A Tribute to the of
Hello again, Silver Age fans. Two weeks has elapsed, so it must be time for a brand new review from our favorite time period in the history of DC Comics.
Let me begin by mentioning an e-mail I got this last week from a reader who was looking for information on the Rose and the Thorn. I scratched my head a bit at that one. It didn't ring any bells at all. I checked with my pal, the webmaster and he was able to glean that it was a female character who showed up in Lois Lane's comic in the early 70's. Then my inquirer wrote back and said he'd also discovered where she'd teamed up with Batman in the 70's as well. I dug through one of my best resources, the 29th edition of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, but apparently the Thorn didn't ever have a magazine of her own. Just the same, I appreciate the confidence in my minor knowledge of the genre and hopefully I'll be better able to answer the next question. Speaking of the Overstreet Guide, I did a little research for both today's review subject and the magazine itself, since I'd done some musing a couple of reviews ago about The Brave and the Bold. As I'd surmised, it originally carried stories about the medeival period. More of a pure adventure comic than anything else, with heroes like The Viking Prince, Silent Knight, Golden Gladiator and Robin Hood. Around issue #25 they started to make some changes and introduced the Suicide Squad in 1959. Then in 1960 it was used to break the Justice League of America. Later it was Cave Carson and then Hawkman. As time went by, it was used much the same way Showcase was, as a place to experiment with characters and team-ups. Today's issue, Brave and the Bold #72, from June/July of good old 1967 (on sale April 20th) contains a bit of a bizarre team-up, but what else could you expect when dealing the The Spectre? Incidentally, according to our friends at Overstreeet, this was the 4th Silver Age appearance of The Spectre, and predates Spectre #1 when he was cut loose on the strength of his reintroduction. Behold another awesome cover by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson as we see a wispy Flash biffing the Spectre on the chin in front of what seems to be a lunar landscape. The earth, of all things, is in the background and in the foreground an obviously crashed bi-plane. The intriguing title below Flash's logo reads, "Phantom Flash, Cosmic Traitor!" The tale was written by Bob Haney, penciled by Carmine Infantino and inked by Charles Culdera all under the direction of Editor George Kashdan.
The splash page has an eerie looking pilot sitting at a table presiding between The Flash in a phantom form and The Spectre, who's usually in sort of that form as well and saying that "I, Ghost Pilot, say let the duel begin--between you, Spectre and my phantom ally, The Flash! But there can be only one outcome, Spectre...your destruction! Then, total revenge shall be mine! Ha! Ha!"
Our story opens in Central City, Flash's home town. Interestingly, it also clarifies that this is Earth II home to DC's Golden Age heroes. Flash is on patrol and we're privy to his thoughts as he zips about, thinking about his upcoming rendezvous with his friend the Spectre. He then stumbles across a robbery in progress and as he overtakes the getaway truck and vibrates his molecules through the back door, he's abruptly seized with an odd feeling that causes him to crumple and lose consciousness. The two hoods inside the truck wait until they're outside the city limits and then dump the scarlet form onto the side of the road while above, a strange craft appears in the sky. An old bi-plane, piloted by the mysterious Ghost Pilot, who shimmers just as his airplane does. He comments, with an evil grin that it is time for him to pass from the spectral zone to the so-called real world. He lands the old plane near the still body of the Flash and then stands over him, speaking an odd mantra. "Spirits of the bullet-lashed skies--guardians of strut and fabric and those who took the flaming death...by the dank bog that covered friend and foe alike--by the powers of Castle Krieg..Spectral Flash Arise!" The Flash is suddenly "Phantomized" and does as he is told, saluting this macabre figure and stating "I recognize and salute my commander! Your orders, sir?" The Ghost Pilot instructs the Phantom Flash to be with him when they have a rendezvous with those who live.
Fade to another scene in a towering hotel in a great city. Twelve elderly men, dressed in formal clothes gather around a formal dining table where a sign adorns it with a placard displaying the number 13. One of the men says, "There it is, Major--twelve places set for us...and just like every year for almost fifty, a thirteenth place for Luther Jarvis." The Major replies, "Yes, Charlie--when Jarvis was shot down on the last day of the war, and became our squadron's only casualty, we all swore we'd never forget him--that he'll always be with us." Then, the unthinkable. Luther Jarvis, whom we've already been introduced to as the mysterious Ghost Pilot, materializes in his seat with a wicked grin on his face, his eyes concealed behind his flight goggles and hood. He then beams a ray of some sort from his eyes and brings in the phantom Flash to join him. Needless to say, all this spooks the old codgers a bit and one of them decides to try and make a break for it, only to be blocked by the still lightning-quick Flash. The Major then addresses Jarvis: "Jarvis, if this is really you--looking no older than the day Von Krieg shot you down--what do you want of us?" "I want, Major, what you all took from me...your lives--and your eternal spirits!"
