BHOC: JUDOMASTER #96

Whoever was responsible for selecting which old Charlton comics would be reissued in the 3-Bags put out under the Modern Comics imprint made some baffling selections. Take JUDOMASTER for example. Modern reissues four issues of the series: #93, #94, #96 and #98. Why not consecutive issues? Who knows? It may have been that these were the ones that Charlton had workable reproduction materials for. It could also be that nobody at Modern much cared what was reprinted, and these were the four books that happened to be at the top of the stack. Either way, it made for some frustrating reading for those of us who first came to these books in their Modern incarnations.

Like yesterday’s entry, this issue of JUDOMASTER was both written and illustrated by Frank McLaughlin, who clearly felt a strong affinity for the character. It’s also the second part of the introduction of a character clearly intended to be an arch-rival of the title character, the Acrobat, a similar costumed fighter working on the side of the Japanese military. The Acrobat’s inclusion made this feel more like a super hero comic book than a war comic, which was much more to my liking. Though as with other issues, the action is a bit prosaic and therefore unsatisfying. It was like the shadow of the Judomaster comic that I wanted to be reading–I liked a bunch of the particulars, but not their execution.

Last issue, the Acrobat infiltrates the island on which Judomaster is based for a battle with the American. The fight was inconclusive, and the Acrobat managed to escape and elude capture. In the aftermath, Judmaster is certain that his foe had help infiltrating their location, and so he winds up following a newcomer who is actually a Japanese spy. What’s worse, as the spy radios in to his unit, he reveals that Judomaster’s love interest Suzikawa is also passing information to the enemy. Enraged by this revelation, Judomater hurls himself at the spy, clobbering him. But this can’t change what he heard.

Judomaster confronts Suzi, who confirms that she has been passing the Japanese information. But she’s doing so for a good reason: they are holding her brother a captive. And she’s been stalling them with worthless intel up until now. The Acrobat and his cronies now demand that Judomaster turn himself over to them in exchange for Suzi’s brother’s life. Judomaster agrees to the trade, but he’s not ready to throw in the towel just yet. He overturns the Acrobat’s rubber dinghy and then grapples with the Acrobat underneath the water.

While Judomaster’s friends defend their island against the invaders, Judomaster battles the Acrobat both under the water and eventually on the beach, triumphing over him. Unmasked, it turns out that the Acrobat himself is Suzi’s brother. He became the Acrobat because of his loyalty to his country and his desire to prove himself the superior fighter. That didn’t really work out for him as it turns out. So Judomaster sadly consoles Suzi at the book’s end–and everybody seems to just decide to forget about her turning over secrets to the enemy in a time of war.

The back-up was another entry in the adventures of hard-boiled detective turned super-spy Sarge Steel, this one illustrated with the artist most closely associated with him, Charlton editor Dick Giordano. It was written by Steve Skeates, who was freelancing around the industry at that time, having lost a short-lived position at Marvel as a junior editor. Last time, Steel had been hired by a girl to locate her missing father and to protect her. Steel didn’t do so hot a job at it, as now the girl is missing. Having returned to her apartment, Steel suddenly finds himself being shot at by an unseen assailant.

Steel is able to take out the guy that’s gunning for him, and to work out what happened to the girl’s father. Unfortunately, the guy’s been dead for three months, killed by a mobster who was after some old money printing plates that were in his possession so that he could use them in a counterfeiting operation. Steel is captured by the mobster and his goons, but he’s tough enough to be able to knick his way through them and save the day. Again, there isn’t a whole lot to this story apart from a certain ambiance, but it was fun enough nonetheless, if not especially enthralling.

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