Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bitter Fruit#12: "The Shadow Versus:...Radiation Rogue, Dr. Demon, Attila the Hunter, the Insidious Elasto and the Diabolical Dimensionoid in the Game of Death!"

Greetings! This is the final review in my series "Bitter Fruit," an examination of Archie Comics' 1960s Shadow comic books, featuring the famous pulp hero as a spandex-wearing super dude. Today we're looking at the final issue, the Shadow#8: "The Shadow Versus:...Radiation Rogue, Dr. Demon, Attila the Hunter, the Insidious Elasto and the Diabolical Dimensionoid in the Game of Death!" is our overwritten title; check out the cover:

As with issue#7, the Shadow is featured in the left corner. The villain on the cover is evidently Elasto, who seems to have elongation powers and frequents haunted houses. It's interesting to note he's wearing the same clothing colours and white hair as Superman's foe Mr. Mxyzptlk. The Shadow doesn't seem too upset about being grabbed by an enormous hand; perhaps a speech balloon could have made this "action" seem a little more interesting.

We open on the title page and I suppose I should comment again on the title: some of you will recall we met Dr. Demon in issue #4, Radiation Rogue in issue#5 and Attila the Hunter in issue#6. One assumes we're about to meet Dimensionoid and Elasto; I do hope we may finally go one issue without Shiwan Khan! We open on a typical scene in Manhattan: a green alien is raising his fists at a New Yorker while the Shadow swings from... uh, above, upon a rope. We can only see the alien from behind, but the Shadow doubts he's a real alien because he uses "his fists, instead of some fantastic weapon," which is dubious logic. Perhaps he's a very strong alien? More to the point, it's an alien! Shouldn't this be a big deal?

As the alien backs the New Yorker into an alleyway, the Shadow's voice interrupts him and mentions the man being menaced is Peter Jordan, a wealthy heir. The Shadow enters the alleyway on foot, so you might wonder why he was riding a rope on the title page. As the Shadow explains to Peter he heard about his life being threatened in the newspapers, the alien pulls out a bolo (aha! we have "some fantastic weapon" at last!) and waxes poetically about its noise being a "symphony of doom!" The Shadow uses his hypnotic powers to make himself seem dazzlingly brilliant, blinding the alien so he misses the Shadow with his bolo. He could have simply become invisible, but this works too. However, Peter Jordan suddenly pulls out a gas gun and knocks the Shadow out with its fumes. The alien unmasks himself as someone named "Miguel."

Miguel wants to unmask the Shadow, but Peter kicks him in the hand, demanding he be left alone. A waiting car pulls up and an accomplice helps carry the Shadow aboard as they make way to "Destination K." As they drive, Peter muses about how the Shadow's "every fibre will be exerted in the defense of me, his secret opponent!" They end their trip at "an isolated vast estate on Long Island." A waiting security guard reminds Miguel to keep away from the fence because it's electrified; I wonder what this says about Miguel's intelligence? Peter wants to appear "manhandled," so he pays Miguel $1,000 in cash to punch him. This satisfies Peter who tells Miguel to leave with the truck while the truck driver helps carry the Shadow into the estate.

Within the estate's briefing room, the Shadow's still-slumbering form is brought before Radiation Rogue, Dr. Demon, Attila the Hunter, Elasto and the Diabolical Dimensionoid. Peter brags about how he's succeeded where they failed. Wait, what? Who are Elasto and the "Diabolical" Dimensionoid? And why are Radiation Rogue & Dr. Demon reappearing alive when they were last seen supposedly dying (Dr. Demon leapt from a castle to his death, Radiation Rogue was crushed under a wall and had only a brief amount of hours left anyway). Yes, it's an old cliche of the serial to have villains return from seeming death, but at least we had an explanation for Attila the Hunter's survival; if Radiation Rogue & Dr. Demon survived their deaths, then Shadow wasn't doing his job at the time to let them go.

