Friday, November 22, 2013

Pulp Hero - Dusty Ayres

Pulp Hero: Dusty Ayres
Dusty Ayres and His Battle Birds 1934-5
by Robert Sidney Bowen
12 issues

While superficially a cash in of the success of G-8 and his Battle Aces, Dusty Ayres, the structure more closely resemble Operator 5.  The series is set in the unspecified future, but could just as easily have been set in the present.  The Black Invaders have taken over Europe and Asia, and at the begin of the series invade Canada with an eye of invading our border. 

They are led by Fire-Eyes, who I picture from his description as basically Bison from Street Fighter.  His top pilot is the Black Hawk, which are actually a cadre of similar looking pilots, with a new one filling the top rank as the old are defeated, something Bowen should have probably kept up his sleeve for a later reveal.

The series follows pilot Dusty Ayres and his state of the art plane the Silver Flash.  Ayres is refreshing as a pulp hero.  Next to the practically-perfect-in-every-way Doc Savage or Operator 5, Ayres is just a pretty good pilot with a lot of spirit.  He's also plagued by insecurities of failing missions and letting America down - not quite at Peter Parker levels, but a nice change from the smug confidence of most other pulp heroes.

And whereas Operator 5 has a letter from the president and everyone in the country will do exactly what he wants, Ayres spends as much time fighting military bureaucracy as much as the Black Invaders.

The plots are formulaic to the extreme, at least in the first three issues I've read.  Ayres follows orders to fly somewhere.  Something goes wrong.  Ayres gains information about the Black Invaders new strategy or weapon.  Ayres is captured, questioned, and escapes with the help of deep cover Agent 10.  Ayres fights to get some general to believe him, and his intel is valuable in repelling an invasion attempt.

The villains and their sci-fi weapons such as mini-tanks and giant poison gas curtains aren't all that particularly out there, but the action is serviceable, and doesn't get as monotonous as I would expect aerial dogfights to be.

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