BHOC: VENGEANCE SQUAD #5

Another book from the latest Modern Comics 3-Bag find was this issue of VENGEANCE SQUAD, a not-terribly-exciting action-adventure series that aspired to the level of a 1970s cop show. But creator Pete Morisi did have a very interesting George-Tuska-influenced art style which was appealing, if stiff. Also, I’m particularly taken with the way that the Modern Comics edition of the book replaces the UPC with a slogan urging browsers to Read Comics!

VENGEANCE SQUAD was written and created by Joe Gill, one of the most prolific writers in the history of the medium–so prolific that he would occasionally write two full comic books every week. Most of Gill’s output, it must be said, was formulaic and forgettable, but given that he was working for $2.00 a page (Charlton paid rock-bottom rates, but pretty much left people alone to do their thing) that really isn’t all that surprising.

The Vengeance Squad were Eric Redd, Candy Orr and Tulsa Coyle, former cops turned vigilante mercenaries. They were pretty much the A-Team before the A-Team existed. Here, the issue opens with them skydiving into France in pursuit of a mysterious masked Heroin smuggler who is kind enough to wear a sort of costume in the earliest sequences to make the story seem a little bit more interesting. The masked ringleader gets away, but the V-Squad is able to destroy his heroin lab.

From there, the team heads to Monte Carlo, where Eric is publicly loud and brash about their victory in the hopes of drawing the mastermind out. He attracts the attention of Marco Poleau (seriously, that’s his name) a man of mysterious wealth and a shady background. Poleau tries to run Eric’s car off the road into a ravine, but Eric is able to outmaneuver him. But he lets the villain live, albeit with a long walk back to civilization.

The V-Squad is trying to get Poleau before he can distribute the last shipment of heroin produced by the lab, using the amateur Grand Prix as a cover. Poleau’s men abduct Candy, but she’s able to turn the tables on them and escape,though Poleau’s yacht is destroyed in the process. So he’s down a car AND a boat now, to say nothing of a lab. She also brings back proof that Poleau is the masked mastermind–and so, as they race in the Grand Prix and Poleau attempts for the second time to run Eric off the road, he instead turns the tables on his foe, sending him plummeting to his death. The End!

The much more interesting back-up story was another solo outing of Mike Mauser, Private Detective, a character that Nick Cuti and Joe Staton had originated in the E-MAN series before spinning him off here into his own yarns. Staton’s work at this point is a bit unpolished but definitely appealing, and Mauser allows him to stretch his cartooning muscles a bit while still keeping the proceedings relatively hard-boiled.

In this case, Mauser is hired to recover a painting, but what’s really important about it is the frame–there’s a fortune in gems hidden inside it. Mauser’s latest secretary Bambi and a confederate, Stu Caufield, are behind the theft and responsible for using Mauser as their errand boy, But once Mauser gets to the bottom of things, he guns down Caufield without a second thought as soon as the man pulls a pistol on Bambi. She, of course, insists she was framed. Womp-womp!

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