Monday, March 26, 2018

Dieselpunk Manifesto Part 13: River Dragons

This review deals with strips Buck Rogers strips 120-29 found  here.

Flying over the Mississippi near the ruins of Davenport, Buck is surprised by a ... well he says it better than I can:

Presented as written. Seriously Buck?

I think Buck and Wilma need some more couple time. Be that as it may he descends into the Dragons' underwater base. You have to admire the Han's civil engineering. A couple of scientists build an underwater base and two super weapons and support apparatus, all on the low down. Despite the danger descends ready for a scrap. Wilma even says it's terribly dangerous -I think she's screwing with Buck at this point and giving the Dragons a little payback for gassing her (this is the second time after all.)

Buck soon discovers that Morke Ka-Lono and Om Ka-Zoril were contrite about their little misunderstanding.

A kind word can get you far, a kind world and a brace of rocket pistols will get you even farther!

They quickly turn things over to a subordinate and move their really sweet gear and projects to the fort at Elmira the Americans have set up for them. I have to say they are two of the more respectable 'villains' I've read of. They keep to their word, make a savvy alliance and everyone winds up happy.

Consider: the Golden Dragons want to get rid of the Emperor, a democratic government and have no interest in troubling the Americans. The Americans want the Emperor gone and no more raids so everyone will be better off. Except that Emperor who is going to take it in the neck but considering he's a drunken would be rapist -who cares about him?

Seriously, the man set out an ongoing mission for the Han Air Force: you see any hot babes, you grab them for me! Probably even gave them a list of preferred looks.

Anyway: the two scientists are set up with automated sensors and defenses and presumably under Niagara's air defense grid so they can effectively moon the Emperor with impunity if they desire. A huge air fleet shows up (American) and a proper garrison. It's another sign that American might is growing. Over the next few days Buck and Wilma are brought into the Golden Dragon's network and taught many of their secrets. Everyone is having fun when MacGregor sends word electronically to return home as Niagara is in a grave crisis!

MacGregor explains that the city is overrun with spies. A treaty with the Navajo Orgzone is gone, a colonel whacked, and plans for the new super rocket gun have vanished! Apparently the Han have activated a very competent and large spy network. It is another sign that as I said there was some mixing of Americans and Han in cities on both sides.

Mac has thrown a air and ground guard around the city. No one is to be allowed out until those darned spies are caught! Buck and Wilma will do the catching of course. In fact their orders are to be instantly obeyed!

There's an initial setback in the form of a dagger thrown at the pair when they exit MacGregor's office. You have to wonder how the spies got word of these developments so fast. maybe they monitored Mac and knew he was sending for them or by this time the Mongols have standing orders to just kill Buck immediately. Anyway, it misses. Buck takes Wilma out the back way to avoid the crowds and a knife in the back.

Wilma seems visibly shaken. It was established in the past that she was a competent soldier and no card but unfamiliar with low tech weapons. Apparently she's fine facing disintegration or being blown to bits, but not getting shanked. The two make a leap to another building but Wilma falters and misses, plummeting to the streets far below and possible death. Maybe Buck should have given her a minute to get herself together? Leaping and rebounding between the buildings he grabs her and manages to grab a ledge. On the ground once again he goes looking for the assassin while Wilma goes home to lay down after nearly dying twice.

Wilma suffers from the eclipse syndrome common to most sidekicks here. She is weaker, slower and more timid when the hero is around otherwise the strip would be about her. there's also the 30's female stereotypes at work here.

Buck soon finds an ugly character and is about to question him (profiling pulp style!) when his suspicions are confirmed by another dagger whipped at him. You have to wonder what's with all these daggers? It's the 25th fracking century. Thrown daggers are not the most effective weapons, even in an expert's hands.  Buck ducks and then gives chase (maybe the spy is out of daggers?) The assassin boards a tube car and Buck grabs onto the car as the doors shut and is carried along!

The assassin gets off in an affluent suburb of Buffalo. Rogers trails him and is surprised by Lanlu!

Interestingly the Navajo Orgzone has a treaty with Niagara. Niagara is the big cheese but there are a number of org zones that are powerful or useful and the Navajo are one such independent entity. Also interestingly the Mongols steal plans for advanced rocket weaponry so they obviously feel the Americans have technology that the Han are vulnerable.

More importantly the Han are no longer openly attacking Niagara but instead seeking out weaknesses and using sabotage against the city state.

Next Time Buck encounters the head of the Niagara spy ring! Hilarity ensues (as well as some torture).