Friday, 29 July 2011

The Black Orchid. Carry On Scheming. Phantom Stranger #36.

Black Orchid robot, Nestor Redondo, Phantom Stranger #36
Phantom Stranger #36, Jim Aparo, gold and treachery in the jungle
It's the moment we've all been waiting for since last month's Phantom Stranger, the moment when Howard Lunge's supercomputer finally reveals who the Black Orchid really is.

And, after much whirring, clicking and ticking, the conclusion it comes to is...

...that it doesn't know.

And there was me thinking my laptop was useless.

What it does tell us though is that someone's been scanning it with X-rays in order to read its data tapes.

Undeterred by this, Lunge proceeds with his next planned crime, the murder of an old woman who's fighting her ex-daughter-in-law Cleo Barry for custody of Barry's child.

Black Orchid, rubberoid mask, Phantom Stranger #36
Happily, the Black Orchid's on the case, disguising herself as the old woman's nurse and replacing the old woman with a robot that apprehends one of Lunge's lackeys while she deals personally with the other one.

Having thus foiled the murder attempt, she calls in the cops who take Lunge away, only for the Orchid to drop the final bombshell - that his client Cleo Barry never existed. She was just the Orchid in yet another  mask.

Much as I love the Orchid for her mysterious and over-complex ways, I am slightly baffled by certain elements of the tale.

For one thing, I don't understand why one of the would-be assassins takes along a mask to disguise himself as the old lady, when, as the plan unfolds, at no point does the plan appear to require it. I also don't understand why the Orchid goes through such a complicated subterfuge, involving her adopting at least two fake identities, acquiring a huge house to stage her plan in, and getting her hands on a robot. After all, she knows about Lunge's computer and its data tapes, so, as far as I can see, all she has to do is smash her way into Lunge's HQ, chin him one with her super-strength and hand the tapes over to the authorities. I suppose that's why just I'm a humble blog writer and she's a bona fide super-heroine.

I'm also curious as to the naming of a character Cleo Barry. As all lovers of fine comedy know, Cleopatra in the legendary British film Carry on Cleo was played by Amanda Barrie. Was the naming of a character as Cleo Barry coincidence or was writer Shelly Mayer a Carry On fan? Then again, the tale also features a character called Howard Lunge and a character called Dubbish, names that themselves seem to have stepped out of a Carry On movie.

Still, all other matters tied up, we're left with the question of who the Black Orchid is.

Well, in the style of Sergeant Sidney Bung of the Yard in Carry On Screaming, let's recap on yesterday's evidence. She's a woman who can fly, has super-strength, is invulnerable and can only be described as "fit". This issue we learned she can scan things with X-Rays, has access to life-like androids and, according to Lunge's supercomputer, she may be an alien. I'm sorry; I don't care how you cut it, she still seems to be Supergirl.

I suppose all we can say in light of such a revelation, and this issue's events, is Carry on, Kara.

No comments: