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Mystery in Space 87
"Amazing Thefts of the I.Q. Gang!"

Script: Gardner Fox
Art: Murphy Anderson

Dim-bulb crook Ira Quimby seems to go out of his way to earn his mocking nickname. While he and two associates are planning an armored car robbery, he boldly announces that all they have to do is to raise the truck high into the air, so that no one can get near them. "All right, bright boy -- just how do we do that," asks the guy wearing suspenders. "Uhh -- I haven't figured out that angle yet!" And so I.Q. is tossed out the door so that the others can think without distractions. Unperturbed, he figures the answer will come to him if he can find a quiet place to do his own thinking.

Soon, by a glass case in front of a sunny window at the Metropolitan Museum, he has sudden insight into the making of a Lift-Ray! Need I mention that the case displays a small white rock with black and pink scorch marks? Soon, in his basement workshop, he cobbles together a Lift-Ray wand, as well as designing uniforms for the three of them. Aeroshoes complete the ensemble. Two days later, riding the jet shoes, he zips into their hideout and, by demonstrating his Lifting-Wand on bald-headed Eddie, brings them immediately over to his way of thinking.

The next day, along a highway entering New York City, museum curator Carter Hall and his wife Shiera are driving behind an armored truck and its motorcycle escort. Suddenly, the armored truck rises into the air! High above, they see three thieves on jet-propelled shoes, out of range of the cops' guns! Turning off the highway into the shelter of nearby trees, the pair lift out matching medallions. These open to release their distinctive Hawk costumes, which expand in accordance with the manner in which the medallion controls are pressed! Shiera, ever practical, mentions that they have boomerangs in the car trunk which may come in handy, in line with the series' hook of fighting crime with the weapons of the past and the methods of the future... which, as we know, was actually their more advanced home world of Thanagar.

As they soar toward the armored truck, the Winged Wonders hurl their boomerangs with authority: Eddie is clocked upside the head and tumbles into the truck. I.Q. avoids similar with quick reflexes, diverting it with his Lifting-Wand, which he then directs at the incoming Hawkpeople. They suddenly find themselves zooming upward, out of control! Hawkman exclaims that their only hope is to beat their wings as fast as they can, to counteract the effect. Soon, following some furious wing action at dizzying altitudes, the beam's influence weakens. The pair attempt to follow the air-bandits' jet-trails, but after an unsuccessful hour consult with cops investigating the heist. Their exchange establishes that New Yorkers are familiar with goings-on in Midway City. Archivists, please note!

That night, as the I.Q. Gang jets over NYC, Ira attempts to levitate a jewelry store, but it won't budge, a problem that calls for more quiet thinking. Sure enough, the next day sees him affecting Rodan's Thinker in a familiar secluded corner of the Met. Unfortunately, nothing's doing. As he walks away, though, he passes a familiar sunlit display case and... Eureka! Shiera, there with Carter on their tour of the City's museums, recognizes the now-smirking I.Q. (They are accompanied by archeologist Adam Strange, in a walk-on establishing him as being attached to that venerable old place.) At Carter's suggestion she follows him, hopefully to get a tab on the whole gang, the better to recover the armored truck loot. A few hours later, the pair are sitting on a park bench and feeding the birds directly across the street from I.Q.'s rooming house. As Shiera had seen no sign of the gang, Carter instructs a pair of the birds to keep an eye on I.Q., and to notify him of any developments.

Later that evening, as the Halls step outside a Broadway playhouse during intermission, a little bird flits down with word that I.Q. has left the house. Trailing the other bird, which followed I.Q., the Hawks find that the multistory jewelry store has lifted high into the air! Moments later, Hawkman is inside, and darts from his blowgun pin one thief tight against the wall. Then, he casts a net over two more thieves, while Hawkgirl's chain-mace slams a pistol out of the hands of yet another, while I.Q. slips away. These two are crimping his style, he thinks, but he's been giving it some thought and he knows what to do.

As the Hawks fly their netted jewel thieves off to jail, fully aware that I.Q. had gotten away, he himself has one more stop to make. As he stands over that glass display case at the Met, we learn that HE'S guessed that the streaked stone is the cause of his uncharacteristic brilliance. The Lifting-Wand has no effect on the stone, though, so I.Q. smashes the glass. At that moment he's interrupted by a watchman who's seen the whole thing, and they tussle. But, even as the felon subdues the guard, the stone hits the hard tile floor and two small pieces break off. Unaware, I.Q. jets off with the majority piece, confident that greater inventions will make his gang unstoppable.

