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Newsboy Legion and Boy Commandos Special

Story and Art By: Howard Chaykin

Colors By: Wil Quintana

Letters By: Ken Bruzenak

Cover By: Chaykin & Quintana

Previously:
In The Golden Age, when “Kid Gang” comics were immensely popular, Jack Kirby created a group of young orphans fighting in WWII called the Boy Commandos as well as a young group of newsboys known as The Newsboys Legion. These became two entries on the long list of creations that make him deserving of the title The King of Comics.

 

What Happened:
The main story of this issue opens sets the scene in 1944, where Paris is celebrating having been liberated from Nazi control by a combination of Allied Forces, costumed superheroes, and The Boy Commandos. The Commandos work is not done though, who have heard of Axis agents still operating in the city. They intentionally neglect to tell their commander Captain Rip Carter, as they investigate and discover the enemy cell, and find a clue pointing them towards London. Meanwhile, in New York, we are introduced in a very similar fashion to The Newsboy Legion, who have learned of a Nazi group operating secretly out of New York. Without letting their guardian Jim Harper know, they also investigate the cell, finding a clue that causes them to ask for help.
Back in London, the Boy Commandos meet a friend who tells them that the cell their looking for has connections not only in London but also in America. The boy then head out to follow their lead, only to find an empty hideout and witness a plane taking off with the people they were looking for inside. The plane is headed West towards New York, and so are the Boy Commandos. We get a glimpse inside the plane at the villains of this story to see a group of 4 people all hailing from different Allied countries. In New York the Newsboy Legion continue their investigation to a store uptown that may be doing business with Axis powers. But as they arrive, they see the store being robbed, and they chase down the thief on to find him gunned down and empty handed on the side of the road.
After allowing us to check in with the villains for a quick second, we head to the Mystery Men Canteen where The Newsboy Legion and the Boy Commandos finally meet in New York. On the stage the four mystery villains appear in nationally  thematic costumes, comprised of equipment that both The Newsboy Legion and The Boy Commandos recognize as matching what was left behind at the different sites they’ve been searching. Realizing they’re all working the same case, they agree to team up as the leader of the villainous cabal monologues his motivation and master plan. The boys team up and outsmart the crazed nationalists, saving the day and solving their mystery together.
The issue then features a classic Kirby’s Grabbers story, a reprint of an old Newsboy Legion story by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby themselves!

 

Thoughts on the issue:

 

Unlike the previous New Gods Special, this book is designed for existing fans of The Newsboy Legion and The Boy Commandos. It doesn’t spend any time introducing the characters or explaining what they do. The story starts with a bang and moves very quickly, wasting very little time and condensing a lot of content, very much like a Golden Age comic. The spy story is interesting, and the early twist that the bad guys represent allied nations separates it from most WWII comics that boil down to punching a Nazi and getting a good night’s sleep for doing so.
Howard Chaykin’s witty and nostalgic script outpaces his art. Most of the art is solid, and the designs of the costumes at the end are definitely amusing, but something about the faces feels off. The shading on their skin makes them look like they’re covered in scars when closeup, and the faces can be hard to tell apart in a comic without colorful costumes. That’s made up for with the writing style, that combines a kid-gang style of fun with a noir detective feel that effective evokes war comics for kids from The Golden Age.

 

One Last Thing:
The sound effect lettering shines in this issue. Some panels are filled with Zs to show an overwhelming buzz, a cab’s “vrooooom” is colored to look like a cab at one point, and the “BLAMMMs” have a small explosion effect inside them, just to name a few things that go beyond the standard effect.

 

Final Score: 8/10
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