Monday, August 4, 2008

House of Mystery #167 (6/67)

"In his posh Mediterranean villa, international playboy Marco Xavier, secretly the Manhunter from Mars, receives a startling phone call..."

"Xavier? This is Mr. V. ... I've been thinking about you..." Manhunter thought, "And I've been thinking about you, Faceless! I'd like to get my hands on you right now!"

If Jack Miller wasn't lobbing a gag over the kids' heads there, I'll light a match. That was the most subtext-that-dare-not-speak-its-name since the time "Manhunter" went "cruising" for sailors!

"I'm worried about your future effectiveness to me! You see, you have been involved in several of my jobs that were foiled by Manhunter! Before long, the Martian will begin connecting you to VULTURE... so I want you to contact Manhunter with a tip on a coming crime... enabling him to foil the holdup and capture the criminals... They are not regular members of my own syndicate... and therefore expendable!"

"As the Unseen Crime Czar completes his curious message," Manhunter thought "Hmm... very odd... Faceless isn't brainless... He must have some wily scheme up his sleeve?"

The Manhunter acted on the tip, busting a gang of Frenchmen who'd dug an underground tunnel in a bid to rob the Lyons Bank. "Sacre blue!" Yes, you read that right, and then the startled frogs tried to gun Manhunter down. "If that could hurt me, Monsieur, I'd've been put out of action years ago! ...Better give up... before I really start playing rough!"

Two days later, Marco Xavier was summoned to meet with Monsieur Ferreau at the Lyons branch of VULTURE, hidden within a flower shop. From a view screen, Mr. V offered another tip to pass on to Manhunter, while Xavier questioned his worth to the syndicate. "Do not undervalue yourself, Mr. Xavier... now... farewell, my friend!" Xavier said his own farewell, but Manhunter thought, "...don't call me your friend, you faceless goon!"

While "Xavier" was happy to protect an exhibit case of three Louis XIV crown jewels at the Montparnasse Museum, he'd previously planned to guard a shipment of 30 million dollars worth of gold bullion en route to Paris. Something seemed fishy, and it wasn't just his referencing U.S. currency, or that the figure rose to $50 million three panels later on the same page!

That night, Manhunter invisibly snuck back into the "flower shop," past a guard complaining of another boring night. "Maybe--- for you! I've got plenty to do!" A wall safe revealed that the Montparnasse job would be a distraction for Manhunter while the bullion was lifted! The plots were two hundred miles apart, and if the Super-Sleuth tipped police off to the museum job, it could forever ruin the usefulness of his Marco Xavier identity.

The bullion heist would be the most problematic. A tank was hidden within a float running through a local parade, from which it would divert to intercept trucks carrying the gold across the Boulez Crossroads. Manhunter, "yours truly," flew through the clouds until reaching a point ahead of the tank. Martian muscles felled a tree in the tank's path with the shout of "TIMBER!" One of the operators shouted, "Ma foi!" The delay was temporary, thanks to a crane built into the tank. Manhunter next had to dig and disguise a pit for the tank to fall into. A portable towing device would allow them exit, but not in time to reach the trucks as scheduled.

Unlike three pages back, a hook attached to a hovering helicopter smashed through the glass dome of the Gruyere Museum to steal the crown jewels. Guards fired shots and exclaimed, "Mon dieu!" The thieves might as well have said the same when Manhunter seized their chopper!

Meanwhile, back at the tank... "Our whole plan is ruined! Mr. V will be enraged." Desperately, the crew cut across fields and managed to catch the convoy. Manhunter returned in time to intercept the first salvo of their 70mm, then bent the barrel of their cannon! "I've heard just about enough out of you, big mouth... Now to crack open this bad egg!" The crooks were pulled from the demolished tank and handed over to authorities. "Mr. V gets his news fast... and right now I'd sure like to see the look on his face-- if you can call that a face!"

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