Saturday, January 24, 2015

Blue Beetle #4 (Charlton)

Writer Joe Gill, penciller Bill Fraccio and inker Tony Tallarico are back with another Silver Age adventure of Dan Garrett. Charlton's Blue Beetle takes on "The Praying Mantis-Man".

Did you know that archaeologist Dan Garrett was also a chemist and a physicist? Neither did I until the first page of this story. I guess that explains why he was called in on the "Superstar" aircraft project last issue. So when sheep are dying in Baja, California from something that looks like a giant insect bite, Dan's just the man to assist Dr. Juanita Rivera, a Mexican entomologist. Wait, what?! Archaeology, check. Chemistry, ok. Physics, sure...but now biology too? I guess that's just the silver age, like writers giving Superman whatever power he needed. 

Dan and Juanita quickly find themselves on his private plane, and on a first name basis. When they land, Juanita hires some trucks to transport them and their equipment to a nearby field station, but before they arrive a swarm of foot-long mosquitoes descend on them. Dan takes a few shots at the bugs with his pistol, but misses. Luckily the noise seems to scare them off. 

The duo figures the big bugs must be responsible for the dead sheep The other scientists at the field station don't exactly agree...until one coincidentally flies into Dan's room and he manages to kill it with some bug spray. They discover an odd chlorophyll compound is responsible, and Dan excuses himself to investigate Blue Beetle!

From the air, Blue Beetle spots a densely vegetated canyon, populate by several buildings. Flying in for closer look, he encounters more giant mosquitoes, an enormous coral snake, and a gargantuan rat. He handles them all with the relative ease of a Kaji Dha powered punch, but is caught off guard when he encounters the Praying Mantis-Man! 

The green beast zaps him with eye beams that seem to sap his strength, but in a last ditch effort he throws a mighty punch scaring the insect away. He decides to investigate the buildings, and finds that at least one of them is the lab of Hunter Mann, famed naturalist. Quickly switching back to his identity of Dan Garrett, he decides to check in with Mann. It seems that Hunter Mann has been experimenting with...duh-duh-dunn...chlorophyll to stimulate cell growth. 

The experiments have also turned his skin green! When Dan tries to probe for more detail, Mann quickly shows him the door. No sooner is he back outside, then he sees the Praying Mantis-Man take to the sky. Dan says the magic words Kaji Dha, and as Blue Beetle hurries to alert Juanita. 

The warning comes too late as Juanita has already been cornered by the Praying Mantis-Man! She tried, unsuccessfully, to defend herself. She even had the help of some field station guards, but their bullets just bounced off the creature. 

Blasting them with his eye beams, the Mantis-man made his getaway before Blue Beetle ever arrived. Once on the scene though, Dan discusses his findings with Juanita, and the duo head off to Mann's lab to end this once and for all. The villain is ready for them though, and attacks on sight blasting Blue Beetle with his eye beams. Blue Beetle blasts back, but is distracted when a giant lizard approaches Juanita. No sooner does he save her from the reptile, then they're attacked by another giant rat, then a bee. Dan decides to take the fight to Mann's lab, right as the mad scientist is preparing another batch of his chlorophyll formula. Mantis-Man tosses chemicals, trying to distract the hero again, but only angers him more. Dan whirls about, destroying the lab and "traveling faster than sound" lands a mighty punch with a thunderous "KAPOW"! Without the Praying Mantis-Man and his chlorophyll formula, the creatures of the canyon return to normal and Dan travels home, in search of his next adventure.

Well...that came to a somewhat abrupt end. Still, a giant Praying Mantis-Man was a fun, apropos, rogue for the Blue Beetle. What's in store for that next adventure? Check back next month! 


  1. I don't have the book in front of me, but I believe on the last page of this gem, when Mantis-Man tosses his chemicals, Dr. Dan sees a rat scurry across the floor and, assuming it's another GIANT rat, thereby concludes that he too has been made giant-sized...because the rat is in normal proportions compared to a human. Now I can see how Dan got all those science shrewd! Never mind that he's been indoors the whole time and his head has not busted through the ceiling. Swiftly it dawns on Dan that he, the rat, the room are all normal sized, and Mantis-Man is kind of just jerking him around. This makes Blue Beetle MAD so he immediately punches out the villain and -- other than a weird, callous quip about "smashin" all these rogue animals to death -- the adventure is over! Way to realize "Oh crap, this is the last page?! I better wrap this up, fast!"

  2. The stories do tend to wrap up pretty quick...almost as if the writers got to the last page and said "Crap! Out of time, lets just end it here.", lol. At least it isn't just Blue Beetle and Charlton though. I also contribute to the Legion of Super-Bloggers and when we do round table reviews of some of the Legion's Silver Age adventures they're often just as silly and end just as abruptly!