The Weekly Pull (4/17/13) – JSA LIBERTY FILES: THE WHISTLING SKULL #5 (of 6)


The eponymous Skull and his partner Knuckles went looking for the fiends responsible for capturing and experimenting on innocent villagers. In JSA LIBERTY FILES: THE WHISTLING SKULL #5, they find them, and nearly die for the trouble. How will these two break away from the clutches of Hellman’s vile circus? What role will the angry towns people play in the affair? And is it possible that the Skull’s predecessor is still alive?

The Whistling Skull and Knuckles – agents of the Skeleton and best friends – traveled to a European village during the war to investigate a rash of disappearances. There they find that the people abducted were forced into grotesque experiments by Doctor Hellman, Nazi scientist banished from the Third Reich for engaging in research out of line with the fuhrer’s vision. Now the ringmaster of a treveling carnival, Hellman wanders from village to village, showing off his freak show minions and continuing his work on unsuspecting people.

The investigation went pretty well, up until the Skull and Knuckles were caught in a snare by Hellman, with Knuckles tied by serpents and the Skull pierced with a knife to the chest. Fun times!

The escape, obviously, and just barely. As they regroup and heal, their contact Johannes – the village’s resident invisible man – asks if there’s anything the grieving townspeople can do. Not a surprise, given their loved ones were taken and cut up like so much roast beef. And the monsters that did this are Nazis, so you’d think it’d finally be okay to get an angry mob going. Old fashioned torches and pitchforks angry mob.

You’d think that, wouldn’t you? Turns out, when the mob finally gets going, we learn there’s still more to the whole story than first imagined.

While that’s going on, we get more flashbacks. We’re shown the time when William was given the job of the Whistling Skull. Except as we learn from more present scenes, the previous Skull, who just happens to be the father of Knuckles, might not even be dead.

One of the things that’s hurt this miniseries – though ironically also adding to it – is how disjointed the various scenes are that jump back and forth around perspective. I was lead to believe way back in the first issue that the scenes in Japan of the Whistling Skull fighting alongside other JSA lookalikes was a flash forward to the end of the miniseries. That over the course of this book, we’d see him join forces with Hourman and Doctor Mid Nite and others and fight a giant robot. Turns out this was the previous Skull, and all of that was a flash back to before William even took the job. It doesn’t help that rarely do changes of scene have boxes telling us when or where anything is.

It will probably read far better in graphic novel format. Makes me wonder whether I should even bother covering miniseries on this column. At least ongoing series make a modicum of sense in individual issues, even if they are written for the trade.

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