Captain Midnight Chronicles (Anglais) Broché – 6 juillet 2010
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The publisher, which advertises itself as "publishers of fine comics, graphic novels, and other fiction,has put out an anthology of "Captain Midnight" short stories that are based on the old comic book, with elements from the television show. Those of us who are old enough to be familiar with the old radio show (which ended in 1949) are likely to find the stories disappointing.
The stories have the pacing of a comic-book feature, with fast-paced, action-oriented plotting, and some of the stories use gadgets found only in the comic books. Some of the dialog has been made more "adult" (meaning using turns of phrase that never could have been broadcast over the radio in the 1940s), which further removes the book from the original radio shows. In one story, Captain Midnight and a companion are wing-walking, but on a monoplane;whoever thought of that doesn't understand aerodynamics any more than those who think the "Gliderchute" could work: the original radio program had pilots as scriptwriters, and the radio show's aeronacutics was scrupously accurate. Versimilitude was ignored for comic-book-like fantasy.
The stories aren't terrible, but they're a long way from the original. (A minor point is that a major character's name is spelled differently in the stories than it was in the original show, too. Admittedly, a small point, but it suggests that the authors of the stories were not that familiar with the characters' origins.
Flyers using planes of his and his mentor's designs. Aristotle "Tut" Jones had been Albright's college professor before joining the crusade.
Others in the squadron were Lt. Joyce Ryan, daughter of one of the Captain's comrades in the war. Teenager Chuck Ramsay, the Captain's adopted son(his father had been killed in the war on a mission and the Captain had fallen in love with widow while looking out for her and the boy.
The Captain even has his arch villain, Ivan Shark and his equally evil daughter, Fury.
In this collection of new tales, we get bits and pieces from all the versions that had appeared(radio, comic books, movie serials, and a fifties television series where the Captain became Jet Jackson Flying Commando because of contractual rights).
The Captain even meets Airboy, a comic book flying ace in one tale.
A fine set of stories even though there were some oddities. The Captain's adopted son, in one story, is referred to as his stepson, then a few paragraphs later adopted son. Another story has the Captain himself calls hin his stepson. There's also one where a murder victim is called the granddaughter of a woman being forced to use her psychic
powers, then morphs into her daughter near the end of the story, only to be back to granddaughter at the very end.
Pulp style tales of good quality nevertheless.
These stories seem to be based on an amalgamate of all of the previously mentioned incarnations of Captain Midnight, and while there is no noticeable timeline, the stories seem to range from the mid-thirties through the late forties. The cast of these stories all have Captain Midnight, a. k. a.: James "Red" Albright, ex-WWI air ace, and most have various members of what seems to be Midnight's regular cast members, including Chuck Ramsey, his adopted son; Aristotle "Tut" Jones, confidant and co-creator of Midnight's Secret Squadron; Joyce Ryan, another pilot; and Shark Fury, all around bad-girl, who along with her pa Ivan Shark, wants to take over the world. It should be noted that purists probably won't like anything here, but, I'm not a purist, if I were, I'd probably never read anything.
""The Captain Midnight Chronicles" is certainly an attractive volume, with a solid posteresque cover by Richard Clark and some great interior artwork. But all of that is just icing on the cake. If you have this anthology, you got if for the stories, and this is how they stacked up for me.
********'The Black Dragon' by Mark Justice is a story in which Midnight haves to deal with an ancient fire-breathing dragon on the rampage against the allies, but whose ultimate goal is Midnight and the Secret Squadron's base. Starts off terrifically, but kinda runs out of fuel by the end. Still, good weird war worthy stuff. Four stars.
********'Captain Midnight Meets Airboy' by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Richard Clark is the only story is this anthology that has no fantastic content. Midnight is shot down in on a mission to Vietnam and captured, and then rescued by comic book character Airboy. This is a gritty sixties style prisoner-of-war story that is out-of-place in this pulp style anthology. I liked it, but I couldn't help but think that it would have read better as a story in one of DC's war comics of the sixties as illustrated by Joe Kubert. Four stars.
********'Countdown To Midnight' by editor Christopher Mills is this anthology's keynote story, and it starts off with murder and mayhem, as any good pulp action story should. It's a fast paced story dealing with Midnight trying to stop Ivan and Fury from getting a rocket fuel recipe. Okay stuff, but too many last minute escapes to be top-tier material. Three stars.
********'Shipwreck In The Sky' by Robert T. Jeschonek is another story that starts out with a great premise; an airplane with a dead crew is drifting in the air with no possible way of flying. Then Midnight and mechanic Ikky Mudd are attacked by some form of flying demons. Unfortunately, the ending is just so much feel-good hot air. A good premise wasted. Three stars.
********'Witch Of The Waning Moon' by Howard Hopkins is a story that starts out with the gratuitous murder of a young woman that operates an herbal apothecary. Here is another story that has a great premise, worthy of any good pulp horror or weird hero pulp story, that is ruined by careless storytelling as the Sharks have found a way to harness depression as a destructive power. However, the story is spoiled by Hopkins portraying ALL of the women as bitchy, petty jealous stereotypes, and Midnight himself as an obnoxious and contrary anus who uses blasphemy. Three stars.