Peter soon qualifies his statement, recalling only three of them have fought the Shadow before but "two of you thirst to achieve that distinction." Peter has agreed to pay each villain $1 million dollars, but he's arranged a "Game of Death" (starring Bruce Lee) wherein only the man who defeats the Shadow in battle can remove his mask, but Peter will be accompanying the Shadow throughout the game. Peter refuses to explain his motivation in all of this. Elasto then interrupts, declaring "I, the insidious Elasto, hate myself!!!" Dang, an emo super villain! He turned up at least 30 years too soon! Elasto regales all assembled with his origin: he was an FBI scientist exposed to a chemical explosion in his lab; the explosion split his personality so that his "evil nature" causes him to commit crimes; in a flashback, we see him rob a jewelry store, then burst into tears and apologize for it.

Peter asks the Dimensionoid about his motivation: the Dimensionoid reveals he's from the 13th Dimension and can reshape his rocky body into any form. He wants to join "the Fiends of Garnn, a cabal of ultra-villains" in his home dimension and destroying the Shadow is his initiation stunt. Peter declares the game has begun and soon the Shadow wakes up in a laboratory within the estate. Peter pretends to be afraid so the Shadow won't suspect him. The Shadow notices a painting of Radiation Rogue and recalls how the villain died; suddenly, Radiation Rogue bursts through the painting. Boy, he loves a good entrance!

The second chapter begins as Radiation Rogue takes off his right glove to unleash his radiation. However, the Shadow grabs the discarded glove to protect himself... wait, how does that work? How did he get past Radiation Rogue running at him with a bare radioactive hand, grab the glove, then turn to face him? Again, fight choreography is not this title's strong suit. Even with the glove, Radiation Rogue is still able to release enough radiation to weaken the Shadow, but the Shadow manages to kick him into a wall and knock him unconscious. He leaves Radiation Rogue lying behind a machine, gambling its lead parts will shield he and Peter from the radiation.

The Shadow tries to escort Peter out of the estate, but Peter claims he has the power of "super-intuition" and suggests they follow one of his hunches. This, naturally, leads them into another trap as a chute opens up from... something. One panel they're on solid ground, the next they're... falling? ...down a chute. Ugh. They land inside an arena filled with wax statue spectators. Attila the Hunter enters with a battle axe in hand and attacks the Shadow. The Shadow tries to trick Attila with the illusion of a guillotine, but Attila's having none of it. "Only a coward would hide behind magical weapons! Can you not fight like a man?" Attila asks. The Shadow agrees and instead pulls out a whistle and adjusts a dial so its "destructive vibrations" will destroy Attila's axe. In other words, it's a typical Shadow solution to a problem: pull a gadget out of nowhere. Attila grabs a mace to continue the fight, but Peter intervenes and quickly knocks out Attila. This surprises the Shadow, but Peter pretends to faint to maintain his charade of being timid.

The Shadow carries Peter out of the estate, but Peter "accidentally" calls out aloud, attracting the attention of Dr. Demon and his henchmen (I guess the henchmen weren't invited to the briefing room). Dr. Demon and his men are all wearing goggles to shield their eyes from the Shadow's powers and he has a ridiculous weapon: "der Targorang rocket!" The Shadow dodges the rocket by activating the springs in his boots (which he used last issue), but the rocket is trained to follow him wherever he goes. Thus, the Shadow activates air-jets in his boots so he can fly (because I guess he can do that now), lands on the rocket in a totally-not-suggestive image and alters its direction so it'll hit Dr. Demon.

Again, we have some terrible fight choreography. Dr. Demon sees the rocket flying towards him and orders one of his men to detonate the rocket immediately. One would think the explosion would kill him because its already so close, but instead the next panel shows the rocket exploding in the sky somewhere past Dr. Demon. One also wonders why Dr. Demon's henchman didn't simply detonate the rocket while the Shadow was riding it. At this, Dr. Demon and his henchmen transform into "real Shadow-Men," ink-black creatures who can drain "bodily energy" by touching the Shadow. However, the Shadow presses a button on his belt buckle and it emits a light which dissolves the "Shadow-Men." Does this mean Dr. Demon and his men are dead? As is often the case with the Shadow, I'm left asking, "what happened?"

