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“The Fury of the Faceless Foe”

  • Writer: Steve Ditko & David Kaler
  • Pencils: Steve Ditko
  • Inks: Rocke Mastroserio
  • Letters: A. Machine

Time: Noon, Place: Times Square, Occasion: The Return of the Ghost!

The Ghost appears briefly in Times Square, laughing maniacally and teleporting people away left and right and teleporting cars on top of each other.  When the police show up, he vanishes.  On the same day at the same time in New Haven, Nightshade (in her floating Nightshademobile) spots the Ghost running into a library.  She throws “ebony bombs” at him (these appear to be smoke bombs) but he dodges them easily.  He teleports away before she can get a grip on him.  Meanwhile, at the Pentagon (still noon on the same day), the Ghost appears in front of Captain Atom and Gunner.  As Cap lunges, the Ghost dissolves Captain Atom and reforms him further away.  He then teleports out before Cap can get the upper hand.

Back at the suburban home of the Ghost (aka Alec Rois), three men dressed as the Ghost teleport into his lab.  He has sent out hired goons, manipulating them from a distance.  He pays the flunkies and sends them away, saying he will have need of them in two days.  The Ghost then reveals (talking to himself, a staple of comic book villains) that he stole “ghost devices” from Punch and Jewelee when he was kidnapped by them (in Captain Atom #85).  Soon he will have amassed enough gold to destroy Captain Atom and Nightshade.

The next morning, back at the Pentagon, Captain Atom, Nightshade, and their boss seem unable to piece together that the three Ghosts were three different people.  Cap admits it was fate that defeated the Ghost last time, and they can only hope to get lucky again.  Abby Ladd bursts into the office to give Cap a tongue-lashing.  When Nightshade giggles, the “lady news hound” turns her fury onto Eve.  Ladd says if they don’t catch the Ghost soon, she’s going to have her father force Senator Eden to investigate their department (Senator Eden is Nightshade’s father).  Abby leaves them and Cap’s boss says not to worry about her.

That evening, the Ghost teleports aboard a half-sunken tanker off the coast of Cape May, surprising his men their.  He checks on his equipment, which includes a gold-making machine.  He then checks on a special force field he’s created that he plans to lure Cap and Nightshade into, saying it will be “the end of them.”

Thousands of miles away, a strange group of women appear to be watching the Ghost’s progress (referring to him as “the faceless one”).  They say he is their long-lost God.

As the days go by, the Ghost keeps appearing in random places, faces Captain Atom and Nightshade, then teleports out before committing any actual crime.  Their chief calls them into his office (I find it funny they never gave the Chief a name – in the Modern Age stories he would be General Eiling).  He tells them they’ve traced the Ghost’s unique radar signals to Cape May and sends them out to investigate.

Captain Atom and Nightshade split up.  He checks in with the nearby military base.  They are able to pinpoint the source of the signal the Ghost is using – the sunken tanker.  Cap radios Nightshade to meet him there.  He sneaks on board, but once again the Ghost is a step ahead.

Cap flings atomic fireballs at the Ghost to distract him before attempting to tackle his enemy.  The Ghost blasts Cap with some yellow electricity that seems to subdue him.  Nightshade jumps the Ghost from behind, but he slips away and she finds herself similarly subdued.  The force field holding them down is draining their power.

In true 1960s villain fashion, the Ghost then reveals his secret plan to the two prone heroes.  The force field draining their powers will also somehow drain gold out of the world’s oceans.  He leaves to start his evil (and baffling) plan.

Nightshade turns into a shadow and is able to slip free of the force field.  She turns the machine off, switching back to her regular form before Cap sees her as a shadow (why doesn’t she want him to know what her power is?).  Weakened but not defeated, Nightshade and Captain Atom set upon the Ghost and his goons.

When Cap grabs the Ghost’s wrist to prevent him from using his teleporter, the Ghost flings a brick at Captain Atom’s head.

Let me say that again.

The Ghost threw a brick at Captain Atom.

Look, don’t take my word for it.

Nightshade tries to stop the Ghost from teleporting Cap to Nowhereland but finds herself facing the same prospect.  As he raises his hands to banish the two heroes forever, something happens and the Ghost freezes.  But it isn’t just him.  Captain Atom and Nightshade are also frozen in place.  Just then, three women enter the room’; the women from earlier who called the Ghost “the Faceless One.”  One of them is armed with cables like the ones Punch used last issue.

The women return Captain Atom and Nightshade to the shore, and say they are taking the Ghost to “the Hidden Land.”  He seems cool with it, as long as the “hidden land” has gold.  Dude always has his eyes on the prize.  He is loaded into what looks like a submarine that quickly departs.

As soon as the paralysis fades, Captain Atom goes after the ship but all trace of it has vanished.  Once again, the Ghost has escaped.  His henchmen are rounded up, and Cap and Nightshade are left wondering if they’ve seen the last of the Ghost.

This was a nice issue.  It progressed an ongoing story and added a little more to an established villain.  I do have a complaint. I don’t dislike Nightshade; I’d like to learn more about her powers and why she’s keeping them secret.  But does a hero as powerful as Captain Atom even really need a partner?  How about another solo story?  It was nice to see Gunner hasn’t been forgotten, though.  Too bad “the Chief” is so two-dimensional he doesn’t even get a name.  It was an okay story, even if it is all setup for something more to come.  It is a B story with A art.  Let’s call it an A-.

The letter page has the usual applause for Steve Ditko, Captain Atom, and the Blue Beetle backup stories.  Two knuckleheads from Virginia and West Virginia hate Cap’s new costume so much they banned all Charlton comics.  They are most likely the reason why Charlton Comics eventually ended up going the way of the dodo.

There is also a Steve Ditko/Gary Friedrich Blue Beetle backup story.  It promises at the end that Beetle will soon be starring in his own title.

One interesting thing to note about this issue:  the letterer is credited as “A. Machine.”  Rather than having each issue hand-lettered, Charlton went with a typesetter.  Comic book lettering is and often-overlooked and forgotten form of art.  Those guys put in just as much work with what they do.  And they bring us great words like “splort”, “flunkel,” and “kapow!”

This “universe” was absorbed into DC Comics’ Multiverse when the Charlton characters were purchased by DC.  This universe became Earth-4.