Doc Savage #2, October 1975

British artist Ken Barr provides the stunning cover, taking his cue from James Bama’s iconic depiction of the Man of Bronze.

The feature-length story this time out is again written by Doug Moench, but Tony Dezuniga flies solo on the art. His feathering and wash-heavy style gives certain verisimilitude to the period setting.

“The Hell Reapers” opens with the kidnapping of businessman Thorne Shaw. Sandy Taine, whom Doc quickly recognises as a woman — much to the surprise of his five helpers — seeks Doc’s help in tracking down her father, Quentin, who, though missing for five years, has recently been accused of murder!

Doc surmises there must be a connection between Shaw and Taine and the subsequent investigation leads the team to Baffin Bay off Greenland, where Shaw had gone missing in a search for lost treasure. Cutting through the polar ice cap, they dive into the cold depths only to be caught in the current of a deadly whirlpool.

On the other side of the whirlpool, Doc and the others emerge into a radiation-lit subterranean land where a race of mysterious lizard-folk live. Doc soon discovers Thorne Shaw and others who have been kidnapped by — they believe — Quentin Taine. Sandy rejects this notion however, certain her father has been framed. The lizard-folk attack, and the real villain is revealed: Rutter, an acquaintace of Taine who is seeking his fortune by exploiting the uranium that is so abundant in this world.

It soon transpires that Taine is, in fact, still alive, but has been partially transformed into a lizard by the radioactivity. Rutter, himself driven insane by radiation, goes berserk, blasting the caverns with a powerful weapon. A rockfall blocks the outlet of an underground river and it begins to flood, quickly filling the subterranean world. Rutter’s madness dooms him as the water rises. Doc rescues all the kidnapees, Sandy, and all his helpers. Unfortunately, the lizard-folk, and Taine — who knows he can never live a normal life in the outside world — drown in the deluge.

0-0-0-0-0

Another action-packed tale by Moench, very much in the breathless pulp mode of Lester Dent’s original stories. Characterisation is strong, and the central mystery well handled. Sandy Taine makes for a plucky heroine. DeZuniga’s art is fabulous and he produces a couple of lovely full-page spreads.

The remainder of the issue is taken up with a lengthy interview with movie Doc, Ron Ely, who proves an interesting subject. I liked him as Doc, and I loved him as Tarzan — why that show’s not on DVD is another mystery.

©2009 Conde Nast/Marvel Characters, Inc