|"Mr. Jordan? Are you alright? Dusty, he seems to have hit his head...!"
The answer lies in Pep #11, whose cover reflects with uncharacteristic accuracy the Action Detective Adventure within, for....
|Dusty's first story also introduces THE VULTURE,
the Shield's only recurring villain.
Who is not, for the record, the Master Criminal of All Time.
Assigning FBI Agent Joe Higgins, a.k.a. The Shield, to any case involving airplanes is a questionable idea since the Shield hates airplanes and they ALWAYS malfunction when he's around. Sure enough...
|This is what we in aviation call "a malfunction".
Tragically, this malfunction is witnessed by the son of one of the crewmembers (and a shockingly large number of bystanders on the tarmac in clear violation of federal regulation).
|Stupid NTSB never gives you time to grieve properly.
Turns out this is Dusty, The Boy With No Last Name.
|What indestructible material is Dusty's dad's suit made out of
and why isn't the whole plane made out of it?
Must be a fibro-metallic suit of his own invention.
We learn quite a lot from these panels: the importance of cervical support for corpses, the central role of cargo in normal plane explosions, Joe Higgins' extremely odd sense of humor. The most important thing we learn that the Shield is big fat liar because his father died in the Black Tom ship explosion of July 30, 1916, off the Jersey shore. But I guess "exploding" is a broad enough category, parent-death-wise.
|WAS he, Dusty? Did you do research to deduce that?
Do you have ANY supporting data?
Some boy detective YOU are.
Another Golden Age orphan boy. It's just like that quote from The VelociPastor (2018): "So your parents died, Doug. It's what parents do. They die on you."
Gotta hand it to Joe Higgins: since his early days, Joe's gotten better at consoling little boys who've just seen their parents die in front of them at a public place.
|I mean, A LOT better.
Soon enough -- immediately, in fact, Joe's buttinsky girlfriend Betty Warren (and her usual ridiculous hat) are in trouble on the other side of the airfield, where saboteurs are saboteurizing the REAL plane-object of their saboteurism (because blowing up the first plane was just a distraction, you see).
|"WHEE! MY DAD JUST DIED AND I CAN SEE HIS CORPSE FROM HERE!
AND HE WAS THE BEST DAD A KID EVER HAD!"
Joe's sympathy must be quite the tonic because, Dusty, an orphan of 30 seconds, has already processed his grief and realized that, since there's no longer anyone concerned for his well-being, he can do any damned-fool thing he wants, like tackling armed adults.
Meanwhile, Joe's stood quietly aside to let Dusty work through his grief in the time-honored way: by fighting for his life. But once Dusty starts using PLANES as a weapon, the Shield cannot resist the urge to do likewise.
|The Shield cannot resist the urge to fight crime by damaging planes.
It's just who he is.
With less extreme violence than usual, the Shield coerces one of the thugs into revealing who is behind their acts of sabotage....
|Betty is SUCH a snitch. "Teacher, teacher! Timmy was the one who blew up the plane!"
But before he can tell us everything:
|Just like poor Adelaide in "Velocipastor" (2018).
The sabotage-gadget BOOMS, killing the thug, and possibly mussing the Shield's hair.
|Yep; Dusty's a detective, alright.
WHO is behind the sabotage? WHO killed Dusty's dad? WHO is the Master Criminal? Oh, wait, that's right: it's the Vulture. More on him tomorrow...