Thursday, January 18, 2018


The Young Eagles
w/a Andre LeBlanc

The Young Eagles ends up being one of the two stories in this collection which most puts me in the mind of the British boy’s weeklies for which I possess quite a bit of fondness. That being said, it’s also one of the thinnest entries in the catalog, particularly at three whopping pages largely spent depicting a dogfight. That’s why they get to share their entry with another feature. Let that be a lesson to you.

The adventure is billed as “Two young Yanks flying and fighting in the skies of France during World War 1,” and it delivers exactly that and … not much more? It does what it advertised it would do on the tin, I’m not complaining. It’s not the fault of “World War I” or “airplanes” that they’re not as inherently weird as a radioactive superhero or a stone ornament that comes to life. They’re doing the best they can!

"The short fat one ... enhh, he's doing all right."
The two young Yanks are Dan Winchester and Bud Hammer, former French Legionnaires serving in the Sahara, as they will do.  Once they survive the grueling, often fatal training sessions for their airborne crates, they’re apprenticed to a French flight whiz given to wild over-reaction. “I, La Fitte” he hollers in frustration, “Nursemaid to greenhorns who think they are aces! There is no justice!” He literally just met them.

La Fitte  leads Dan and Bud into a dogfight with a passel of German planes, resulting in the usual assortment of dangerous dives, unlikely tricks, and “this old crate is coming apart” or something like, if not in so many words.

Don’t let me make you think that this strip isn’t worth it. Andre LeBlanc was a ghost or primary artist on a raft of popular comic strips, was formerly apprenticed to Will Eisner, and therefore knows his stuff top to bottom. The light coloring is also appealing, and really stands out from the rest of the often-dark book – an airy palette for a tale of air fighters, that’s a canny decision on LeBlanc’s part.

Experiment in Shock
w/a Bruce Steffenhagen

A staple in Hot Rod magazines and, most famously, CARtoons, Bruce Steffenhagen tries his hand at a comically gory haunted house tale. Young Rodney Throgshire is left the family mansion in his uncle’s will, with the typical rider that he has to spend a full night in the mansion to inherit it blah blah blah. You know the drill.

Therein he finds an increasing number of baffling supernatural phenomenon; the servants all look like monsters, even though their reflections seem normal. The clock runs backwards. Paintings in the hallway of celebrated relatives look like monsters, too. Um, there’s a dragon in the garden, but it was actually kind of sweet. ANYWAY, the gimmick is that the rich uncle’s jilted half-brother, Black Barney (I’m not gonna do a joke here, because the field is so broad and clear and I want you to have a chance; go for it).

Barney is undone by his own cruel inventions – the family dog, transformed into a gross beast, causes Barney to stumble into his own machinery, dying and reversing all the evil stuff in the process. But the clock, it turns out, ALWAYS ran backwards! That’s an unusual punchline, but there it is and we’re done.

It often feels that way around the holidays, yeah.

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