Sunday, March 16, 2014

Golden Oldie: FLASH COMICS #95

Just last week I was extolling Kanigher and Infantino for adding a seventh page to Black Canary's monthly adventures.  That extra page allowed the art to stretch out and breathe easier and the story to draw out greater insight into the characters.  But in Flash Comics #95, they do a lot more than that!

"An Orchid for the Deceased" is written by Robert Kanigher and drawn by Carmine Infantino.  And it comes in at ten pages!

Black Canary's strip opens with a splash page, a sort-of mini-cover, featuring Black Canary and Larry Lance leaping from a giant gargoyle head-shaped rock as two gunmen try to kill them.  Black Canary is shown reaching for Larry as if trying to catch him or protect him.

The story begins with Dinah Drake returning to her flower shoppe, finding a crowd of enthusiastic people waiting for her.  Only they're not customers looking for flowers; they're waiting to meet with Lance, who has relocated his private detective agency into Dinah's store.

Dinah wants Larry and his business out of hers and demands he move out, even though he has already crudely painted his name and sign on her store's window.  Then the phone rings and Larry is eager to pick up and deliver his spiel about solving any cases.  Unfortunately for him and rather obvious to anyone else, the caller wanted to place an order for flowers.  Or rather, one flower.  The caller wants a black orchid delivered the Masters Estate...

And the caller identifies herself as... The Black Canary!

How can that be, though, since Dinah Drake is the Black Canary.  Determined to solve this mystery, the sends Larry Lance to the harbor to deliver a bon voyage wreath to a ship.  Then Dinah changes into her blonde wig, black jacket and fishnets and heads out to the Masters Estate.

She sneaks over the wall, but is almost immediately spotted by security to open fire on her.  She uses her signature Judo toss to flip one of the gunmen over her shoulder like she does in every issue.  Then she does the other thing that happens in every issue.  She gets pistol-whipped and knocked out.  The guards bring her to the mansion.

Someone is framing Black Canary for the murder of Andrew Masters.  But who and why?

At that point, the security goons bring in Larry Lance, who, after delivering flowers at the harbor, chose to swing by the Masters Estate hoping to find Black Canary.  Sensing the optimal time for a distraction, Black Canary grabs Larry by the wrists and swings him around the room like he weighs no more than a doll.  Larry's feet and body club the rest of the guards, giving Black Canary enough time to jump out the window, dodging their gunfire.

She leaves Larry Lance in the Masters house with the trigger-happy guards and escapes.  Then she sneaks over to the district attorney's house to consult him about the case.  Once there, however, she overhears the D.A. talking about how Andrew Masters amended his will to leave everything to Black Canary for once saving his life at Gargoyle Head Lake.  That gives her a motive to kill him if she's caught.

So Black Canary returns to Gargoyle Head Lake where she finds Larry Lance trapped in the crevice on the Gargoyle's stony head.

Black Canary swims over and saves the real killer, Masters' niece, and pulls her to shore with Larry's help.

Okay, I have to question one bit of physics and one bit of logic where Black Canary is concerned, even though traditionally Golden Age comics cared about neither.  The fact that Black Canary could grab Larry Lance and swing him around off the ground without any kind of momentum built up is  ridiculous.  He probably weights close to 200 pounds.  Judo expert or not, I find it extremely difficult to reconcile Dinah Drake pulling that feat off without being a meta-human with super strength.

Then there's the way she abandons Larry Lance in the Masters Estate when the guards believe him part of her plot to kill the patriarch.  She might have been leaving him to die for all she knows, and then he just happens to show up at the lake in the climactic scene?  Doesn't seem like the most noble, heroic thing for the hero to do.

Kanigher uses the extra pages in this story to play more with Dinah and Larry's amusing work-play relationship.  The mystery isn't that much more complicated than normal, and just as ridiculous as most Golden Age mystery tales Black Canary investigates.

Come back next Sunday for another Golden Age adventure of Black Canary in Flash Comics #96.

And I'll tell you right now it's back to seven pages.

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