The Shadow's boots are damaged (when did that happen?) so he can't fly over the fence, which Peter points out is electrified. Suddenly, the Dimensionoid appears and transfoms into a giant "destruction-ball." The Shadow and Peter hide behind the estate as the Dimensionoid plows into it, destroying the building. Does this mean Radiation Rogue & Attila were killed? Also, the building suddenly seems much smaller - the perspective in these panels is horrible. The Shadow runs to Dr. Demon's gadgets and fires a "flame-missile" at Dimensionoid, but the villain hollows out his middle to dodge the attack. Transforming into a wheel, the Dimensionoid tries to run over Peter, but the Shadow hypnotizes him into assuming a form which just so happens is "the one shape" which will send the Dimensionoid back to the 13th Dimension, "never to return." Uh, whatever.

Peter starts talking about his intuition again and the Shadow agrees to follow (because it worked so well before), leading them into the ambush of Elasto! Mirroring the cover, Elasto increases his hand size to crush the Shadow, all the while declaring how he abhors violence and pities having to use his power against the Shadow.

We now enter the final chapter. As Elasto mentions he has "unlimited stretching abilities," the Shadow challenges him to stretching himself "as high as the ionosphere in Earth's upper atmosphere." Because super villains operate on fairy tale logic, Elasto agrees and then decides to overachieve, stretching above the ionosphere until he runs out of oxygen; he quickly reverts to his normal length and collapses from oxygen deprivation. Peter again offers to guide the Shadow and leads him into a swimming pool, then through a tube-exit on the bottom of the pool. When they emerge on the other side of the estate's fence, the Shadow finally reveals he knows Peter is his enemy and has known since Peter defeated Attila in combat.

Peter now finally explains his motivation: he's extremely bored and thought having the Shadow battle all these criminals at his side would be exciting. The Shadow declares "You're sickening! You'd better see a psychiatrist!" However, Peter pulls a gun on the Shadow and threatens to kill him, but the Shadow merely laughs. Having looked into Peter's mind, the Shadow knows he can't bring himself to murder anyone. The Shadow simply walks away as Peter finds he's right: he can't pull the trigger. Peter muses the Shadow has won the game of death (but like Bruce Lee, this is his final performance).

Hooray! We made it through an issue without Shiwan Khan!

This issue was again created by Jerry Siegel & Paul Reinman. What does this issue get right? Seeing so many super villains (none of them Shiwan Khan) is a nice change and the Shadow's ultimate solution to the matter, simply reading Peter Jordan's mind to see he's not a killer, is nicely executed.

What does this issue get wrong? Pretty much everything else. Again, the Shadow's gadgets appear and disappear as the plot demands. Perspective, action and sequential storytelling in general is abysmal. Characters are simplistic, dialogue is dull. Other than that, how was the show, Mrs. Lincoln?

This issue features yet another "Adventures of the Shadow" text story. The last entry broke off as Lamont Cranston entered Weston's cottage and found himself looking "into the face of Death." It turns out he's facing an "Oriental" with a gun. Weston is now described as an agent of the American Secret Service, the first agency he was linked to, rather than C.H.I.E.F. (which was made into a major plot element in issue #5, then forgotten). The Oriental turns out to be Shiwan Khan. Since Khan is a Fu Manchu rip-off, the author indulges in ripping off Sax Rohmer's famous description of Fu Manchu: "Visualize, atop the mighty physique, a huge bald head with an enormous cranium. See, crafty, squinting eyes glaring madly out of a cruel, harsh face..." etc. Shiwan Khan demands to learn everything Lamont knows about the Shadow, and there the story ends.

Next time: I'm done reviewing the issues, but I'll soon be back to discuss the series as a whole; what went wrong? Is it, ultimately, as bad as people claim? You may already know the answers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Poor Shadow...