Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bitter Fruit#6: "The Princess of Death"

As I head out the door, let's check in on the Shadow again; I left off during Archie's the Shadow#3. The back-up feature is "the Princess of Death." Look, an old friend is back:

Yes, behind that mask is Princess Lua, whom you'll recall from "Shiwan Khan's Murderous Master Plan! As you know, she's an Asian mercenary who was helping the CIA stop Shiwan Khan from activating a doomsday bomb. For some reason, the Shadow thought he had to belittle her, hit on her and brainwash her.

As you can see in the above, Lua has been masquerading as Margo Lane and even typed up a letter for Lamont before discarding her mask. Her, uh, mask which appears to be a flat piece of cardboard depicting Margo's face. And I suppose Lamont didn't notice her melanin is different from Margo's either?

Three of Lua's men enter the office and join their boss as she points a gun at Lamont. She reveals she's sent Margo and Shrevy away so they could have some privacy; she wants information on the Shadow. Lamont claims he knows nothing about the Shadow, but Lua observes the Shadow is always turning up in plots which involve Lamont. Lua's henchman Iko karate chops Margo's desk in half as a warning to Lamont.

Lua's other two men, Karl & Ali, set a time bomb for ten minutes after they leave the office. Lamont wonders "how can anyone as lovely as you be so evil?" Lua replies she's being paid by a "foreign power" to liquidate the Shadow and everything must go! She fires an anaesthetic needle into Lamont's back then orders her men to carry Lamont out of the building before the bomb explodes.

As they head down the staircase of Lamont's townhouse, suddenly Lamont springs into action, kicking the man ahead of him down the stairs. It turns out Lamont was wearing a bulletproof vest, so the needle had no effect. Lamont judo throws a second henchman, then switches off the lights. As Lua and her last henchman (Iko) look for Lamont, Lua remarks "He is as wily as the Shadow himself!" How can anyone as lovely as her be so dense?

Somehow, Lamont switches into his spandex Shadow costume between panels and climbs up in the banister in his "specially-treated rubber-soled shoes." Fancy dancy! Those super heroes and their improbable gadgets... The Shadow kicks Lua's gun from her hand then defeats Iko in hand-to-hand combat, declaring "What Iko knows about karate, I forgot!"

The Shadow leads Lua back into Lamont's office and demands to know who hired her; she refuses at first, but when he ties her up and places her own time bomb in her hands, she relents: it was the Boldavian Embassy. The Shadow calls up the FBI and a half hour later Lua is lead away to prison. As she departs, Lua remarks to Lamont she was right about thinking the Shadow keeps an eye on Lamont; he tells her she has years in prison to try and figure it out, but "only the Shadow really knows!"

As with the main feature, the Grand Comics Database attributes the story to writer Robert Bernstein and artist Paul Reinman. I do prefer Reinman's artwork over issues #1-2's art, but Bernstein's scripting remains unremarkable. After using Lua as an ally in her previous appearance, it seems wasteful to reduce her to another Cold War menace and considering what a terrible job Lamont does at separating he and the Shadow's activities, it's preposterous to think no one's guessed his secret. The Shadow's powers aren't employed at all in this story; Lamont could have defeated the villains without even changing his clothes.

The text feature "the Adventures of the Shadow" continues in this issue with chapter three, carrying on the story of how Lamont became the Shadow. It relates how after Lamont discovered he had the power to control minds he wondered what to do with it; while taking a boat from Egypt to Greece, he saw two men beating a third man on the deck of the ship; cutting up a tarp into a poncho, Lamont defended the victim and defeated his assailants; when asked who he was, he answered: "Only THE SHADOW knows!"

No comments: