Friday, May 11, 2018


By Leonard Starr & Stan Drake

NYPD officer Dan Green is killed in a raid. Not long after, a beautiful and wealthy young woman is murdered in the seedy part of town. Soon, Green's widow, Kelly, becomes involved in a blackmail scheme linking both deaths.

As Kelly mopes about, her late husband's partner, Angelo, struggles to cheer her up, while three ex-cons who Dan had sent up the river in the past vow to protect her. When the cons bring her an offer to become a "go-between" -- an impartial third party exchanging money for incriminating evidence in a blackmail case -- Kelly agrees, stating that she now hates the cops and hates criminals, so she might as well live between both their worlds.

The ensuing story sees Kelly work briefly as a go-go dancer to gather some information about her client, travel to Florida to make the exchange (and discover another dead body), then return to New York for a finale which reveals who got her husband killed and how he's related to the blackmail scheme.

As usual, I'm trying to be a little vague in my description of the story -- this material is thirty years old, but was only relatively recently re-released in a new collection -- and it is a mystery, after all. I'm much less cavalier about revealing random plot points than I am about spoiling mystery stories, especially if they're relatively obscure like this one.

The story is definitely what you'd call "hard-boiled", with plenty of murder and titillation -- though there are elements which betray its creators' roots in syndicated comic strips, in particular the trio of goofy but well-intentioned ex-cons who look after Kelly -- Spats Cavendish (the brains), Meathooks (the brawn), and Jimmy DeLocke (the, uhh... whatever else you need). Their weird eccentricities feel a little out-of-place in this otherwise extremely grounded tale.

As noted, the mystery itself is decent, and the big reveal makes sense -- but it's also telegraphed to an extent in that Angelo tells us from the very beginning that there are only three very specific people who could've given the order that got Dan Green killed -- and, sure enough, in the end it turns out that it was exactly one of those three who did it. Now, there's still a mystery in figuring out which of the three it is and why he did the deed, but even so -- there's not really any sort of twist or attempt at misdirection. Angelo even tells the three men to their faces more than one time that he believes one of them is responsible for Dan's death!

The story also features a gay character, Sonny Boye, who is depicted pretty much exactly as you'd expect a homosexual man to be presented by two guys who were in their fifties in 1982. He doesn't come across as egregiously offensive (not that I'm qualified to decided what's offensive or not to the LGBT community) -- I mean, his "lifestyle" isn't presented as deviant or sinful or anything like that, and he's actually a successful businessman (he owns the go-go bar where Kelly briefly moonlights) -- but he's basically just one big fabulous stereotype.

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't note the gorgeous artwork by Stan Drake -- he sells the grimy filth of New York, the glitz and glamour of South Beach, and everything in between with magnificent effect. This story was originally printed in both Europe and the United States in color, but for their new release, the people at Classic Comics Press have opted to suck the color out and present Drake's artwork as he would've drawn it -- in pure black-and-white. I've seen some scans of the colored pages here and there and I actually think the colorist(s), whoever they were, did a fine job -- but the black-and-white really plays to the noir-ish tone of the story and to Drake's past as a comic strip artist, so I can't complain too much -- yet.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Kelly Green, and while her first story isn't perfect, it's nonetheless a page-turner thanks to a fast-paced script and some beautiful artwork. Hopefully Starr and Drake can correct the few problems with THE GO-BETWEEN as they move along to the subsequent installment, ONE, TWO, THREE, DIE!, next week.

1 comment:

  1. Who knew that John Romita Jr. inker on X-Mem was also in the NYPD and died in such a sordid way!

    (I saw the opportunity and took it.)