Saturday, June 4, 2011

Luke Malone - Manhunter

In 1975, Atlas Comics - a little known comic book publishing company, released a three issue run featuring a rugged San Francisco private eye named Luke Malone. Luke Malone-Manhunter was the back story in the comic book series called Police Action featuring Lomax NYPD. Created and drawn by artist Mike Ploog, Malone is an ex-city detective who hits the bottle after his wife is killed in a botched bank robbery in which he was called on. Thrown off the force, Malone can be found crawling through dirty gin-joints and in the street gutters of Frisco. It is there where he mopes around with a “I don’t care” attitude. He is content being a violent rummy until a friend tells him that the mastermind of the bank robbery is still on the loose and convinces Malone to try his hand at being a P.I. Now he is on the prowl and hits the streets to settle the score. Tough-talk dialogue and fine artwork make Luke Malone-Manhunter a surprisingly good hard-boiled comic

I have the first two of the 3 issue run of the series. The first one is called "Requiem for a Champ" (February 1975) and has Malone solving the murder of a skid-row bum who was once a lightweight boxer. The P.I. starts interfering in police business which takes him to an old burlesque queen, mob men, and on the receiving end of thumps on the head. The second issue is "Whatever Happened to Luke Malone?" (April 1975) and this is an origin story about how Malone came to be a P.I., which I briefly outlined above. These are quick scripted stories, containing plenty of creeps as bad guys and violent 1970s action that fulls up every frame.

If you like detective stories that are told and illustrated in comic books and graphic novels, you'll find Luke Malone-Manhunter to be up your alley. It is unfortunate that the comic book character had a short run, because the plots are tightly packaged and the Luke has a hard-edged vigilante soul inside him. When Luke Malone steps in to play ball, he turns it into a mean game.

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