On that dramatic turn, we join Jim Corrigan, Captain of the Metropolitan detectives, aka The Specter, who has answered an emergency call. He is standing in the very room where our happy little group was gathered, but are there no more. Apparently, the whole squadron has disappeared without a trace, from a locked room on the 24th floor. Shortly, our green-hooded friend, The Spectre, separates himself from Corrigan's body to assist in trying to crack the mystery. The Spectre quickly senses the evil still lingering in the room and uses one of his many talents to reveal the immediate past. He spins the plane prop on the wall, revealing images of the Ghost Pilot and the Flash, along with the recent events that have transpired. The Spectre decides that this is definitely a job up his ghostly alley and follows his spectral insight to a castle in the Rhine Valley of Germany. The Spectre is concerned, as the Flash, an ally and friend, has been turned into a champion of evil and terror by the Ghost Pilot.
Part II of our story has an eerie scene from another day in the making. Two ancient warplanes are taking to the moonlit skies, preparing for an old-fashioned dogfight. In one we find the squadron commander, the intrepid Major, in the other, a vengeful Ghost Pilot, with the rest of the squadron below, watching in rapt horror. The Major, who was a crack pilot, quickly gains the advantage, but begins to lose control of his aircraft due to the interference of the Flash, who has appeared on his wing. Jarvis, in a tri-plane, takes advantage by flanking his foe and firing, only to be deflected by a huge, green-clad hand. The Spectre has arrived! Interestingly enough, Jarvis recognizes the disembodied detective and the Spectre in turn calls him by name. I guess there must be a directory of locals in the phantom zone. Anyway, the Spectre whips up a cosmic storm with his cape, sending the tri-plane helplessly through the atmosphere. He calls on the Flash for help as he struggles to regain control. The phantom Flash responds right away, releasing the Major's plane from his influence. The Spectre grabs the tri-plane and threatens to crush the Ghost Pilot if he gets any closer. Jarvis seems to understand who he's dealing with as he immediately calls Flash off and declares a truce. The group then gathers in a hall in Castle Krieg to discuss matters. Jarvis then explains that on the final day of World War I, 13 Squadron had a rendezvous with Baron Von Krieg and he alone showed up to uphold the honor of the outfit. The Major interjects that they didn't expect him to show up and that they didn't want to take any unecessary chances on the last day of the war. This doesn't satisfy the Ghost Pilot, as he shouts that he took on a dozen Fokkers without the protection of his wingmates and was shot down into the swampy bog by the castle. Years later, the figure of Jarvis re-emerged from the wreckage, somehow brought back in a phantom form. The deserted castle, with its library of occult books became his domain and he plotted his revenge. The Spectre accuses Jarvis of being the one guilty of cowardice and dishonor by taking on his old wingmates with his astral powers and the help of an enhanced Flash while they have aged these last fifty years. Jarvis considers the Spectre's words and acknowledges his advantage, but still thirsts for revenge. The Spectre proposes championing their cause, by piloting a plane against the Flash. Winner take all. The two planes are soon airborne and the battle begins. The Flash, it seems, is being directed from the ground by the old ace, Jarvis. The planes, enhanced by the spectral forces that control them, begin to do some major damage to the countryside. The Spectre decides as part II closes, that it's time to take it "upstairs."
Part III finds the craft headed literally into space. The Spectre uses some space junk orbiting about the earth for cover, but it's a temporary help. He is hit by the Flash and soon crashlands on the moon. The Flash follows, landing his plane and the physical battle continues, with catacylsmic force as the astral beings pummel one another mercilessly. The Flash appears to have the edge due in part to his speed which adds a lethal component to his astral powers. Suddenly the Spectre vanishes. The Flash quickly runs around the moon, searching for the missing foe. He then begins to planet hop, continuing his search when he discovers that the Spectre has managed to conceal himself in the tail of a comet. As the phantom Flash enters the comet's tail, something begins to happen to him and he loses his momentum, drifting in space. His form has been restored and the Spectre grabs hold of him, delivering him to the moon. I can only presume that the Spectre somehow granted the restored Flash some sort of immunity to the ravages of airless space. The particles in the comet seemed to have restored his physical form and they friends head back for Castle Krieg, where they are met by an enraged Ghost Pilot, coming straight for them at full speed. He smashes into the plane as the Spectre removes the Flash from the ensuing maelstrom. Jarvis has destroyed himself and seemingly freed his spirit to go on to the next world. Jim Corrigan reports to his superiors that the old pilots left the room via dumbwaiter and Barry Allen returns to his life in Central City of Earth I, restored to whatever normal life there might be for a super hero.
Thus ends the career of Luther Jarvis and our story. I give this tale a solid 9. Classic characters, good story, although with sort of a weak ending and some decent artwork. Another example of the magic that was created at the offices of DC Comics in 1967.
Thanks yet again for joining me here at the Silver Lantern. As usual, I'll return in about two weeks with another issue to review for your reading pleasure. I'm available for comment or question at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long Live the Silver Age!
This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by B.D.S.
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