemies. The next day, Lamont goes to the beach alone while Margo arranges a new suite for them. However, the three spies from before appear and hold Lamont at gunpoint, identifying themselves as having masterminded the helicopter attack.

Before the spies can rub out Cranston, Margo approaches and throws a tear gas grenade, giving Lamont the chance he needs to attack them, while Margo captures one man with her gun. Lamont is pleased to see how Margo is a "fit wife" for him, but it's at this moment that Margo wakes up back in the town house. Yes, it was all a dream, as anyone might've guessed when Margo closed her eyes on page 2. Margo's disappointed to find she isn't in Hawaii on her honeymoon, but Lamont suggests maybe someday she will be, leaving her just a little hope. Poor Margo.

You can't say much about a 1960s imaginary-dream-hoax story, especially one as obvious and pedestrian as this. Still, it would be nice if the capable Margo Lane made a reappearance in this series, rather than playing the hostage as she did in the Shadow#1. Yet again, the Grand Comics Database credits this story to writer Robert Bernstein, but this time cover artist Paul Reinman handles the art.

This issue also contains the text story feature "the Adventures of the Shadow," continued from the previous issue. We resume the story of the Shadow's origin with Lamont Cranston in Cairo, Egypt, where he'd confronted a fakir who supposedly had hypnotic powers. The fakir attempts to hypnotize Lamont to prove his power, but somehow his hypnosis just reflects back at him; Lamont has the stronger willpower and he's startled to discover he can hypnotize men. No, Lamont doesn't learn hypnosis through any particular education, he just discovers he could always hypnotize people. He tests his powers out on a dog and sees how easy it is to make the dog see things which aren't there or to make the dog believe it's something else. So, Lamont's discovered his powers; will he use them responsibly? This feature will apparently continue in the Shadow#3.

Very well then; next time in "Bitter Fruit," we'll begin looking at the Shadow#3, which again promises to introduce the Shadow's super hero costume. Perhaps they'll finally make good!

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