Saturday, December 12, 2015

Blue Beetle #53 (Charlton)

What the what? Issue #53? Where's issue #52? Well, if you're just joining us I covered that way back in March of last year! I know, I covered that one out of order, but cut me some slack it was the first Dan Garrett issue I'd ever bought! So we're now down to the final two Charlton Dan Garrett adventures. Instead of dwelling on how sad that is, let's jump right in and look at "The People Thieves" from writer Joe Gill, and the art team of Bill Fraccio and Tony Tallarico...featuring the return of the Praying Mantis-Man!

Hunter Mann, aka the Praying Mantis-Man, who we last saw way back in Blue Beetle #4 is at work in his lab. His assistant? A giant army ant named 119! Mann plans on using a colony of giant ants to take over the world. Will Blue Beetle stop him? He'll try...but the Praying Mantis-Man will be ready for him! 

Dan Garrett heads back to his own lab, after helping to put out a fire as the Blue Beetle, just in time to finish an experiment before his dinner date, Diane, arrives. Apparently Dan hasn't forgotten about Mann, and has been developing a bug spray in his free time just in case the villain returns. What an odd coincidence! As Dan and Diane head off to dinner, the Praying Mantis-Man and his army of ants attack a subway train. When the police arrive and try to stop him he trades insects for ice and freezes them with a gun that sprays carbon-dioxide "snow". 

He orders the ants to load their victims into waiting trucks, then the ants drive them to his secret mountain base. Dan's dinner isn't going as well as expected. The chef didn't show up for work, and the waiter tells Dan and Diane he heard a whole subway train full of people is rumored to have vanished! That's all Dan needs to excuse himself and begin his own investigation as...the Blue Beetle! And once at the subway station he discovers Mann's carbon-dioxide gun and a frozen police officer. 

Instead of thinking this was a cross-over event, and Captain Cold or Mr. Freeze was involved he deduces that this must be the work of the Praying Mantis-Man?! Really? Meanwhile, using spy pigeons (not sure why he ditched the insect angle so soon) Mantis-Man learns that Dan went to the restaurant with his date, but Blue Beetle Garrett must be the hero! Doing what any gentleman villain would do, Mantis-Man calls the restaurant pretending to be Garrett and orders the lady a cab. 

Of course he happens to be driving it when she steps out, so he kidnaps her, taking her to his mountain hideout to act as bait for the Blue Beetle. When Dan gets back to the restaurant and the doorman mentions his date leaving with a cabbie who looked a little "green", it's quickly time for Blue Beetle to go back into action. He takes to the air, and spots a caravan of trucks driven by ants and follows them back to Mann's secret mountain lair. In the meantime Mann takes out a plane full of people...more than 100 people to add to his "colony". 

Both men arrive back at Mantis Mountain at nearly the same time, but Blue Beetle stares at the cave walls, fascinated...there's something familiar about them. Stopping to look at the cave walls was a mistake, as Mann quickly sneaks up on Blue Beetle and blasts him with the Carbon Monoxide freeze gun! While his insect army hauls Blue Beetle's body away, Mantis-Man reveals more of his plan to Diane. First, the mountain it seems isn't a mountain at's a giant ant hill! Next he unleashes giant wasps. Their sting will prove to be deadly within seconds. And then gargantuan termites to obliterate the nearby cities. Diane decides her best chance of survival is to flirt with the Praying Mantis-Man. When she asks for somewhere she can clean up, Mann directs her to a nearby steam room. She opens up the valves, leaves the door open, and starts looking for Blue Beetle's frozen body figuring the steam should warm things up enough to thaw him out. The process is sped up when she touches the blue scarab on Dan's belt. 

Blue Beetle leads Diane to Mann's lab where he mixes up a batch of the insect spray he was developing at the start of the issue. Now armed, the duo head off into the giant ant hill and begin taking out the enormous insects! Seeing his plans falling apart, Praying Mantis-Man takes to the air on his dragonfly to make his escape. Blue Beetle approaches, and in a surprising moment of super dickery, he blasts the dragonfly and refuses to rescue the falling Dr. Mann.

WOW! This was a balls to the wall crazy story! Non-stop craziness! I mean insect themed villains using spy pigeons?! Really? I for one, enjoyed every wacky minute of it. It makes it that much sadder when you realize there's only one more Charlton Dan Garrett story left! And we'll be looking at that next month.


  1. Awesome story. So much better than what they do now. Today we'd have PMM eating someone's head and skewering Diane to prove how edgy and gritty he is.

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