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Adventure Comics 332
"The Jumior Sleuths of Smallville!"


(Originally Reviewed On 08/23/01)

Story: Unknown Art: Unknown

In taking a course in crime detection, Superboy and a group of Smallville youngsters turn sherlocks when a real crime takes place, and an interesting class it is, such as when Superboy holds the class aloft outside a building, while the instructor shows them the fingerprints on a window ledge! (Holy MacGruff, Batman!) It's night, as The Boy of Steel completes the task of making a large clay model of a fingerprint, and at an evening class at Smallville High School, the instructor is grateful that he can show how fingerprints are classified to the youth sleuth class! (Holy Scooby-Doo, Batman! And they wouldn't have gotten away with it if not for that meddling Super-Kid!)

Outside, Superboy changes to Clark Kent, then returns to Captain Reilly's class, where Lana greets him and is grateful that he is able to teach since he does need the money after taking a gangster's bullet! The Captain lights his pipe and tells the students to hunt for fingerprints in the classroom, then match them with the owners, but some wind from the open window causes the sparks from his pipe to catch fire in the wastebasket, and Clark can't use his super-breath since it would scatter the burning papers! Instead, he uses his super-breath on the light, so that he can change in the dark and put it out with water from a vase!

After a new light bulb is installed, Clark is concerned about his fingerprints on the vase, and Lana is examining them, with his secret identity in the balance. Swiftly, Clark uses a hand siren at super-speed to create a supersonic vibration which shatters the vase, and Lana attributes the crumbling vase to the fire's heat! The studies continue, as Captain Reilly asks Lana what she sees in a strand of hair, which he points out as a twisted human hair, showing that it comes from a curley-headed person! (Holy Osborn, Batman!) When Captain Reilly is about to present a hypothetical crime case, Professor Lang enters the room and ask for his aid in a real-life crime case! He shows them a photo of a golden mask of the Incas, which he brought back from Peru, was taken from the museum, and $1,000 has been offered for the capture of the thief! (That'sa lotta quarter books!)

Since Captain Reilly had solved a previous case for the museum and not accepted a reward, they've decided to let him and the students handle the case first! This excites one of the students! (Only in comics can a youngster become an sleuth or astronaut or somesuch.) At the museum, Professor Lang shows that he has the only key, and wonders how the mask could have been removed without breaking the glass or lock? One of the students spots a big button, which he surmises must be from the crook's coat, while Clark stares in disbelief at the discovery, for he sees that one of Lana's buttons on her coat doesn't match, but the one on the floor does! Another student finds a human hair of red color, while Clark stares at Lana and can't believe that she'd steal her father's statue! (Holy Red-Handed, Batman!) Another student takes pictures of the fingerprints which he has found and intends to check out the police files tomorrow, while Clark is sure that his suspicions of Lana are unfounded! In the class, the three clues are a missing coat button, a red hair, and a set of fingerprints, which aren't on file with the police! (Holy Fingertips, Batman!)

Since the fingerprints didn't clear Lana, Clark uses his super-vision to examine her hair, and sees a strand which he clips for examination, while inhaling with super-breath will enable him to get the strand, so that he can use his microscopic-vision to compare it! To his dismay, Clark sees that they match,and he is reluctant to accept the evidence until he's had a chance to examine her fingerprints! Outside, Lana wonders if Clark suspects her of being the thief, while Clark knows that she's on her guard, and makes an excuse to go away! Changing to Superboy, he's carrying a couple of photos of the fingerprints, while being distressed about proving his friend guilty! Seeing Lana walking past a lamppost, The Boy of Steel knows that he must startle her into gripping it! (What's he gonna do? Say that he's gonna use his x-ray vision on her?)

Stamping his foot on the ground causes the sidewalk to shake, causing Lana to grip the lamppost. Once she's left, Superboy compares the fingerprints, and see that they do match, indicating that Lana is the thief, but he still wants to double-check. Outside of The Lang house, The Boy of Steel uses his x-ray vision and finds the mask buried in the backyard. He digs it up and intends to have Clark bring it to class the next day. He wonders why Lana would bury it in the backyard, and sees an Incan inscription, which he translates at the museum library. He now understands why Lana "robbed" the mask, and knows that Clark will give the answer to the crime at class tomorrow. Taking a newspaper, he wraps the mask in it, keeping it away from the moonlight.

At class, Clark reveals that the mask was stolen by Lana Lang, which Professor Lang finds hard to believe! When Captain Reilly points out that no one else could have obtained the museum keys, but her, Lana weeps and confesses! When asked by her father why she stole the mask, Lana is reluctant to tell him, and Professor Lang must assume that she intended to sell the mask like a common criminal! Lana turns to Clark and sobs as she asks why he told them about what she did, but Clark tells her that Superboy told him the real reason why she stole the mask, and if she's ashamed to tell why, he will! (Holy Tattletale, Batman!)

Professor Lang had intended to wear the mask beneath the full moon to debunk a silly superstition, but Clark points out that the curse is true. He points out that only Superboy could wear the mask without going mad, and has the class watch through the window. Whomsoever donned the mask beneath the moonlight would succumb to the chemical crystals which encrusted the mask, and with the polarized rays of the moon, causing the wearer to go mad! (Holy What Me Worry, Batman!) Clark re-enters the classroom with the mask in hand, and Lana explains that she thought that her father would succumb to the curse, while he scoffed at it, and she was determined to protect him, burying it in the backyard until the full moon was over. The next night finds Captain Reilly declining the reward since it was Superboy who solved the case, but Clark points out that he was aware that the captain must have been aware of Lana's guilt with the clues, having kept the secret and refused the reward for her sake. Captain Reilly smiles and confesses.

A fun story where high schoolers have the desire to learn the art of sleuthing and their teacher is well-versed on the subject, respecting his young charges, and providing a fine example for them to live by. True, he does smoke in the classroom, but it does provide some drama for the case of fingerprints.

With the golden mask stolen and all clues leading to Lana, Clark must uncover the reasons behind the theft, not just who the culprit was, and proving himself her friend in his determination to discover the truth.

Lana did the wrong thing for the right reasons, and was rightfully ashamed of her actions, while her classmates, her father, and the teacher could understand why she did such a thing, for her father's safety.

All in all not a bad story, with ample opportunity for young readers to enjoy this mystery, as they would with an Encyclopedia Brown one, as well as fueling the discovery that one can truly learn something if they consult the resources available at their school or library.

Smallville is my kind of town, with a strong sense of community, and a fine sense of being neighborly.

Steve Chung
"The Junior Review of Smallville!"