Leading Comics #1 – Blueprint for Crime!

A death sentence is pronounced by a judge from whom there is no appeal…

sevensoldiers001In an isolated house, a doctor delivers bad news to master criminal the Hand, telling him that he only has a month left to live. The Hand bemoans his life of genius cut short and is sorry that many of his great crimes that he’s planned will go to waste. Then a newspaper article about “Big Caesar” being jailed catches his eye, and he thinks that Big Caeser could pull off one of his planned heists. Struck by inspiration, he has five criminals broken out of jail and brought to his home, where they agree to carry out the Hand’s planned heists. They hope to get rich, while the Hand hopes to go down in history as a master criminal. For the final touch, the Hand contacts the heroes who oppose these criminals and tell them where and when the crimes will take place.

Answering the call are the Green Arrow and Speedy, the Shining Knight, the Vigilante, the Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy and the Crimson Avenger. Each of them picks a criminal to go after, and Green Arrow suggests meeting up in a week to compare notes. And with that, they head out to stop the villains.

  • Unlike the first adventure of the Justice Society of America, the Seven Soldiers face enemies that are much closer to traditional supervillains. They’re not all costumed, but the Needle has a look and a gimmick just like several of the Soldiers, and the Dummy is just a weird enemy. He and the Batman villain Ventriloquist might get along well.

Chapter Two – The Green Arrow

Green Arrow and Speedy head for Death Valley, where Professor Merlin attacks them on the way to steal a gold mine from Cactus Mike, an old prospector with a deathly fear of sevensoldiers002cold. They burst into his cabin, with Green Arrow only seconds ahead of Merlin’s thugs. The Wizard Archers put up a good fight, but they’re outnumbered and outflanked and soon captured. Merlin uses a machine that lowers the temperature and scares Cactus Mike into revealing the location of the gold mine.

Merlin leaves GA and Speedy to freeze to death, but they manage to escape and head to the mine. They rescue Mike, but Professor Merlin sets off dynamite to try and gain entry to the area where the gold is. The unstable mine can’t take the blast and collapses, with GA, Cactus Mike and Speedy barely escaping both the collapsing mine and an avalanche.

  • Cactus Mike makes this story. He’s a colorful character with a quirky fear of freezing to death. Mind you if it’s only 90 degrees outside, he’s cold.
  • I don’t know the history of Golden Age Green Arrow, so I don’t know how frequently he ran into Professor Merlin. But as a regular watcher of Arrow, I can’t help but wonder if Malcolm Merlyn has his roots not just in Merlyn the archer, but in this Merlin.
  • Trick arrows in this story: an arrow that whistles so that Speedy is alerted that GA needs help.

Chapter Three – The Star Spangled Kid

sevensoldiers003Sylvester Pemberton and Pat Dugan head for Panama, where their old foe the Needle plans to steal a very destructive ray-gun from it’s inventor, Professor Brighton. The Needle is going to use it to destroy the Panama Canal. The Kid and Stripesy fall into a trap set by the Needle, intended to drown them on a sinking ship, but thanks to the Kid’s quick thinking they are able to escape. Ultimately the day is saved just in time as they use the Star Rocket Racer to deflect the energy from the ray-gun, which doubles back and destroys the building that the Needle was hiding in when he took his shot at the Canal.

  • These are my least favorite members of the team. Both characters are put to better use later on. The Star Spangled Kid gets a good showing in the 1970s All-Star Comics revival, and Pat Dugan is the father of Courtney Whitmore, otherwise known as Stargirl. So even though they aren’t the most compelling of the Golden Age heroes, it’s good to see their early adventures.
  • The Needle almost wins this one. He not only traps and almost kills both heroes, but he stays one step ahead of them, anticipates what they’ll do, and would have destroyed the Panama Canal if not for Stripesy’s piloting skills. Not bad for a tall skinny guy with a needle gun.

Chapter Four – The Crimson Avenger

sevensoldiers004Big Caesar hits Broadway, with the plan being to cause a blackout and rob everyone they can in the confusion and chaos. The criminals are disguised as utility men near the lighted area so they can cut the power, but Crimson Avenger and Wing spot them by their too-neat appearance. Big Caesar attempts to turn the tables on the two by sending one of his henchmen up, and having Crimson Avenger arrested when he attacks the henchmen. The plan works until Big Caesar’s men cut the power and start looting, at which point the policemen realize that Crimson Avenger was telling them the truth and let him go. He and Wing manage to subdue Big Caesar and restore power and lighting, ending the threat as the people being robbed are able to fight back.

  • I’m amused by the way the Avenger and Wing travel in full costume on the train, and walk around openly in costume. So much for mysterious mystery men hiding in the shadows.
  • Big Caesar’s plan to have them arrested is a good one, and if he’d waited until the policemen were further away, he might have pulled the whole thing off. I’m liking these crooks who are fairly challenging to the heroes.
  • Wing is constantly offended that everyone knows about the Avenger, but not him.
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