Wednesday, February 13, 2008

House of Mystery #162 (10/66)

Let me just get this out of the way now: We’re in a new era of Silver Age Martian Manhunter stories here. This is a brand new creative team consisting of fresh faces made up of the same men who’ve been doing the strip for about eleven straight years by this point. This is a very serious and thoroughly modern take on the silly, derivative, bandwagon-hopping schtick—completely different from when they tried riding the science fiction, crime story, giant monster, kid sidekick and super-hero trends. The story synopsis you’re about to read is as completely different as it ever was!

From their secret Athens headquarters, members of the international crime syndicate known as VULTURE engaged in video conference with their enigmatic, faceless leader concerning a priceless statue they’d stolen. Mr. V assured his charges the statue’s original owner was willing to pony up the kingly sum of one quarter of a million dollars for its safe return. Why Miklos Agar would pay in Yankee dollars, and why such care went into a lousy $250,000 gig, we can only speculate. What we know to be important however is that VULTURE should take such great care in this matter of extortion that their bagman must be someone they can absolutely trust, like a freelance occasional operative slash international man about town who’s actually deceased and who has in fact had his identity compromised by one Manhunter from Mars. VULTURE would pay this bagman his usual “ten per cent” commission, despite his having no more investment in the matter than passing the “merchandise” back to its owner. So the next time you hear about the Pentagon paying $600 for a toilet seat, just be glad you’re not being governed by members of VULTURE... or are you?

“My word! Look who blew into town-- surrounded by a bevy of beauties, as usual-- Marco Xavier, the playboy!” A vender greeted the arriving group of five. “Yes, yes-- bouquets for the lovely girls-- and for you, sir, a special one!” Xavier thought to himself, “Hmm-- a special flower for me? Odd...”

“Sensitive fingers probe until they find secreted behind the petals, a note...”
Xavier thought, “Not as much as I want him, mister!”

“Sorry, chicks-- but I just remembered-- I’ve got a heavy date!”
“Oh-h-h, Marco darling-- we have hardly seen you!”
Sorry skirts-- but in my rarified circles, you broads are what are known as ‘beards.’ I’m afraid I’m off to catch a private plane on loan from one John Travolta to indulge in the amor which dare not speak its name in a Code Approved comic book. Ciao, babies.”

“That twin-engine plane outside the hangar-- go inside!”
“I see... transportation to take me to Mr. V! Very good! Very good indeed!”

Likely burning more fuel than the whole operation was worth on a plane converted into a flying headquarters, Xavier was dismayed to see Mr. V on the gigantic video monitor. “Blast! And I’d hoped to see Faceless in person-- so I could get my hands on him! And then-- other things!” Mr. V once again tried to “recruit” Marco into the “organization,” to which Xavier replied, “Thanks again-- but free-lancing gives me more independence-- and plenty of time for pretty girls!” Ah, so cocksure is the playboy, oui? “A word of warning, Xavier! Do you see this man? He is known as the Manhunter-- and he has been hounding us of late!” Faceless tapped on a black and white image of the Alien Atlas. “Sacre bleu! He’s a frightening looking character, isn’t he?” Ah, Manhunter, don’t hate who you truly are, on the inside. The Martian Marvel considered to himself, “The real Marco Xavier-- whose place I took after he was killed-- was palsy-walsy with Agar-- so I shouldn’t have any trouble with him.” This assumption was correct, as the statue’s rightful owner pressed the piece to his cheek and gently caressed its ivory shaft. “Ah, my lovely statuette how I have missed you! Marco... my eternal thanks to you! I would have paid twice as much for her return!” Marco remarked, “I’m glad you feel you got a bargain, Miklos!”

Xavier buried the suitcase with the pay-off, transformed into the Manhunter from Mars, and stormed the airplane. The hoods opened fire with meer conventional firearms. “Are you kidding?” Without another word, Manhunter tossed the first crook he reached into the rest, toppling them like bowling pins. The thieves assumed Xavier must have tipped the hero off, until Marco arrived in time to free them before the police arrived. “Mon dieu! What goes on? This place looks like it was hit by a hurricane!” Xavier gave the relieved bandits the bread, as they went scurrying back to their master. Manhunter swam after the larcenists, as they made their way to a deserted island by speedboat. J’onzz watched the purloiners take a hidden elevator down into an underground base, then flexed “mighty Martian muscles” to burrow his own route. The defalcators went straight to Mr. V, who chastised, “Fools! How many times have I warned you against coming here... If-- if the Manhunter found you-- he could follow you here!” A huge crash rang out as the Alien Atlas smashed through the wall, tersely confirming, “Right!”

While the pilferers again fell before the Martian onslaught, Mr. V’s readily apparent lardassery did not impede him as he ran to retrieve a rifle that fired lightning bolts. Their charge set the room afire, forcing Manhunter to burst nearby aquarium glass with the last of his might. “That’ll put out the fire you started--- on the floor if not within my bare, heaving breast--- now to put you out, Mr. V!” His naked arms outstretched, Manhunter ran to the object of his attentions! “Faceless--- I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment! So--- you’re the notorious Mr. V!” A tubby brown-haired man with a semi-Hitler mustache that resembled two bushels of nose hair growing out of his nostrils? Hardly! Another giant monitor lit up to reveal the true Mr. V! “Not quite, Manhunter! Zoltar is only a deputy Mr. V--- one of my regional lieutenants!”

“I’ll get you yet, Faceless--- I’ll get you if it’s the last thing I do on Earth!” And it very nearly was, but that’s a tale for another time. “The Lair of Mr. V!” was by Jack Miller and Joe Certa, except for my flourishes in itallics.


Luke said...

That "Are you kidding?" panel is awesome!

Diabolu Frank said...

Seemed appropriate, and I love when they kept it simple in these later issues.