Friday, June 8, 2018


By Leonard Starr & Stan Drake

Kelly Green's final adventures, while still dealing with some heavy material, turns out to be the most light-hearted, or perhaps least depressing, installment in her saga -- it even comes with a happy ending for our heroine (though we'll get to that in due time)!

The adventure begins as San Diego Police detective Gunther moonlights at the home of TV talk show host Dave Farrel in the capacity of a security guard. Gunther kills a robber in cold blood, then our tale moves into the story proper when Kelly is recruited to act as go-between for an art gallery looking to recover a million dollars worth of original comic strips. Kelly travels to San Diego with the museum's Gretchen, who gives our heroine a crash course in the history and value of sequential art.

At this point you may get the idea that this story is a big ol' love letter from Leonard Starr and Stan Drake to their profession, and you'd be a hundred percent right. Much of the action, as the title suggests, occurs at or adjacent to the San Diego Comic-Con. There's a scene where Gretchen shows Kelly around the Con, pointing out Drake's detailed likenesses of Will Eisner, Milton Caniff, Burne Hogarth, and Jack Kirby as they stand around chatting. Gretchen also introduces Kelly to Comic-Con co-founder Shel Dorf, and a brief conversation ensues.

But fortunately, Starr and Drake don't go too far overboard on the insider stuff. After this initial star-studded scene at the Con, the story proceeds along, with the even merely functioning as window dressing. Kelly retrieves the stolen artwork pretty early on, but her mission turns out to be a "side story" in what is otherwise a murder mystery: three cosplayers (as they were not known in the eighties) are found lying on the San Diego beach, beaten to death. All signs point to the overly violent Detective Gunther, but he has reason to believe Dave Farrel is actually behind the killings. Things get personal for Kelly when Gretchen is murdered as well in her hotel room, leading to Kelly and the fugitive Gunther joining forces to solve the mystery.

Notable bits from this one: Starr's script repeatedly refers to the majority of Comic-Con attendees as "kids". I'm sure he means it from the perspective of the characters using the term, who are all older, but still -- kids, whether children, teens, or young adults, haven't been the primary demographic of the con in a very long time! Even the first time I went in 1999, at age twenty, I feel that it was mostly adults older than me in attendance, with the majority of the kids being the children of those attendees. It's kind of weird to think there was a time when this convention actually drew a younger audience.

This is probably my favorite of the Kelly Green stories; certainly it's my favorite since the inaugural outing, THE GO-BETWEEN. As noted above and discussed in greater detail a couple weeks ago, I don't love stories that put protagonists through an especially torturous wringer. In fact, as I discussed at some length a year or so ago when I looked at Darwyn Cooke's PARKER adaptations, I particularly love stories about characters who are "the best there is" and who execute their tasks flawlessly. This is about as close as Kelly Green gets to that ideal. Though we readers are in the dark most of the time with regards to the mystery, we learn in the end that Kelly has it more-or-less all figured out.

On top of that, Kelly even gets a reward in this one! The owner of the purloined comic art is a French collector, and to thank Kelly for retrieving his treasures, he flies her to France to wine and dine her. This is a far cry from the previous four stories, which generally saw Kelly down in the dumps on their closing pages. The introduction to Classic Comics Press's KELLY GREEN collection suggests that Starr and Drake had intended this series to keep running beyond THE COMIC-CON HEIST, but due to a number of circumstances, they never produced another volume.

I don't know whether they had an inkling that Kelly's days were numbered as they produced this specific tale, but it almost reads like they wanted to give her a happy ending since there would be no more adventures in her future. But regardless of the reason for Kelly's trip to Paris, I feel that after the crummy life she's led over the past few books, a clean win is a great way to end her saga.

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