THE METAL MASTER starts off in a familiar vein as a couple of people in trouble try to reach Doc and, as usual find the villains don’t want them too. One of them makes it and warns Doc of something called The Metal Master—and when Doc goes to investigate the death of the other, he finds him dead inside a pile of slag left by a melted car. Except whatever did it wasn’t hot enough to burn the man’s flesh … and when Doc returns to his office, something’s melted his security doors too.
Rather than focus on the threat and Doc’s action, this spends more time than usual on the bad guys, smuggler and pirate “Tops’l” Hertz and “Punning Parker,” agents of the Metal Master plotting to take whatever his secret is for their own (it’s mentioned in passing that Hertz occasionally smuggles drugs, which is held up as proof he’s Very Bad Indeed). Which I think is a mistake (though there’s a reason for it) as this takes the focus off Doc too much, and the melting ray never gets enough use. Unlike Spook Legion or Red Snow, the bad guys never get beyond “eliminate the bronze man and nothing can stop us” to actually pulling crimes and that really weakens the book.
(Cover by William Baumhofer—I think—all rights with current holder)
Laurence Donovan’s THE MEN WHO SMILED NO MORE (originally titled Frozen Brains) is a much stronger one. It opens with an amiable shoe-shine guy giving Doc a shine, then amiably murdering a co-worker (he has a death’s head grin through this sequence, which is creepy, but makes the title quite wrong). Subsequently, a businessman announces he’s sold his company’s most prized resource, and for a pittance, ruining him and the firm.
As you can probably guess, someone has come up with a weapon that reduces people to emotionless zombies, not so much cold as apathetic. Before long Monk and Ham are among the victims (which as in Meteor Menace adds to the creepiness). Pat Savage gets drawn in as Doc struggles to figure out what’s going on—and I didn’t quite figure that out myself until the end as it’s not quite the usual Kill People and Steal Or Conquer agenda.
On the downside, this has one of the least convincing gadgets in the series—I don’t believe even Doc can come up with a grenade small enough to pass for a fake toenail.
(Cover art by James Bama—who drew himself as one of the guys behind Doc—and all rights to current holder)