Kobra #5 (1975)

Kobra #5 (November-December, 1975)
“The Eye of the Serpent”
Story – Martin Pasko
Penciller – Rich Buckler
Inker – Frank McLaughlin
Colorist – Carl Gafford
Lettering – Ben Oda
Cover Price: $0.30

This is a book I’d been wanting to take a peek at for quite some time now.  My introduction to the character of Kobra… the Deadliest Man Alive came in the pages of Superman, which we discussed a couple months back.  There, he came off as a pretty goofy (and gimmicky) fella… and the very idea that DC saw fit to give him his own series a few years earlier completely boggled my mind.  How could a villain… one as ssstrange and odd as Kobra carry his own ongoing?  Well, we’re about to find out… I guess.

We open on a neat bit where we learn that the issue we’d been expecting has been cancelled, and we’ll be getting the story that follows instead.  Kobra is burning his way through what would’ve been the cover of Kobra #5.  The issue proper starts in an invisible aircraft hovering over San Francisco.  Inside, Kobra is watching some surveillance footage of his twin brother, Jason Burr.  Burr is recounting how Kobra has potentially cost him someone dear to him… and he’s putting his fist through plate glass to vent off his frustration.  There is a turbaned man with him tending to his wounds.  We learn that in order for Kobra to become “Lord of Earth” the link between he and Jason must be severed… because, why not?

We shift scenes to hard-boiled detective Jonny Double as he poses as a cabbie outside the office of a woman he calls “Li’l Miss Manslaughter”.  He goes down her rap sheet for us, and proceeds to watch as she and a potential victim leave.  He prepares to tail them, however, a shadowy man approaches in dire need of a cab ride.  Not wanting to blow his cover, Jonny takes the fare.

The man enters, and suddenly the cabs meter goes all wonky.  I guess this happens from time to time, as Jonny just rolls with it and quotes him a flat-rate.  At the destination, the man exits… but leaves his briefcase behind.  Now, we all know what people keep in briefcases that they leave in cabs, right?  Yup, there’s a bomb in there.  Thankfully, this ain’t Jonny’s first run-in with a ticking valise… and so, he drives the cab off a nearby dock… just in the nick of time.  A strip of fabric from the case floats to the surface, on it is the symbol of the Kobra.

Speaking of which, Kobra’s got eyes all around the city… some of which on Jonny Double.  They assumed he’d wriggle his way out of the ol’ exploding car gag… so they follow him as he breaks into the office he’d been peeping earlier.  Inside, he gets jumped by a trio or goons… who he takes out in as many panels.

He continues on into a computer room.  He begins asking the computer questions… only to get cute answers in return.  He digs a bit deeper and comes up with the name of CIA Agent Ricardo Perez.  He snaps a few shots of the screen and heads back to his hard-boiled office of hard-boiledness.

He calls his contact, Harry… he is given the name of hitman Horst Buchner and is told to call “Big Louie” for further info.  Louie tells him that he thinks Horst is dead… and the scuttlebutt points to “cobras”.  He’s starting to put two and two together.  A helpful footnote tells us that Buchner was in fact murdered by Kobra.

Hearing about Cobras makes Double call yet another contact… Mack.  Mack is pretty freaked out that Jonny’s had a run-in with Kobra and lived to tell the tale.  He then refers him to… Jason Burr, Kobra’s twin brother.  After a brief chat, Burr accepts an invite west.

The next morning, Double goes about his daily commute.  Special mind is paid to the workers all along the Golden Gate Bridge.  That night, he visits a theater to rendezvous with his main man Mack… only to find he’d been shot.  Suddenly more bullets ring out, narrowly missing our man.  Elsewhere, Jason Burr has trouble getting a plane ticket… oh yeah, and he appears to be getting followed by yet another shadowy individual.

Back at the theater, Jonny Double is in the midst of a firefight with a pair of turbaned fellows.  He makes relatively short work of them after a few rounds of tough-guy talk.  He shoots them both dead (which he admits is “un-cool”), and hops a street car to get away.

Wouldn’tcha know it… he managed to board the one street car in town that Kobra was hanging out in… they proceed to have a bit of a back and forth, with Kobra quickly losing his patience.  He uses his magical (?) gauntlet to destroy the tracks and break the street car loose… careening downhill to certain doom.  Elsewhere, Jason finally catches a flight… however, there is a… get this, shadowy man on board as well!

Back in San Francisco, right as the street car is about to plow into a building, Double bails out.  Kobra had ‘ported a bit earlier.  Double’s alive… but just barely.  Rather than just kill him there, Kobra instead takes him hostage.  Back with Burr… his plane catches fire somewhere over Oregon… go figure, right?

Jonny wakes up to find himself strapped to the Golden Gate Bridge!  Kobra now reveals his nefarious plot… the workers on the bridge earlier in the week were installing “quakers”… no not the people, or the oatmeal… things that make the Earth shake!  The quakers were set to go from the bottom of the bridge straight through the Earth’s crust.  We close out on the promise that in 20 minutes, San Francisco will fall!

Really wasn’t expecting to dig this… but it wasn’t half bad.  Not necessarily something I would track down the rest of, but not something I’d think to leave behind in the cheap-o bins either.

Oddly, the character of Kobra didn’t really get much face time here… least not as much as I’d imagined he would.  Instead we spent most of our time with hard boiled private dick, Jonny Double.  The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t place him.  After doing a bit of checking around, I found that he has since appeared… at least in name, in a late 1990’s Vertigo miniseries.  That must be where I remember him from.  Anyhoo, his exploits were more interesting than I’d thought they were going to be.

Back to Kobra… I’m not sure if my brain is just drawing parallels here but, the whole time reading this he reminded me of Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe.  From his lisssp, to his over the top reactions… even to the ridiculously overblown deathtrap.  Gotta wonder if Larry Hama drew some inspiration from this fella.

The writing here, pot-boiler mystery bits aside, was pretty good… though perhaps a bit flowery for a story like this.  The art was nice throughout, though when the coloring was off… it really hurt my character identification skills.  Jonny Double with darker hair or a suit of a different shade could easily be confused for Kobra’s twin brother Jason Burr.  There were a small handful of panels that I had to give a second glance to see if there may have been a coloring error.  Guess that’s a problem when the characters don’t differentiate in appearance all that much.

Overall… I guess I’d say if you see any issue of Kobra on the cheap, maybe give it a shot.  You’re likely not going to get anything that’ll rock your socks or change your life… but you might just get a fun read.

Letters Page: (the rumors of our cancellation have been greatly exaggerated edition) 

Interesting Ads: (of Miranda Rights and Fruit Pies!) 

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