|Eerie mountain lair? Okay, that checks out.|
Let's hope the interior drama matches the drapes.
|Who LIGHTS those torches, I wonder? Or are they just those crepe paper + fans jobs?|
We learn a lot from these panels. The Vulture uses vulture-themed decor, but in moderation. He's rich enough to employ the Phantom Stranger. He's a chemist. But the most important thing we learn is that he appreciates and understands the value of UPLIGHTING.
|Just like Firefly. The real original one, not the Heat Wave ripoff.|
Also, his outfit is entirely vespertilian and not at all vulturine.
|Totally the pic that would be on his DCUwiki page if he were a DC character.|
Anyway, the Vulture. who we've seen blown up planes by remote control and messing around in a chemistry lab, clearly intends to use one of these clever scientific means of kill this William Oswald.
|Or just, you know, show up and stab him.|
In the same way that the Shield cannot resist damaging planes, the Vulture cannot resist the opportunity for dramatic uplighting, so he shows up in person to stab his confederate. Golden Age villains were, as a general rule, polycidal. They didn't JUST stab, shoot, poison, explode, drown, hang. They did ALL of them. This is because back in the day all respectable villains went to colleges for the liberal villainous arts, rather than all the tech school doctors of evil nowadays, who just throw atomic bombs at whatever little problem arises.
Meanwhile, Joe -- well, adopts is not the right word -- subsumes Dusty:
|Because you're explosion-proof unlike my stupid dead dad.|
And gives him the essential thing he needs to fight crime:
|Actually, Shield that is literally the LAST thing Dusty needs before he can fight crime. Also, stop calling him a 'boy detective' when YOU are the FBI agent and he's just a scrappy kid in a Charlie Brown sweater with precociously developed thighs.|
Fortunately, it's Bring Your Orphan to Work Day at the FBI, so Joe takes Dusty with him to find the dead body of William Oswald.
|Joe REALLY likes affirming that people are dead.|
Then Dusty, earning his rep as a boy detective, finds clues that allow him to deduce that the Freighter Mary Ann and The Limited Train are the next and imminent targets of the Vulture's sabotage.
|Fine; I lied.|
The Shield, who is nearly indestructible, goes to stop the train while sending Dusty, who is clearly destructible, to stop a freighter from exploding. Because there's no safer place for a sturdy fun-sized ginger boy with solid thighs and a father fixation than the docks.
Meanwhile, the Shields stops the train because it gives him the chance to run on telephone wires, which as we know he does every chance he gets. I used to think this was some sort of metaphor for FBI agents being able to use wiretapping under the anti-racketeering laws, but then I realized it's just an excuse for the Shield to run in that pointy-toed way he does.
|It's the Shield, brimming with purpose and determination, |
silently hurling himself full force into a tunnel.
Just like in my dream.
The Shield stops the train right before the Vulture blows up the tunnel.
|You know, Joe, given how you run, throwing around the word "nellie" seems ill-advised.|
But what about our Boy Detective at the docks?
|Dem thighs, tho.|
SOMEHOW, Dusty manages to get his thighs through the porthole and is, completely improbably, kicking ***.
|Was Dusty's mother a circus aerialist? |
Was he bitten off-camera by a radioactive Jiemba Sands?
This is some circus aerialist stuff right here.
Is this something tweener orphans can do? Beat up three adult men while wearing a cape? No wonder no one adopts them.
|"If not, I'd have to admit I should have sent the police, who were standing right there, or other FBI agents, or even Betty Warren and her hat, rather than just a sturdily-thighed boy without any background in circus aerialism."|
Once arrived, FBI Agent Joe Higgins pioneers waterboarding:
|Thought I made that up, didn't you?|
The thugs having talked, the Shield takes the freighter bomb to Vulture's castle on Rose Hill and
|Joe Higgins may serve Justice, but the Shield's only master is Ironic Comeuppance.|
|On the plus side, this being Washington DC, the Rose Hill Redevelopment Project already has plans for some luxury condos above upscale retail space.|
His body isn't found, of course. But the grease-covered body of JuJu -- Joe's moronic comic relief partner at the FBI -- is found in what is Dusty's ONLY example of boy-detectiving in the whole issue (and possible the entire series):
|Ha ha! It's funny because FBI agents are imbeciles!|
Making JuJu seem even MORE useless than he originally was in Shield's story is truly Dusty's most impressive accomplishment (followed closely by speed-grieving and speed-circus-aerialism).
I laugh, but remember: despite its foibles THIS is the story which, with the arrival of his sidekick and archenemy, made inevitable the Shield's rise as American's favorite superhero.
Maybe amusingly, MLJ also had a Firefly. Harley Hudson allegedly didn't have powers, but it was a New Age-y kind of "no powers," where he could focus his energies into ripping trees out of the ground and not needing to breathe. And he could get around the city in his Fireflier.
Also, Dusty's weirdest appearance is in the much-later Mighty Crusaders book. The MLJ heroes are drawn into the then-present 1960s, except for the Shield. So, the new Shield (allegedly Joe's son) and Dusty just sort of...stare forlornly into each other's eyes from across the room wondering what secret the other is holding about Joe's fate. And that guy has his own insane can of worms...
"Fireflier"; that made my day.
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