********'Death Master Of The Secret Island' by Trina Robbins and 'Fantastic Island' by Robert Greenberger are stories that both set up impossible situations that can't be adequately solved, and which leave way too many plot holes and half-finished plotlines dangling. A disappointment from Robbins, but typically uninspired fare from Greenberger. Two stars each.
********'Wind And Rain' by Tim Lasiuta is a minor league story in which an old instructor of Midnight's, a Dr. Harasymchuk, has made a discovery of how to turn water into fuel. The Sharks then want to sell the formula to the world's worst dictators. This is a dumb story with several dumb concepts. The first being that this hydro formula should be in the hands of the elite ("Free industry from the need for costly energy, and a supply of clean purified water, and you have resources that can be used to threaten the world. . ."), a concept that is later contradicted by Lasiuta later in the same story, both ideas being conversely put forth by Midnight. Then the Sharks are shown to be terribly inept, and there is a mass slaughter that somehow shows other world dictators to be even more inept than the Sharks. If we were to believe this story, we should all be driving cars by now that are run on water. We ain't. Another story that poses a problem that has no realistic conclusion. Two stars.
********'Rush Job' by P. C. Hamerlinck and illustrated by, I think, Richard Clark, the art is unsigned and uncredited, but the style fits the style of the piece that is signed by him. This is story that is so much filler in that two cranky old men listen to one of Midnight's war stories, there is a "twist" ending right out of a fifties horror comic that just causes much rolling of the eyes. Two stars.
********'The Dark Of Midnight' by Stephen Mertz is another story out of place here, and this time I'm less forgiving. If you can imagine a Captain Midnight story as written as a Mack Bolan story then you get how this story is presented. A man is fed alive to hungry hogs, and there is bloody and gory violence. Not things that I have any real problems with, in a story, but, lets face it, these don't belong in this neo-pulp anthology. Again, change the name to Mack Bolan, Sr. and you have a typical man's man bloody adventure. The fantastic content is only introduced in the last few paragraphs and is laughably lame. Two stars.
********'A Mission In Time' by John J. Nance is a rare short story by the bestselling author. A psychic contacts midnight and proves to him that World War II can be avoided if only Midnight would kill . . . the prime minister of England?!? The story then develops into something else, and there is a real flaw in the ending which I can't reveal, grrrrr. The Sharks are killed, again. I can't help but think that this story would have worked if it were much longer. Two stars.
********'Captain Midnight At Ultima Tule' by Win Eckert was pretty much a waste of space. Somebody sabotaged this story with a constant barrage of typos. Examples: ". . .for his healthóhe was. . .", ". . .within 24 hoursóAlbright. . .", etc. These typos either link words together, or are used in place of whole sentences that have been excised, thus rendering the sentence unintelligible. From what I can gather, it involves an evil version of Doc Savage, who is after a massive "intra-atomic force" dubbed "Metal X" and who wants to start a world war, so that his chosen super race can take over the remnants of the world after they had ridden out the war in his underground super-city. Anyway, thanx to the typos I just had to give up reading this story. Too bad, so sad. Unrateable.
Special mention should be made of Vatche Mavlian's artwork which graces all the stories in this anthology but those by Mills, Hamerlinck, and Dixon, often giving the patina of class to crap fiction. His style seems, to me, a combination of Bernie Wrightson or Arthur Suydam's while still making this style of art all his own. Every piece here seems frameworthy, leaving the other illustrators in this anthology in the dust.
In the end however this book however suffers from having no mission statement or manifesto. The Captain Midnight stories in this anthology seem to be pastiching the Captain Midnight of the radio show, the tv show, the comics, and all with no continuity or consistency, and story and character consistency is just what a good editor should have created here. An introduction to each story detailing which version of Midnight that they were pastiching would have helped. As somebody with no experienced in Midnight lore, I had to judge the stories in the "Captain Midnight Chronicles" strictly on their own. Remarkably few of these fan fictions rose and fell on their own merits, leaving me disappointed. The time frame of the stories seem to range from the thirties to the late forties, Midnight alternately ranges from both a distant hero to a bloodthirsty anti-hero, his compatriots are alternately extremely competent to impulsively incompetent, the stories either have fantastic premises or they have none, or, only have something fantastic tacked on in a token way, etc.
As all of these stories have a common hero, it's obvious that it will not be IF Midnight escapes, or fixes a situation, but HOW he will do so, so perhaps some none-series character co-stars would have helped. And since all of these writers will be writing about the same character, there will be a lot of redundant information in each of these stories, but that is to be expected. All-in-all, this anthology probably deserves three and a half stars, maybe four, because of the artwork, but I didn't buy this book for the pretty pictures, and I won't round up. Mr. Mills should have done a better job.
The quality of the stories and their entertainment value are entirely subjective, so maybe another reader will find these all to be excellent. What isn't up for debate is the shoddy editing. There are errors galor in this book, be it odd or missued punctuation or just flat out goofs, like strange characters inserted into words. It's dissapointing to find things like this in a published book, especially since I didn't come across anything like it in the other Moonstone collections I've read.