The next morning, news of the robbery draws the Hawks to the museum, where they confer with Adam. He permits them to take the two fragments away for testing. Soon, special contact lenses help Carter establish that, while the stone is not of Earth, it did not arrive as a meteor. Shiera notices that the chunks have a faint glow, which intensifies as they come nearer the other chunks, a feature that will help them trace the larger piece. Carter goes on to deduce that the streaks were made by brain-wave radiation, and that there's lingering super-mental power present in them. Further, sunlight causes them to yield an aura of mental energy that stimulates thought! He expresses these conclusions while holding the chunk in direct sunlight, which is the only possible explanation for his insight. It's a sneaky plot device, unexamined in the script, but I'm fine with it.

So. Arming themselves with a sling and crossbows, the Hawks track their quarry, who are burdened with sacks of loot from yet another job. As the Hawks fire blunted arrows at the thieves, I.Q. thanks them for saving him the trouble of hunting them down. Meanwhile, his Lifting-Wand, which is now configured to draw on "the elements of the atmosphere," shoots flaming bolts against the arrows, and then the Hawks themselves! Dodging another heat bolt, Carter recalls the night watchman's comment that the Lifting-Wand had no effect on the scorched-stone fragment. He slings one of the chunks at I.Q. (cover scene!), assuming the Wand will have no effect on it either... and it connects with the smart guy's skull! Yay! Hawkman is on him at once, taking the Wand from his limp fingers. The rest of the gang surrenders.

Stowing the Lifting-Wand on their Thanagarian spaceship for safekeeping, the Hawks next step is to solve the mystery of the streaked stone. When they meet with Adam back at the Met, they determine that the mental emanations from the stone have faded completely away. No point in asking him about any of it, Carter thinks... what could he possibly know? As Adam leaves, Shiera asks Carter if he caught the look on Adam's face when she mentioned the mystery of the stone's arrival on Earth. "Yes -- as though he knew something we don't! I think this Adam Strange will bear watching in the future!" And so it ends.

Noteworthy in the issue is that the Adam Strange story was 12 pages long, with the Hawks at 14 pages. Is that any way to treat the lead feature? An earlier issue at hand gives Adam 9 pages, with two backups.

The letter column opens with a note from Joe Kubert, introducing Murphy Anderson as his replacement on the series. The editorial "reply" mentions that best letters will win original artwork -- "'nuff said," probably from before Stan Lee's days of heavy sloganeering. So Julie Schwartz invented the Marvel Age as well?!

It's nice that Gardner Fox, and John Broome, got to create such clever, richly textured revamps of their Golden Age mainstay characters.

Writer Fox was in very good form here. The quirky circumstances of the I.Q. Gang unfolded in a manner not at all forced, and the situation was coincidentally appropriate to the Hawks. As I noted last time, Shiera has a strong supporting role, both as trophy wife and sober, analytical partner-in-peril. The story has no surprises but successfully connects these resident aliens to Adam Strange's situation without beating us over the head with it.

Anderson's artwork, as ever, is magnificent. Julie clearly considered him the class act in his stable of distinguished artists, and planted him, teamed with Fox, on most Golden Age revivals throughout the '60s. Not that Kubert's earlier Hawkman issues weren't glorious things, I hasten to add. In order to show those enormous wings to good advantage, Anderson was forced to pull back, allowing for some great backgrounds. His work here is at least on a par with the terrific Atomic Knights stories of a few years earlier. Letterer Gaspar Saladino's confident snap was present here and in essentially all of Schwartz' books in this period, and on roughly the same percentage of the war titles as well. A lot of us show his influence to this day.

This was one gang that believed in dressing for success. While lounging around planning the armored car heist that started it all, they were shown wearing dress shirts, jackets and ties! I.Q. himself had not a hair out of place when not flying.

Shiera comments on the effort it takes to keep her wings beating against the Lift-Ray, suggesting a neural interface between themselves and the wings.

House Ad: Brave and Bold #50 announces its new format: pairings of DC heroes. The pulse-pounding debut team is (!!!Fanfare!!!) Green Arrow and the Manhunter from Mars, the only two JLA members without their own books. On the bland cover, GA is shooting fire arrows at MM, who is taken a little aback, as the mind-controlling Capsule Master looks on. They've both had their own titles since, so I guess the issue was a stone success.

The back cover ad for Aurora Movie Monster models (98 cents each) reminds me of Joe Orlando's work, but I'm ready to be talked out of it.

Tom Orzechowski.