Review by Will Morgan
Collecting issues 5-8 of the early 1940s anthology, this continues with a stable line-up of five features; Captain America, Human Torch, Sub-Mariner, the Destroyer and the Whizzer. By this point the USA was thoroughly enmeshed in World War II, and so were its costumed heroes, so there’s Nazi- and Jap-bashing aplenty. There are, however, some enjoyable change of pace stories, with Captain America and Bucky battling the size-shifting Dr. Crime and modern-day vampires. A shop of artists were allegedly turning out the Cap stories in best Ersatz-Kirby manner, with some success – the layouts remained dynamic and attention-getting.
Sub-Mariner, under the artistic hands of Carl Pfeufer, fared less well. The bizarre Pfeufer Sub-Mariner, with bloated musculature and a head like a Dairylea triangle with eyes, was regrettably to become the default model for most of the 1940s.
The Torch, of all the features that should have dazzled, remained leaden and joyless throughout, but there was some improvement in the lesser-known characters. The Whizzer ditched his embarrassing black sidekick, Slow-Motion Jones, and his caped Flash-Gordon like costume, adopting a sleeker outfit that – apart from the inexplicable startled-chicken headdress – was much more befitting super-speed hijinx. The Destroyer, continuing to take the fight behind enemy lines, encountered, among others, a Golem brought to life by Nazi science, and, in possibly his most bizarre adventure, a tag-team of Attila the Hun and Madam Satan, who were sent by the devil to aid Hitler!
An anomaly occurred in issue 6, when the Whizzer was replaced by the one-off Black Avenger, a sub-Batman type who meandered through his only showcase before the Whizzer was restored in subsequent issues.
Sadly, the occasional standout doesn’t redeem the general tone of the title, with underpaid and deadline-crazed creators phoning it in and plonking it out to pay the bills. Oddly enough, the most famous person to work on this series wasn’t one of the comics creators, but a writer of those two-page text stories that comics were obliged to include to pass as ‘magazines’ and qualify for a subscription license. His name? Mickey Spillane.
Greg Theakston supplies the introduction this time, and a handful of contemporary house ads for the title are reproduced. This volume has also been released in paperback.