Retro Review: Adventure Comics #431

With a cover, dated February 1974, DC’s Adventure Comics # 431, featured a new main feature, The Spectre, that great Golden Age hero with God given powers.  This version of The Spectre was clearly God avenging spirit.  The series was written by Michael Fleisher and beautifully drawn by the often under appreciated, Jim Aparo!

Adventure Comics had for the last year been down-graded to a bi-monthy book, after hosting long time runs, featuring The Legion of Super-Heroes and then Supergirl.  But Supergirl’s run had ended in issue # 424, in October 1972, at which time the book left it’s monthly schedule and floundered for a year.  And right before The Spectre’s comeback, Adventure Comics had a three issue run of The Black Orchid, which set the stage for … “The Wrath of … The Spectre”, as the first story was entitled.

Behind a rather gruesome cover, also drawn by Jim Aparo, and a really nice splash page, we witness an armored car robbery by four theives.  They brutally gun down the guards, even though they were surrendering and the crooks even gun down one of their own, who was wounded during their escape, so “he can’t give the cops any information”.  The theives, now killers, escape, divide up the money and split up to return to there “regular lives” and wait for the “heat to die down”!

The Spectre’s host body, policeman Jim Corrigan, investigates the crime scene and discovers a clue, which leads him to one of the theives.  He confronts him and the man shoots Corrigan, but he vanishes like the ghost he truely is.  The man flees in fear and he next confronts a giant wraithlike Spectre, which causes him to drive off a cliff to a flaming death!

The Spectre tracks down the second of the three theives/killers and when the man pulls out a machine gun, melts the gun and then, beginning with his hands, the thief himself!  The cover of this issue was a rendering of this interior scene, without much of a background!

Finally, The Spectre catches up to the last thief on a plane bound for South America.  The Spectre confronts the killer, but he remains unseen by the rest of the passengers.  The killer grabs the stewardess and holds a gun to her head threatening to kill her.  Of course, since the rest of the passengers can not see The Spectre, they assume the man has gone mad.

Suddenly the lights go out, and once they come back on, all that remains of the last thief/killer is a skeleton in the middle of the aisle.  Pretty gruesome by 1974 standards, and especially in a DC super-hero book.  But them again, maybe this particular series isn’t a super-hero book at all?  I’ll let you make the call.  It definitely features a golden age “Super-Hero”, but his stories are presented in a more House of Mystery or House of Secretsmanner, or dare I say in an more EC style!

There is also a second feature in this comic, which features a Sheldon Mayer story, drawn by Alex Toth, so that adds to the value of this particular comic book, if you decide to seek it out.

The Jim Aparo artwork is top-notch and it’s a well written story, yet again, re-introducing the golden-age hero, The Spectre.  I give it three out of five Legion flight rings!

About Greg Turner

Greg Turner (@gregturner16) is Back to the Past’s archivist and an auctioneer. He writes the columns “Fabulous Finds” and “Retro Reviews” on alternating weeks for the website and spins classic 45′s each week for Vinyl Tuesdays.

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