Tuesday, December 18, 2007

House of Mystery #159 (June, 1966)

"The Devil Men of Pluto," scourges of space, landed their flying saucer in the woods, then reduced it to pocket size with a shrink ray. A television documentary crew for WDCS just happened to be in the neighborhood, and filmed the satanic-looking aliens in jet-pack propelled flight. J’onn J’onzz caught the live program on a monitor in his secret lair, and recognized those Devil Men of the lawless B'ar Mountains from his “Martian days!” The Manhunter flew right to the trio to investigate their intentions on his adopted world. He was told a story by L'lex Xanadar (the leader, who resembled Adolph Hitler,) about the brilliant but evil Plutonian scientist Nar (yet another bald devil, this one stocky with a pointy goatee and bushy eyebrows.) One year after pulling a heist, the four Devils met to recover and divide the haul Nar had secreted on Earth. Spotting a treasure map near Nar, Xanadar decided to murder the scientist for a larger share of the loot. In the midst of the telling, Xanadar sneakily drew his pistol. "I trust you enjoyed the story, Martian--for it is the last one you will ever hear!"

The shot just bounced harmlessly off Manhunter, but the follow-up casting of Element X2 (a fiery powder) slowed our man down. With his last ounce of energy, the Martian Marvel turned invisible to escape the mercenaries. However, Xanadar had an ultra violet light ray which revealed the Manhunter, as another devil grazed the now vulnerable Martian with a head shot. The trio then turned their weapons toward a specific point in the hills nearby, uncovering a pair of robot legs. J'onn J’onzz regained consciousness minutes after they departed and continued his pursuit. The Manhunter followed the distinctive scent of Plutonian gas particles made by the space bandits' jet packs to their next excavation site, tunneling beneath their feet to catch them by surprise. Xanadar left his brothers to the Alien Atlas’ angry fists, the mechanical torso his brethren had recovered in tow. Having dissipated his jet particles, Xanadar vanished, leaving J'Onn to question his crew. “You’ll get no information out of us... even if Xanadar did double-cross us! After all, we would do it to him, or each other, if we got the chance!” Manhunter "accidentally" left one of their weapons close at hand and departed, allowing them to escape.

From the start, J'onzz had his suspicions about Nar’s overly complicated set-up. Leaving parts of a robot at various hidden points to eventually lead the Devil Men to their treasure seemed awfully roundabout. After Manhunter followed his former captives back to L'lex Xanadar, the pieces literally and figuratively fell into place. Held at bay with Element X2, MM tried to warn his foes, but with the attachment of the robot head it was too late... the booby trap "unleashed a strange force" that evaporated the Devil Men. The robot was Nar's ace in the hole, which avenged his seeming death. His treasure, J'Onn mused, would probably never be found. Then again, Manhunter himself survived multiple blasts from the same weapon Xanadar used against Nar, who J’onn noted, “was too tricky and smart to have been double-crossed so easily!” Maybe he snuck back to claim those million Mercurian heavy gold pieces all for himself?


Luke said...

Ahhh, HoM. If we ever get a second Showcase volume which covers these stories, I am totally buying it. I know that you have your doubts about the Silver Age, but I really dig this kooky stuff. (If I could afford it and didn't have half a dozen other trades I wanted in addition, I'd probably get the Showcase volume for the sci-fi detective stories, as well.)

Diabolu Frank said...

I can enjoy the wonkiness at times, and I frankly don't expect to get nearly the same kick when I start reading the first Showcase edition next year (I've been busy, y'know?) I think those tales might be too straight, and given that the oddball nature of the HoM stuff is their saving grace, that may prove to be rough going. Then again, I just read the first Marco Xavier story I own for the next Silver Age posting, and its a hard-edged gem.